Games Technology

Epic Video games’ Messy Bandcamp Sale Ends With Mass Layoffs


“Music is therapeutic,” the late musician Prince once said. Bandcamp co-founder Ethan Diamond told NPR in 2020 that the purpose of the unbiased digital music platform he was constructing was to convey that energy of therapeutic to everybody. Many present Bandcamp staff are going to wish it. Epic Video games, which acquired Bandcamp only a yr in the past, laid off roughly half its employees at the moment after finalizing its sale to music licensing firm Songtradr amid wide-scale cuts on the Fortnite maker. One former worker instructed Kotaku that no person’s heard from Diamond because the sale was introduced.

“Over the previous few years the working prices of Bandcamp have considerably elevated,” Songtradr wrote in a press release. “It required some changes to make sure a sustainable and wholesome firm that may serve its group of artists and followers. After a complete analysis, together with the significance of roles for clean enterprise operations and pre current features at Songtradr, 50% of Bandcamp staff have accepted presents to hitch Songtradr.”

The remainder of the roughly 120 staff will be laid off by Epic and obtain six months of severance, whilst Bandcamp’s union continues to discount with the billion-dollar firm over higher phrases. Epic Video games purchased Bandcamp in March 2022 for $273 million, in keeping with inside paperwork seen by Kotaku. In keeping with two former staff, who wished to stay nameless as a result of they didn’t need to jeopardize their severance packages, even Diamond was not aware of Epic’s plan to promote Bandcamp to Songtradr till as quickly because the night time earlier than the deal was introduced.

Diamond didn’t reply to a request for remark despatched to his Bandcamp electronic mail deal with over every week in the past (it has since been disconnected). Epic declined to touch upon whether or not Diamond was conscious of the deal to promote Bandcamp earlier than it occurred.

Epic Video games introduced it might divest itself of Bandcamp in a September 28 weblog publish that exposed roughly 830 layoffs throughout the broader firm. Workers of the independent music platform, which has been an particularly well-liked place for followers to purchase from and assist online game composers immediately, have been left in limbo within the weeks that adopted as to whether or not they would have a job at Songtradr as soon as the sale was full.

Two former staff stated they have been instantly logged out of Epic’s company-wide Slack channel as soon as the deal was introduced on September 28, regardless of nonetheless being on the corporate’s payrolls till it formally closed. Additionally they claimed {that a} majority of the employees had misplaced entry and permissions to the instruments wanted to carry out their common duties in that point, grinding the whole lot however essential features inside Bandcamp to a halt as employees waited to see who could be laid off.

In the course of the weeks that adopted, Bandcamp’s union, which represented about half of the corporate on the time, called on Songtradr to voluntarily recognize the union whereas it additionally negotiated with Epic over how the layoffs to union members could be dealt with. For instance, the sport writer stated that no worker who obtained a proposal from Songtradr would stay eligible for Epic’s severance package deal. They’d successfully be compelled to take the job on the new firm, regardless of the huge adjustments to situations on the bottom with Bandcamp being lower roughly in half.

“There’s no manner Bandcamp will proceed as Songtradr has promised,” one former worker instructed Kotaku earlier this month. “It’s simply utterly fucked up.”

The chaotic switch of possession and the confusion amongst employees was due largely to the character of the deal between Epic and Songtradr. The 2 corporations agreed to an “asset sale” of Bandcamp quite than a “inventory sale.” This meant that Songtradr was solely buying the know-how and platform, quite than the corporate as an entire, together with its employees. As staff waited for the deal to shut, many have been left at nighttime about what was occurring and who would in the end nonetheless have a job when the mud ultimately settled. In keeping with two former staff, neither Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, nor anybody else on Epic’s senior management workforce, ever held an all-hands assembly with Bandcamp employees the place they may ask questions.

The sudden, surprising buy of Bandcamp in 2022 and its messy sell-off this month have drawn criticism from many supporters of the platform. “We share a imaginative and prescient of constructing probably the most open, artist-friendly ecosystem on the planet,” Epic Video games wrote on the time of the unique acquisition. “The truth that Epic bought bandcamp a yr after they purchased it reveals that they’d no plan and no actual curiosity in bandcamp’s mission,” tweeted FTL: Sooner Than Gentle composer Ben Prunty.

It’s not clear what’s going to occur to Bandcamp going ahead. ”We’re dedicated to conserving the present Bandcamp companies that followers and artists love, together with its artist-first income share, Bandcamp Fridays and Bandcamp Every day,” it stated in a press release to Kotaku at the moment. Epic will proceed to work with Bandcamp on Fortnite Radio and stays an investor in Songtradr.

In keeping with two former Bandcamp staff, those that have been laid off have been disproportionately from the union. “Songtradr had no entry to union membership data and we executed our employment provide course of with full-consideration of all authorized necessities,” a spokesperson for Songtradr instructed Kotaku. They stated closing presents have been despatched out after a cautious analysis and examination of “a number of elements.”

The Bandcamp United union didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.