Songtradr? I don’t know her

The Extended Digest
3 min readNov 2, 2023

by Dan le Sac

From the moment Songtradr’s acquisition of Bandcamp was announced, before the layoffs, before the accusations of union busting and alleged racism, the vibes shifted, the mood became apocalyptic. Many words have been spilled painting a bleak picture of Bandcamp’s future but it’s worth trying to understand why we all jumped to doom.

As I see it, the “why” is simple: Bandcamp is not a platform.

Now clearly, in the “Industry Exec on LinkedIn” sense, it is a platform, but the people who use Bandcamp aren’t on LinkedIn. So, when an unknown company came along, who only exist in the more boring recesses of the Music Industry, and spend a lot more time talking “brand affinity” than they do music, if felt off. Emotions immediately went into overdrive and suddenly we reach the inevitable crescendo of “fuck you corporate ghouls”, as one Twitter user succinctly put it.

For a lot of us Bandcamp exists outside the industry: you make noise, sell it, get money. No filtering through a label to get your cash, no fussing with Distrokid or Tunecore, no algorithm deciding whether it gets heard. Simple, direct and pure.

That simplicity and ability to avoid the larger industry empowered us to say: music is not a product.

And yes, from the Business of Music perspective, it is a product, and yes Bandcamp is a place to sell that product, but from where an Artist stands, Bandcamp told you loudly that your product could be art again. No bending your arrangement to fit what an algorithm wants, no label fussing over what the lead single should be, no impact dates or marketing spend. Just you and your music.

For many, Bandcamp is the freedom to make whatever noise you want to, in an industry that focuses on the ability to drive streams over the need to drive emotion. It’s the joy of making music without a guy in a suit jacket, jeans and shiny shoes explaining to you what Neighbouring Rights are.

But with all that said, you might ask “where was this reaction when Epic acquired Bandcamp?”, now granted there were rumblings, a few tuts and clucks, a lot of pensive “wait n see” tweets, but nothing on this scale. And the simple answer is Epic have a story and Songtradr don’t.

Epic have painted themselves the saviours of gaming, their Unreal Engine logo is plastered on beloved games and it’s nominally free for anyone to use. Their platform, Epic Game Store, only takes 12% whilst everyone else takes 30%. They’re your friendly neighbour tech co, fighting for the little guy, well at least that’s what their PR machine works incredibly hard to make people believe. Whereas Songtradr? I don’t know her.

A cursory search shows Songtradr to be a company that buys companies, or if you stumble onto their blog they’re a company that teeters between the high corporate “Rock Music is the Perfect Condiment For This Fast Food” or the ‘how do you do fellow kids’ of “What is Chillhop Music?”.

Now there’s nothing wrong with Songtradr using language brands understand, it’s the majority of their business after all. But for someone free of the dry business speak of the Music Industry, Songtradr’s story and how it presents itself to the world smashes cold reality into the dream, it shouts directly in your face that the work we love is a product to be optimised, monetised and sold, and ultimately taints Bandcamp’s innocence.

The sad thing is it didn’t have to play out like this, the acquisition created a void and Songtradr failed to fill it with a story, so doubt grew, then the layoffs, then rage and in response Songtradr gave us silence. Saying “it’s business as usual” might be enough to tame a worried brand, but people on Bandcamp don’t see themselves as brands or businesses, we’re people who love music and want to support its continued existence.

Bandcamp, for now, is all it ever was, and I’ll still use it as my first place to support artists, and if it’s still here in a year and I feel the urge to release new noise, it’ll be the first place I release it. I just don’t know if it’ll feel the same, and judging by Songtradr’s sudden shyness online, I don’t expect them to tell us.

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The Extended Digest

An extension of Motive Unknown's Digest, this is a place to host articles from friends and colleagues, some writing anonymously.