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'Idiotic and Cruel': Musicians Slam Layoffs at Bandcamp, Union Files Complaint

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Bandcamp's new office in downtown Oakland includes a record store and concert venue.
Bandcamp's offices in downtown Oakland include a record store and concert venue. Their future is now unclear. (Richard Morgenstein)

Update, Oct. 31, 2023: Employee union Bandcamp United – OPEIU Tech Local 1010 has filed a complaint against Songtradr and Epic Games with the National Labor Relations Board for laying off all eight bargaining committee members earlier this month. The union alleges discrimination on the basis of labor activity. In a statement, Bandcamp United  said that it is calling for employment offers for all workers; equitable voluntary severance offers; and recognition of the union at Songtradr and a return to bargaining.

Update, Oct. 17, 2023: Ed Blair, a bargaining committee member of employee union Bandcamp United, told KQED that 40 members of the 67-person union lost their jobs in Bandcamp’s layoffs on Oct. 16. That number includes the entire bargaining committee of the union, which sought recognition from parent company Songtradr before the job cuts.

“So many people put their blood, sweat and tears and their whole heart into making this the best possible place to work that it could have been,” Blair said. “And I am concerned about the future because it seems very uncertain, and it feels to me that core parts, like an incalculable amount of core parts of the company, are gone now.”

Blair said Bandcamp United is still organizing and will post updates on its X and Instagram accounts.

Original story, Oct. 16, 2023:

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Musicians and music journalists across the country are reeling from the announcement that Bandcamp, an online music marketplace headquartered in Oakland, cut 50% of its staff on Monday.

Among those who lost their jobs were a majority of the writers and editors at the publication Bandcamp Daily. On the social media platform X, former senior editor JJ Skolnik said only three members of the editorial staff remain.

“Unsurprisingly there has been no humanity extended in this process. Our union will prosper though,” wrote former Bandcamp employee Atoosa Moinzadeh on X. Bandcamp Daily’s job cuts echo a trend of media layoffs, as publications such as Vice, The Washington Post, Vox and Okayplayer slashed hundreds of positions this year. (Full disclosure: This reporter wrote an article for Bandcamp Daily as a freelancer in 2017.)

News of the layoffs arrived just two weeks after the music licensing company Songtradr bought Bandcamp from Epic Games, which had purchased the company from its original founder in March 2022. A Songtradr spokesperson confirmed the job cuts in a statement to the SF Standard.

“After a comprehensive evaluation, including the importance of roles for smooth business operations and pre-existing functions at Songtradr, 50% of Bandcamp employees have accepted offers to join Songtradr,” said Lindsay Nahmiache​, a Songtradr spokesperson.

It’s unclear how many Bandcamp employees were laid off. A Bandcamp spokesperson and Bandcamp United, the employee union, did not respond to KQED’s requests for comment as of publication time. The future of Bandcamp’s downtown Oakland venue, which regularly hosts concerts and events, is also unclear.

The layoffs at Bandcamp prompted outcry on social media from listeners and independent musicians, who favor the platform because of its artist-friendly business model. Bandcamp allows musicians to keep 82% of proceeds from their music, while streaming companies like Spotify pay artists a fraction of a penny per stream. Since its founding in 2008, Bandcamp has attracted a following of conscious consumers who take pride in supporting their favorite artists.

In contrast, Songtradr is a B2B (business-to-business) company that allows musicians to license their music to brands and content creators.

 

“God this is frustrating. Bandcamp was an unalloyed good in the music business,” the Mountain Goats wrote on X.

“Claiming that firing half your staff, many of whom have been longstanding, beloved members of our community, is just ‘business as usual’ is unbelievably idiotic and cruel,” posted the band Deerhoof.

 

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