More tech layoffs – Bandcamp loses half its staff after acquisition by Songtradr
• The Bandcamp acquisition was floated in September 2023.
• Half the company’s staff will not be hired as part of the takeover.
• Bandcamp staff – current and former – are furious at the move.
The Bandcamp acquisition by Songtradr has not turned out to be a deal paved with gold – and its pre-deal promises have turned out to be worthless. Half of the company’s staff have been laid off following Songtradr’s acquisition of Bandcamp – and many of those staff are taking to social media to lament the fact.
The announcement of the Bandcamp acquisition was made last month, with the assurance that “Songtradr will continue to operate Bandcamp as a marketplace and music community with an artist-first revenue share.”
To be fair to Songtradr, no promises were actually made to staff – in hindsight, there’s an almost conspicuous blank space where staff at the company are fastidiously not mentioned. But there was significantly reassuring, positive language on the way in which Bandcamp would continue after the acquisition, very similarly to how it had operated before.
That reassuring tone turns out to have been mere marketing spin, apparently designed to quell any negativity or suspicion over the oncoming acquisition.
On the same day that Songtradr bought Bandcamp, Epic Games (which sold the indie music platform) announced it would lay off 16% of its own global staff.
For a brief moment this year, there was room to breathe between layoffs in the tech sector. Alas, that has come to an end. Songtradr announced the layoffs by explaining that “over the past few years, the operating costs of Bandcamp have significantly increased … 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.”
Thus, the remaining 50% will not have their contracts renewed.
What now for staff after Bandcamp acquisition?
There is – or currently appears to be – little redress available to the unhired half-horde of Bandcamp employees, and the next time Songtradr makes a statement, the wider business world will be expected to take it seriously, despite the actions that followed the Bandcampt acquisition, because the company very specifically did not lie. It simply avoided the issue until the ink was dry, and painted a vague and rosy picture of the post-acquisition likelihood to minimize speculation about the likelihood of significant layoffs.
That said, the situation may not end up being as straightforward as Songtradr would like.
Bandcamp is an online music store and community with more than five million artists and labels. It’s renowned for its support of underground music; fans buy downloads and physical media direct from artists and labels, with Bandcamp taking a small fee.
That beats Spotify’s $0.003 – $0.005 per stream and is part of the reason that Bandcamp is used by so many indie artists.
One popular initiative that the site runs is Bandcamp Friday, started during the pandemic, where the company’s fees are waived on some Fridays to maximize returns for artists and labels. The company says its customers have spent $1.2bn during the lifetime of Bandcamp, with an average of 82% of revenue going to the artist or label.
The workers’ union, Bandcamp United, shared a statement that said “We love our jobs, the platform we’ve built, and the Bandcamp community. We’re glad we have our union – co-workers who have each other’s backs. We’ll be moving together to decide what our next steps are. On Wednesday we return to the bargaining table with Epic Games, and we’ll keep you updated.”
On October 12th, the union posted a petition that would allow it to begin negotiations with Songtradr to offer jobs to all existing staff members.
“Rising operational costs” vs. $300m valuation
Songtradr allows musicians and publishers to upload music which can then be licensed by commercial entities such as brands and content creators. It is valued at over $300m, and in March this year it acquired a British competitor, 7digital, for $23.4m.
So, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many that the company feels a need to cut down on Bandcamp employees because of “rising operational costs.” One former employee said the editorial department that promotes new music has been gutted and is down to only three people.
It seems a little like prioritizing artists and labels isn’t the moneymaker that buyers think Bandcamp will be. Epic Games noticed that Bandcamp was popular in the gaming industry and bought it – but then passed it off to Songtradr less than a year later, the new owners also seeming to conflate popularity with monetary gain.
Ultimately, the very thing that makes Bandcamp so well-loved is what will prevent it from fitting into a corporation like Songtradr. Ex-employees will receive six months’ pay as severance, which is arguably the very least they deserve.
6 December 2023
6 December 2023