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Songtradr’s Bandcamp Layoffs Included the Entirety of Union Leadership

On Monday, Songtradr officially acquired Bandcamp from Epic Games, which bought the beloved music marketplace in March 2022. Songtradr promptly laid off about 50% of Bandcamp’s 120-person staff. For workers, independent musicians and labels, and their fans, this news was absolutely crushing. Thanks to some excellent reporting from 404 Media, it’s clear that Songtradr’s gutting of Bandcamp is more grim than we thought. 404‘s Emanuel Maiberg learned that all eight of the elected leaders of Bandcamp United as well as nearly two-thirds of the entire union bargaining unit were among those laid off.

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The push for Bandcamp United, the name of the staff’s union, began in March 2023, about a year after Epic Games bought Bandcamp. The union was formed to fight for fair and equitable pay, transparent policies, and solid support for staff. In other words, they sought from Epic the very benefits they supply to artists on their platform—a huge reason Bandcamp was so beloved by the artistic community.

In May, workers voted to unionize by a whopping 31-7 margin. Their incredible management was additionally bolstered by a huge wave of support from Bandcamp’s user base—i.e., artists. The union would cover all non-managerial, non-supervisory workers, which at the time of unionization was 62 people. 40 of them were laid off by Songtradr.

By the beginning of August, Bandcamp United was recognized as a union and bargaining talks with Epic began shortly thereafter. As per Bandcamp United’s X (formerly Twitter) page, the fourth day of bargaining took place on September 13. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney announced he was selling Bandcamp two weeks later, on September 28.

Songtradr attempts to dodge the union before killing it

After the Songtradr layoffs on October 16, Bandcamp United said they were still scheduled to meet with Epic at the bargaining table. In this fashion, Epic at least played at taking Bandcamp United seriously. Songtradr, on the other hand, has utilized evasion, denial, and straight-up lying to avoid going to the table with Bandcamp United.

Bandcamp United wasted no time in asking Songtradr to recognize their union, additionally demanding employment offers for every worker as well as voluntary severance offers. They asked the user base once again for their help in putting pressure on Songtradr, and in particular its CEO, Paul Wiltshire. On October 4, Songtradr responded with a letter that not only avoided recognizing the union, but also pledged to go against one of Bandcamp United’s key demands. The letter said that “not all Bandcamp employees will receive offers from Songtradr.”

Obviously, none of this backs the company’s claim that “supporting the Bandcamp community will be [Songtradr’s] number one priority.” In fact, everything seems to very much suggest the opposite.

Songtradr’s deception continued right up to the layoffs

Songtradr’s denials only go deeper. Because according to emails seen by 404 Media, following the release of this letter, Songtradr invited Bandcamp United to a meeting with CEO Wiltshire just last week. Yet in a statement to 404 Media, Songtradr essentially denies this happened by saying it had no idea who was even in the union. “Songtradr had no access to union membership information and we executed our employment offer process with full-consideration of all legal requirements,” Songtradr’s director of communications told 404.

There’s another line in Songtradr’s statement which makes me twinge, albeit for reasons not directly related to Bandcamp United. Among the factors considered when determining layoffs were “the importance of roles for smooth business operations, and whether a similar function already existed at Songtradr including our experience of running it and associated requirements.”

In other words, this means that Songtradr is not allowing Bandcamp to be a self-contained, self-running unit—which is essentially what it was at Epic. Songtradr is now running Bandcamp, with a skeleton of Bandcamp’s staff to fill in new gaps which will likely prove bigger than small staff can reasonably handle. This as Songtradr has, at least in a front-facing manner, assured Bandcamp’s clientele that the platform will be “business as usual.”

Unfortunately for Songtradr, musicians are famously one of the most keenly socially aware and engaged groups of people out there. Especially independent musicians, who aren’t beholden to upholding a certain image for a record company. Songtradr’s flimsy attempt to pull a fast one on not only Bandcamp’s workers, but also Bandcamp’s clientele shows it is seriously underestimating the intelligence of both.

So, to be blunt: fuck you, Paul Wiltshire and Songtradr. We see you, and we do not support what you have done to Bandcamp United and Bandcamp as a whole.

(featured image: Bandcamp United)

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Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.