May 21, 2024


Buzz The Music

Bandcamp sells to Epic: can a online video video game business help you save impartial new music? | Audio

Musos and avid gamers were still left scratching their heads final Wednesday as Bandcamp, the on line file shop hailed by impartial artists as a bankable different to the razor-thin royalties of streaming, declared its acquisition by Epic Online games, makers of the on the net gaming phenomenon Fortnite.

Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond framed the deal as a boon for artists, saying that the two US companies shared a vision of creating “the most open up, artist-pleasant ecosystem in the world”. A blogpost from Epic underlined the have to have for “fair and open platforms” to empower “creators to retain the vast majority of their challenging-attained money”.

But Bandcamp end users reacted with shock and disappointment to the sale of the indie juggernaut, lamenting the loss of “our” shop, as drummer and Spotify critic Damon Krukowski tweeted.

“We all just bought offered,” lamented media theorist McKenzie Wark. Bemused avid gamers and tech specialists, meanwhile, questioned what achievable employs a corporation such as Epic – alone 40% owned by Chinese gaming megacorp Tencent – could possibly have for the direct-to-enthusiast market for MP3s of area of interest musical genres like vaporwave and chiptune.

Because its founding in 2008, Bandcamp has turn into a cornerstone of the world wide underground audio economic system via its “pay-what-you-want” down load structure and very low commissions, using a 15% slash of every sale. During the pandemic, the San Francisco-dependent enterprise acquired kudos for waiving that payment on the first Friday of each month, making tens of millions of dollars for artists, as properly as donating to racial justice campaigns which includes the NAACP Legal Protection Fund.

Epic has its possess track record as a plucky indie, owning remained mainly in the hands of CEO Tim Sweeney considering the fact that its founding in 1991. Like Bandcamp, Epic can take a rather smaller slash from builders, setting its fee at 12% as opposed with Apple’s 30%. Epic even took Apple to court docket – and lost, at fantastic cost – to accuse the tech huge of monopolising the mobile gaming business. But the company’s fortunes have soared in current many years just after the good results of Fortnite and other free of charge-to-participate in games. Now valued at $28bn, and struggling with its own controversies in excess of info collection and Shop exclusivity, it is no more time a feisty underdog.

Several unbiased artists, presently squeezed by the collapse of actual physical sales and – considering the fact that Covid – a extended hiatus from touring, see the Bandcamp sale as an additional disappointment in a extended tradition of indie sellouts. But tech experts and neophyte musicians have also been speculating on the risk of new integrations concerning Bandcamp’s extensive catalogue of songs and Epic’s slicing-edge activity technologies. These variety from stay-streaming situations this sort of as Fortnite’s digital concerts, which have observed artists Travis Scott and Marshmello putting on trippy performances for millions of emoting avatars, to social areas such as Celebration Worlds, developed for virtual hangouts fairly than combat and destruction.

‘It has always been section of platform capitalism, the place growth is paramount’ ‘… Zola Jesus. Photograph: Barney Britton/Redferns

Further than the busy globe of Fortnite, Epic could also be wondering about easy routes into licensing songs for application developers applying Unreal Motor, the open and free-to-use progress system created by Epic’s Sweeney. There are obvious possibilities for integration with Harmonix, the games studio at the rear of Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

More importantly, Sweeney is a longtime proponent of virtual fact and its buzzy reincarnation as the metaverse, the guarantee of a digital 3D environment built from interconnecting spaces and social networks. “The most plausible way the metaverse is likely to increase,” Sweeney claimed in 2020, “isn’t from a single company, even Epic, setting up this thing and forcing all people to use it. It is going to be from a lot more and a lot more corporations and brand names connecting their products and companies.”

In that perception, Epic’s acquisition can also be study as a participate in for the hearts and minds of the following generation of musicians and tunes fans who have developed up in digital worlds these kinds of as Fortnite. Instead than attempting to change digital natives into file-acquiring traditionalists, the good shift could be to satisfy Era Z where they previously are, amid the 160 million players inside of the Epic Video games Retail store.

Selling to Epic may possibly also have presented by itself as the least worst solution for a corporation below strain to supply returns for its early investors. Bandcamp received enterprise funds backing in its early decades, and however the precise figures associated are unfamiliar, market logic dictates that VC-backed startups eventually start wanting for an exit: both float on the inventory marketplace, which is effective for corporations exhibiting extraordinary growth and important future valuation, or market up.

Whether or not or not that’s the case for Bandcamp, it won’t do considerably to cheer up the musicians and supporters who long in the past recognized Silicon Valley economics as the resource of their woes. On social media, the offer was fulfilled with cynicism by some of the musicians who make up Bandcamp’s world-wide community of creator-people. “It’s VC-funded and has usually been part of system capitalism, exactly where advancement is paramount,” wrote experimental artist Zola Jesus.

The irony is that Bandcamp has always positioned alone as a “community” instead than a marketplace, still that neighborhood has not been provided a say in the fate of the value it has established. The alternative, say some artists, is to acquire back again control – either by shifting over to a system like Resonate, a streaming cooperative owned by its people, or discovering new World-wide-web3 protocols for collective ownership. Austin Robey, co-founder of choice new music platform Ampled, advocates for an “exit to community”, a design exactly where startups are taken more than by the end users and stakeholders who rely on the product or service or services they’ve established.

However, no other indie system has still obtained everything like the scale or attraction of Bandcamp, and the change to alternate platforms will need a leap of complex literacy that most artists and lovers aren’t ready to make. In the quick expression, Bandcamp continues to be the slickest immediate-to-admirer operation in town – and is continue to paying out out hundreds of thousands to artists.

“The solutions and products and services you rely on aren’t likely wherever,” certain Diamond in his statement. Very little will adjust in the small term, is the promise – while it’s the similar a single that accompanies every identical acquisition. All those outdated more than enough to recall losing their MySpace new music overnight may be emotion itchy. Word to the wise, suggested a single suspicious user, “download all your Bandcamp MP3s if you have not yet”.