Bandcamp Workers are Unionizing, And Not a Moment Too Soon
A while back, we were all a little surprised (and more than a little concerned) to see that Epic had bought out Bandcamp. I repeat: Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, bought Bandcamp, the largely community-supporting music platform for indie artists and labels. Our Kirsten Carey wrote an in-depth piece about why specifically this did not bode well, but the short and simple of it is: How could things go well when a company that made millions from a capitalistic genre of gaming decides, seemingly out of nowhere, to buy a platform that’s designed to provide ample communal support for artists who are financially dependent on said communal support?
Well, now we’ve gotten a clear indication that things are not going as well as we’d hope, because the workers have decided to unionize:
With the help of the Tech Workers Union, Bandcamp United is banding together and demanding recognition from Epic Games in the near future. This union is reportedly not just aiming to continue supporting the artists and labels who love the site so dearly, but intending to better advocate for and support the site’s workers themselves. Kim Kelly of Rolling Stone got an exclusive look behind the scenes:
“Many of us work at Bandcamp because we agree with the values the company upholds for artists: fair pay, transparent policies, and using the company’s social power to uplift marginalized communities,” says Cami Ramirez-Arau, who has worked as a Support Specialist at Bandcamp for two years. “We have organized a union to ensure that Bandcamp treats their workers with these same values.” The proposed bargaining unit will include 62 people — the entirety of non-managerial, non-supervisory workers at Bandcamp in the U.S. — and the organizing committee represents workers across all departments.
The new union’s mission statement underlines the workers’ commitment to upholding Bandcamp’s stated values while emphasizing that the company needs to do the same. “Bandcamp United is powered by us: designers, journalists, support staff, engineers, and more, all dedicated to the mission of Bandcamp,” the mission statement reads in part. “Many of us are ourselves independent artists, label owners, and promoters, and all of us are fans who are involved in our own local music communities. We began working here as an extension of our own love for independent music, and believe that a site such as Bandcamp that purports to offer an ethical and fair alternative to the streaming economy should reflect its mission internally.”
One would hope that being bought out by such a large company would result in increased pay and benefits, but since when has capitalism ever made ethical sense? There’s apparently quite the wage disparity among employees at the company, which most team members agree makes no logistical sense. On top of that, since Epic acquired the site, the managerial side of things has been a complete nightmare, with very little transparency between levels. Such a lack of transparency ultimately translates to a lack of respect–therefore, the impetus to unionize makes more than enough sense!
Indeed, the workers behind this union have been quietly organizing since as early as last summer, doing their part to find the right people to work with (such as OPEIU) and ensuring that their workers weren’t getting burnt out on top of it all. It’s their hope that the union will bring balance back to the company and reflect the site’s values, from all sides.
And the musicians they support are supporting them right back! It’s been really fantastic to see such a flood of support from such a variety of acts, big and small:
What I especially love is this closing statement from member Eli Rider:
“I like working here, and I would love to continue working here,” Rider says. “The way that the tech industry works is that you job-hop every one to two years for a title and pay shift. It feels like in games and music, everyone is just expected to burn out. I think that workers deserve fair representation and a proper seat at the table, as equals, in bargaining for better working conditions. It’s not enough to get small wins alone; I want to see everyone thrive.”
Tech is kind of this big, lumbering beast in the working world, and with so many tech workers finally coming together and unionizing, now is exactly the time to topple the beast and tame it. People should be able to enjoy their work, and their work shouldn’t kill their joy in the process! Bandcamp is one of the best things in the music industry, and without it, a lot of musicians wouldn’t have a career at all. So I say, fuck YES Bandcamp United, we support you unequivocally!
(Featured Image: Bandcamp United)
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