Fortnite’s publisher Epic Games is making its latest music move by buying direct-to-fan platform Bandcamp.
The company says that it plans to make Bandcamp a key part of Epic’s plans “to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more”. Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond offered more context on what happens next in a blog post this afternoon.
“Bandcamp will keep operating as a standalone marketplace and music community, and I will continue to lead our team,” he wrote.
“The products and services you depend on aren’t going anywhere, we’ll continue to build Bandcamp around our artists-first revenue model (where artists net an average of 82% of every sale), you’ll still have the same control over how you offer your music, Bandcamp Fridays will continue as planned, and the Daily will keep highlighting the diverse, amazing music on the site.”
However, Diamond said that Epic Games will be helping his company “to expand internationally and push development forward across Bandcamp, from basics like our album pages, mobile apps, merch tools, payment system, and search and discovery features, to newer initiatives like our vinyl pressing and live streaming services”.
Diamond added that Bandcamp is “closing in” on $1bn of payments to artists and labels since it was founded in 2008, and said that the company has rebuffed previous acquisition offers, waiting for a suitor who “strongly believed in our mission, were aligned with our values, and not only wanted to see Bandcamp continue, but also wanted to provide the resources to bring a lot more benefit to the artists, labels, and fans who use the site”.
“Epic ticks all those boxes,” added Diamond.
The news comes just three months after Epic Games bought veteran music games developer Harmonix, saying at the time that it was planning to use that to “develop musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite while continuing to support existing titles including Rock Band 4”.
Epic Games has also recently worked with Radiohead on a virtual exhibition for the reissues of their ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ albums; launched a ‘Soundwave Series’ of interactive music concerts within Fortnite; taken a stake in music-licensing startup Lickd; given grant funding to music metaverse startup Ristband; and added an in-game radio station based on Silk Sonic to Fortnite.
As you can see, there’s a grand plan at work here, and the Bandcamp acquisition clearly plays into that. Epic appears to have ambitions to build its Epic Games Store – already a popular competitor to Steam in the PC game downloads space – into a platform for all kinds of entertainment.
In January, Epic Games said that the store ended 2021 with 62 million monthly active users, and 194 million users overall. Players spent $840m on the store in 2021, as well as claiming 765m free games – a key part of the store’s promotional strategy. Now imagine this platform expanding into music with Bandcamp.
Epic Games also continues to be at loggerheads with Apple over the latter’s App Store rules on in-app purchases: a long-running dispute that led to Apple removing Fortnite from the store, and keen interest from policymakers and regulators around the world.
As for Bandcamp, it has emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic as a well-loved platform for artists and independent labels, thanks to those Bandcamp Friday events – one day every month when the company waives its revenue share.
The series kicked off in March 2020, and by January 2022 had generated more than $70m of sales for artists and labels. Diamond’s note today that Bandcamp is closing in on $1bn of lifetime payouts is an update on the devilish $666m milestone it announced in February 2021.
Throughout the pandemic, Bandcamp has often been held up as an ‘ethical’ alternative to the big music streaming services, with a number of artists who have criticised the latter warmly praising Bandcamp’s importance for their incomes.
Bandcamp has always been focused squarely on sales rather than streams, but it does streaming too: people can stream the music they have bought from its platform.
So we’ll leave you with this thought: what more could Bandcamp do with streaming, fuelled by the deep resources of its new parent company, while keeping the ethos that has made it so many friends in the independent music community? Watch this space…