epic games bandcamp

If you’d told us that Bandcamp’s acquisition by Epic Games would lead fairly swiftly to an argument with a tech giant, our money would have been on that giant being Apple. Nope. Epic Games is seeking a court injunction against Google, over changing rules on its Google Play Store for Android.

Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond blogged about the dispute overnight, noting that since 2015, Bandcamp has used its own billing system to process payments made for music and merch within its Android app.

“However, Google is now modifying its rules to require Bandcamp (and other apps like it) to exclusively use Google Play Billing for payments for digital goods and services, and pay a revenue share to Google,” wrote Diamond.

“If Google’s policy changes stand, beginning on June 1st, we would have to either pass Google’s fees on to consumers (making Android a less attractive platform for music fans), pass fees on to artists (which we would never do), permanently run our Android business at a loss, or turn off digital sales in the Android app.”

Diamond also said that the new policy could see a delay in payments for artists and labels, from the current 24-48 hours to “15 to 45 days after a sale”, while Epic’s filing notes that Google’s system can’t be used for purchases of physical items (merch and physical music), which would force it to use two separate payment systems anyway.

This appears to be an issue that would have blown up for Bandcamp anyway, regardless of its new parent company’s historical disputes with Google. That said, being owned by Epic Games certainly gives Bandcamp more legal muscle to put up a legal challenge to the changes, which is what it has done.

Epic’s filing claims that earlier this month, Google confirmed that it will enforce the new policy “including by removing the app from Google Play on June 1” if Bandcamp does not adopt Google Play Billing.

The filing has some more information on the negotiations up to this point. “While Google has offered Bandcamp a revenue share of 10% (in exchange for other concessions)… paying Google even a 10% revenue share would force Epic to change Bandcamp’s current business model or else operate the Bandcamp business at a long-term loss.”

There is an eye to the long-term here. “GPB is only designed to pay out developers – it does not support running an open marketplace or facilitate a developer seeking to pay out thousands of merchants,” is one claim in the filing, which also refers to Epic’s wider plans around music.

“Epic is actively working to build its creator marketplace. Music services like Bandcamp, and the network of fans and artists Bandcamp has built, are critical to that goal – it is why Epic acquired Bandcamp… If Epic’s new music service is cut off or degraded on Android, Epic would lose access to mobile users at a time when momentum in audience-building is the key to developing its creator-to-creator marketplace.”

Google has yet to comment publicly – obviously we’ll update you with its point of view when it does. The filing acknowledges that Bandcamp HAS already disabled in-app sales of digital goods on its iOS app, to stay on Apple’s App Store.

Is there scope for compromise with Google? That company’s recent ‘user choice billing’ arrangement with Spotify might offer hope on that front, although Bandcamp’s open marketplace model presents more challenges for any such deal than Spotify subscriptions.

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