Epic Games, publisher of Fortnite, has purchased leading independent music platform Bandcamp, the companies announced this morning. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
“Bandcamp is an online music store and community where fans can discover, connect with, and directly support the independent musicians they love,” Epic stated in a release.
The part about “fair and open platforms” is important: Epic as the maker of Fortnite has been mired in a bareknuckle legal battle with Apple over the terms of the App Store and the latter’s chokehold over in-app purchasing.
Whatever their plans for the platform, Bandcamp’s existing products and services “aren’t going anywhere,” Bandcamp co-founder and CEO Ethan Diamond wrote in a blog post this morning. “We’ll continue to build Bandcamp around our artists-first revenue model,” noting artists net “an average of 82% of every sale.” The emphasis on the latter part strikes directly at the heart of Epic Games vs. Apple, which began with Epic CEO Tim Sweeney challenge against any platform but Apple in particular taking a 30% cut of everything just for permitting developers to use the App Store platform. The lawsuit began when Epic intentionally circumvented the App Store in-app payment system, leading to Apple’s removal of the product from the store.
Obviously the two companies are kindred spirits, though what the merger of the two will look like is anyone’s guess. Speculation is rife about a streaming platform or (horrors) Yet Another Fucking NFT Marketplace. Diamond emphasized that “Bandcamp Fridays will continue as planned,” and that Bandcamp’s acclaimed “Bandcamp Daily” feature “will keep highlighting the diverse, amazing music on the site.”
As we’ve previously noted here, Bandcamp carved out a niche for itself as a download and vinyl-centered platform, even at a time that the major tech companies (and by that we mainly mean Apple) spurned downloads as incidental to its business in favor of streaming. Bandcamp Fridays played a huge role in artist sustainability during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even spurred on the resurgence of previously dead media like cassette tapes.
Bandcamp no longer being the plucky, upstart independent company that focused on the notoriously low-margin business of selling music and creating non-exploitative tools for artists will be missed. Whatever Epic Games is, it’s not that.