When I heard of Bandcamp joining Epic Games1 I had mixed feelings. Since I have been out of the gaming world for years2 I know next to nothing about Epic Games. All I know is that an independent music platform has become part of something bigger and way more powerful, but the extent of this giant’s interest in music, and indie musicians in particular, eludes me.

A year or so after the acquisition I read about workers at Bandcamp unionising.3 Not too long after Bandcamp decided to react4 and I am sure the muscles upstairs backed them up swiftly.5

I will need more details about this whole story in order to understand what is really going on, but even as it is, I cannot help but question how I should act now with regards to Bandcamp. You see, I love Bandcamp and use it regularly. I buy records from independent artists6 and I don’t remember how many musicians I have bumped into just by randomly browsing the website.7 This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy buying music from my favourite local store, which still makes me feel like I did when I bought my very first CD, or that I don’t get excited when I can chat with musicians selling their merchandise right after the live gig.

However, Bandcamp makes supporting independent music a couple of clicks away, while giving me the pleasure of sending a message to the people behind a record instead of a random seller on Discogs. It’s not really laziness, is it? Back in my twenties, I rarely had the chance to support, say, Australian artists in such a direct way. When Amazon became a standard for online shopping I thought that was it, and to a certain degree it was,8 but there is so much independent music struggling to survive that whenever avoiding middle men is possible I am all for it.

Amazon is cheap and used items on Discogs are a bargain, I am well aware of the situation. Not to mention the streaming services I ignore on purpose since stacking records on my shelves is a much more relaxing experience. But even with digital records, which I buy only sometimes otherwise I would have to sleep on a mattress made of vinyls and CDs, Bandcamp does not make me feel like the bad guy who rips off artists shouting “sharing is caring, man!” to justify the ZIP archives frantically downloaded from advertisement-loaded corners of the web.

Don’t get me wrong, I was around during the early age of file sharing and there were tons of music in and out my primitive Internet connection, but that didn’t stop me from buying records. The thing is Bandcamp offers a relief to my conscience, because now I can get a preview of a track or a whole album to get a general idea of its sound, decide if I care enough to spend some money for the digital version, or show some love and order the much more rewarding vinyl edition, all of it without backstabbing small bands or young DJs from rural towns.

Considering that I don’t keep up with music-related news and releases like I used to, this is even more precious. Nowadays when I want to listen to new music I bounce around labels, bands sharing their favourite acts, solid advice from shrewd friends9 and that’s it basically. It’s always nice when I hear or read about a new name and I can find more about them on Bandcamp, which means I can learn about their music by actually listening to it instead of reading reviews or other sort of comments.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I used to write —rather poorly, I must say— about music, so I kind of know the value of a good review for the reader, who maybe gains more insights from a different point of view, but especially for the musician, who may actually need as much press as possible to reach a wider audience. And yet, having been a music enthusiast for most of my life, I know the sounds I like and I can easily understand whether that new record is what I am after or not. Bandcamp is just the right place at the right time for someone like me.

What now, then? Obviously I don’t want to stop supporting my favourite musicians. At the same time I cannot afford to attend every single concert in order to buy their last work because the middle man is playing dirty tricks while faking good behaviour to prevent opposition. And of course I cannot just write to all of them complaining about the Bandcamp situation and asking them to find a different option for sharing their sounds. If you love music boycotting Bandcamp puts the artists, and not just you, on a dangerous path. This is not the world a sappy seventeen-year old with an awkward smile, leaving the country side on a forty-minutes bus ride to get to a record store, would have imagined waking up to.

  1. See: Bandcamp is Joining Epic Games↩︎

  2. Though the Wipeout HD online community will always have a special place in my heart. ↩︎

  3. See: Workers at Epic-owned Bandcamp are unionising because “It’s not enough to get small wins alone” and @bandcampunited↩︎

  4. See: this thread from @topshelfrecords↩︎

  5. See: Bandcamp employees accuse CEO and Epic Games of union busting↩︎

  6. The last record I bought is from Lleroy↩︎

  7. Off the top of my head I would say RVG, a band particularly dear to me. ↩︎

  8. For English books and specific Blu-ray editions I often have only Amazon to rely on. ↩︎

  9. The list of artists trustworthy people put into my ears is endless. To name just a few of the ones I am more grateful for: Angie McMahon, Terre Thaemlitz, Róisín Murphy, Nina Nastasia… ↩︎