After work hours on September 27 last week, employees of Fortnite maker Epic Games received a calendar invite informing them of a mandatory meeting the next morning, according to an employee who received the message. Just before the surprise all-hands was scheduled to begin, employees of the online record store Bandcamp, which Epic bought in March 2022, received another email, says the worker: Epic was laying off 830 people—around 16 percent of the company’s workforce—and selling Bandcamp to audio licensing company Songtradr.
Bandcamp employees were stunned to learn that some of them would not be receiving job offers from Songtradr. That day, the acquisition was announced publicly, and multiple Bandcamp employees say they began losing access to many of the systems needed to do their jobs, leaving the platform operating with limited oversight.
Bandcamp customer support specialist ed blair and software engineer Blade Barringer say staff have received little guidance from Epic or Songtradr about how they’re supposed to do their jobs without access to critical systems. When new support requests come in, blair can see them but is not able to properly respond.
A Zoom meeting last week with Songtradr executives who said they wanted Bandcamp to stay artist-friendly didn’t add much clarity. The platform’s staff have been told that Bandcamp is in a state of stasis during the transition, blair says, a situation that has been “really destabilizing” for the workers.
The turmoil at Bandcamp could also be destabilizing for musicians and their fans. Epic’s acquisition of Bandcamp last year triggered concern among some artists, music lovers, and industry groups, who worried that a uniquely artist-centric platform might change for the worse.
Bandcamp, founded in 2007, is beloved by many artists for providing a place where musicians can foster loyal fan communities and receive a generous share of music sales. Bandcamp pays artists 82 percent of every transaction, while Spotify is widely reported to pay a small fraction of a cent per stream. When Songtradr announced its acquisition last week, the Future of Music Coalition, a musician advocacy nonprofit, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that the company’s leaders should “do what Bandcamp’s fine employees have done for years—seeking constant artist/label feedback at every iteration. Don’t screw it up!”
Those employees were not included in Epic’s sale of Bandcamp. Songtradr purchased the platform’s business and operations but not its staff, according to Sandy Pope, bargaining director for the Office of Professional Employees International Union, which since March has represented 67 out of some 120 Bandcamp workers.
“Based on its current financials, Bandcamp requires some adjustments to ensure a sustainable and healthy company that can serve its community of artists and fans long into the future,” says Songtradr chief marketing officer Lindsay Nahmiache. She says the company will be extending job offers to Bandcamp staff over the next few weeks as the sale is finalized.
Epic did not respond to a request for comment but last week posted an email from CEO Tim Sweeney saying laid-off employees would get six months of pay and health care along with other benefits. The Bandcamp union faces the prospect of having to start negotiations over again with Songtradr management.