I suppose it comes down to one question: is “monetize” a bad word when it comes to music?
These days, you can pretty much rest assured that any good thing, in this case a thing that serves both the people who make music and those who want to buy the music they make, is just not enough.
When I was a kid in the 1960s, travel, even car travel, meant entering new worlds. This was before the preponderance of nationwide and global chain stores and restaurants so if you wanted to eat while on the road you went somewhere new (gasp!) and if you needed a screw, you went to the local hardware store. Now, you can plunk down anywhere that has an airport and shop at the same stores you have at home and eat the same (shitty) food you can find right down the road. Progress acting like a giant genericizing funnel with a few fat cats sitting on the skinny end sucking things dry. Mom and Pop can always work at Home Depot so they can afford medication and enjoy the occasional meal at Olive Garden in their ‘retirement’.
So it should come as no surprise that Bandcamp, after their sale to Epic the gaming company in March of last year, has been sold again. But first, here’s Epic from last year’s press release announcing that deal:
Fair and open platforms are critical to the future of the creator economy. Epic and Bandcamp share a mission of building the most artist friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money. Bandcamp will play an important role in Epic’s vision to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more.
Epic’s vision was rather short sighted as they recently sold Bandcamp to Songtradr, a company aptly named seeing as they sell songs like any other commodity to businesses selling any thing that needs a jingle to grease the wheels of commerce. They monetize songs, as if songs are in need of monetization.
Walk through any Home Depot or Shop-Rite and your shopping experience is enhanced by now-neutered once revolutionary music. There’s nothing sweeter than trying to find the non-nonfat plain Greek yogurt among hundreds of plastic containers while listening to “My Generation”.
From the Songtradr press release:
“The acquisition of Bandcamp will help Songtradr continue to grow its suite of services for artists. I’m a passionate musician myself, and artistry and creativity have always been at the heart of Songtradr. Bandcamp will join a team of music industry veterans and artists who have deep expertise in music licensing, composition, rights management, and distribution,” said Paul Wiltshire, CEO of Songtradr.”
Bandcamp will join? Bandcamp is not a thing, it’s a community built on the work of musicians who sell their music to people interested in buying that music. Without this content and the wonderful platform that Bandcamp’s employees built and maintain to support it, Bandcamp is just empty code. And I think we all know that “grow its suite of services” means serving shareholders. Looking at Bandcamp as a giant resource for royalty free music is like looking at retirees as a giant untapped cheap labor pool. [footnote 1]
I sure hope Bandcamp remains a place to buy music, albums not songs for fuck’s sake, that sends the bulk of the revenue to the people responsible for making it. You know, musicians not CEOs. As you may have guessed, I’m not holding out much hope.
On the bright side, we may find the tunes piping through stadium-sized stores and shitty chain restaurants more…current.
1. According to a report on Wired, half of Bandcamp’s employees were not asked to make the move to Songtradr. “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 a statement provided by Songtradr chief marketing officer Lindsay Nahmiache.
Bandcamp’s union has created a petition we all can sign (I did) to urge Songtradr to keep Bandcamp’s employees who keep Bandcamp the wonderful place it is.