Bandcamp Employees Move to Unionize After ‘Shift’ in ‘Workplace Conditions’ Following Epic Games Sale
Following Bandcamp’s sale to Epic Games last year, employees at the popular independent music streaming and sales platform are making efforts to unionize.
On Thursday (March 16), Bandcamp workers filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to authorize a union election, marking the latest push by music company employees to unionize. If approved, the workers will hold an election to officially form the union. The effort follows similar initiatives from employees at indie label Secretly Group and YouTube Music, as well as workers at broader tech and media companies like Amazon, Disney and Tesla.
Bandcamp United is a group of “designers, journalists, support staff, engineers and more,” according to a statement, that is “committed to protecting the benefits we have, fixing historical disparities within and across departments, and promoting equitable conditions and economic stability for all of our colleagues.”
“If you think about Bandcamp, it’s about paying artists fairly for the music that we love so much,” says Eli Rider, a Philadelphia-based data analyst for the music streaming and sales platform, and one of the union organizers, in a phone interview. “So, the workers that build the site and support it also would like to have fair and transparent wages.”
Rider wouldn’t elaborate on specific issues around wages or workplace conditions that prompted the employees’ move to unionize. She also wouldn’t specify how many workers were involved in the union effort, but said, “We have a broad base of support,” including from U.S. and international Bandcamp employees.
Discussions around unionizing began during online meetings last July, according to Rider. “Folks just started talking more about what they were experiencing at work,” she says. “It was mostly talk, but then someone had the idea of getting organized.” At that point, they reached out to existing unions, before deciding to affiliate with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 1010.
Bandcamp was sold to Epic Games, the company that owns Fortnite, for an undisclosed amount in March 2022. After the sale, Rider says there was “a shift in our workplace conditions” that he describes as “unexpected.”
In a statement Thursday, Bandcamp’s CEO Ethan Diamond responded: “We are aware that some Bandcamp employees are seeking to organize a union and [we] are reviewing the petition to understand their concerns.”
Formed in 2007, Bandcamp was a crucial outlet for indie musicians after touring revenue disappeared during the COVID-19 quarantine period. Artists relied on the Bandcamp Fridays promotion to sell merch and music; on those days, they received 93% of the revenue compared to 82% on a typical day. On the first Bandcamp Friday after concerts shut down in 2020, fans bought 800,000 items from artists on Bandcamp totaling $4.3 million.
“It is important to us that Bandcamp’s artist-first mission continues with clarity and accountability, with all resources afforded to us distributed in the fairest and most transparent way possible,” the workers said on their website. “We feel a responsibility to support those who are most marginalized, to use our platform with integrity, and to provide reasonable protections and accommodations for those at-risk.”