Epic Games buys Bandcamp: What does that mean for musicians?

What you'll learn in this post:
  • Gaming giant Epic Games buys indie darling Bandcamp
  • Why many are skeptical about Epic Games
  • What the reasons for the acquisition could be

While streaming services are often vilified, Bandcamp is seen as a hero by many – and not without reason. Artists can register their releases or merch and set the price themselves. On average, they receive 82% of the revenues they make. Bandcamp thus became an important source of income for many independent artists. That’s why it was all the more shocking when it was announced that gaming giant Epic Games has now acquired Bandcamp. Are independent artists losing an important platform or will this collaboration actually offer them new opportunities? Let’s take a look.

Will everything stay the same?

In a press statement, Bandcamp’s CEO has asserted that nothing will change for fans and artists for the time being. The popular Bandcamp Friday, a monthly practice in which Bandcamp waives its cuts of the profits for one day, will also be continued. However, it is doubtful that Epic is investing just to keep everything running the way it was. Epic has not revealed the reasons for the takeover nor the price they paid for it. That’s why there are already lots of speculations about how this fusion between the gaming and music world came about.

Criticism towards Epic Games

But why has much of the feedback been negative? Epic Games, known, among others, for Gears of War, Infinity Blade, and especially Fortnite, has received much criticism in the past for how it handles music licenses. This is one of the reasons why many are skeptical Bandcamp will remain the “most artist friendly platform.” Additionally, many are worried about Bandcamp’s independence, since 40% of Epic’s shares are owned by Chinese media company Tencent, which not only runs some of the biggest Chinese streaming providers but also holds shares in Spotify and owns 20% of Universal Music Group. That all sounds very contrary to Bandcamp’s humble, indie approach.

New financial options for Bandcamp

One obvious benefit, on the other hand, can be seen on the financial side of things. Although Bandcamp has remained profitable since 2012, they’re a small fish compared to the other DSPs dominating the market. Because of the deal with Epic, however, there are now more resources available, which is why Bandcamp has announced increased international expansion and investments in its products. If this can attract the attention of more consumers, it is certainly a clear advantage.

What role will Bandcamp play?

We can only speculate about the reasons why Epic decided to buy Bandcamp. But it’s beyond question that there is a great deal of overlap between gaming and music, especially since both companies focus on fandom and a direct-to-consumer model. On both platforms, fans can express their devotion in various ways, be it through in-game purchases on Fortnite or vinyl or t-shirts on Bandcamp. In the gaming world, the direct-to-fan approach is considerably more established than in music, and some hope that Epic will put that knowledge into good use in the music industry, too.

Time and again, the word “Metaverse” has come up, as well. Music also plays a big role there, of course, and thus it is presumed that Bandcamp will serve as a supplier. Many also see potential in the organization of virtual events/concerts or in the licensing of music for games or films. Another possibility is that NFTs may be added to Bandcamp, as well. If a user is traversing the gaming world, they shouldn’t have to leave it, even when they want to listen to a certain song or better yet, intend to purchase it. With the integration of Bandcamp, this can certainly be achieved.

Cautiously optimistic

So, it’s clear that the overlap and potential is there. But of course, when a tech giant takes over a smaller company, there is always the risk that they radically change the acquired platform without taking the previous clients into consideration. There is also the risk that over time, Bandcamp will slip further and further down Epic Games’ priority list and then stagnates. All we can do is hope that one of the most important platforms for independent artists can come out of this deal stronger than before.