Epic Games Just Bought Bandcamp, but Don’t Worry, Its Intentions Are Honorable

Bandcamp hasn’t sold out

Key Takeaways

  • Epic, creator of Fortnite, has purchased indie music star Bandcamp.
  • Epic is putting together a whole ecosystem to create and distribute artistic media.
  • If you never checked out Bandcamp before, run—don’t walk—over there right now.
headphones hanging from a display pillar

Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Epic Games—the makers of Fortnite and the company that got kicked off of Apple's App Store—just bought Bandcamp, the best online store for music. You wouldn't be wrong to think it could spell disaster for musicians and listeners, but it might actually be good for everyone.

When big companies buy small companies, they might shut them down and strip the assets (the Gordon Gecko approach). They might keep the company running with promises not to change anything and then change everything (the Facebook-Instagram method), or they might just let everything tick along as it is, at the risk of forgetting they even own it (the Skype maneuver). But in the case of Bandcamp, the first question is, why did a video games behemoth buy an indie music platform at all?

"The collaboration of Epic Games and Bandcamp is a critical step toward building an artist-friendly, fair and open platform that will allow creators to keep a major part of their income," music writer and headphone reviewer Emma Williams told Lifewire via email. 

The C-Word

Music and games go together. Ever since Grand Theft Auto III on the Playstation 2, which let you just cruise Liberty City listening to the radio in a stolen car, music, and video games have been like margaritas and hangovers—an unbreakable partnership. It looks like Epic wants Bandcamp for its content, that awful term that reduces art and creativity to widgets on a production line

Epic's statement goes thusly: "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." That's a pretty clear plan, even if it is couched in business-speak. It looks like Epic wants to create a rival to the various app stores, music stores, and so on. 

"The collaboration of Epic Games and Bandcamp is a critical step toward building an artist-friendly, fair and open platform..."

The cynical amongst us might assume that because Epic's legal moves to force Apple to open up its own digital marketplaces failed, Epic has decided to gather its own "content" farms. But if we take Epic at its word, it could be building a network of more ethical, creator-friendly stores. 

And there's the practical benefit. By owning a music platform, Epic could integrate it into its game-building empire. 

"Epic has dabbled here before, hosting major concerts in Fortnite by Marshmello, Travis Scott, and Ariana Grande," hip-hop producer and drum-guide maker Cole told Lifewire via email. "Licensing music is a costly business, and a road paved with legal hurdles. Epic buying Bandcamp reduces the friction to get high-quality music from established artists."

For its part, Bandcamp says nothing will change in terms of how it works right now. Artists will still get almost all of the income from sales of their music, Bandcamp Fridays will continue, and co-founder and CEO Ethan Diamond will continue to run the company. The new owners will instead help Bandcamp expand its international reach and build out its live-streaming and vinyl pressing services. 

Ethical Streaming?

Bandcamp is notable because it really cares about the artists and the listeners. Musicians get an average of 82% of every sale and more on Bandcamp Fridays, where Bandcamp waives its fees. Instead of hiding listeners from the creators, like Apple’s App Store and Music service, Bandcamp encourages communication. 

Bandcamp may also have the best music blog around with the Bandcamp Daily. It highlights all kinds of new music from around the world, and even if the style and genre isn’t always your cup of tea, all of it is interesting, and much of it is amazing. You’ll discover more new music you like in one edition of Bandcamp Daily than you’d get from a month of using all the other streaming services.

homepage of the Bandcamp Daily blog

Bandcamp

Might Epic’s resources allow Bandcamp to do the obvious and create an ethical streaming service? You can already stream music you’ve purchased, and you can also stream songs from albums if you visit the website, kind of like listening in-store to try before you buy. But wouldn’t it be great if you could subscribe to a Bandcamp streaming service, knowing your fees were going to the artists instead of record companies or into the pockets of Spotify and Apple?

The biggest worry for everyone outside Epic is that Bandcamp’s shine will fade over time. But Epic really does seem intent on building a creator-first market for all kinds of media, from games to music. Perhaps its deep pockets will be what allows amazing companies like Bandcamp to thrive.

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