Bandcamp reportedly union-busting by pressuring record labels

In March 2023, a group of BandCamp employees announced that they had formed a union:

I am of course a big proponent of union solidarity. I'm also a musician, and have always placed a premium value on Bandcamp. It's always felt like the most artist-friendly digital music platform (and indeed, it's the one where I make the most money by far; though, of course, that's what happens when you encourage people to actually pay for the art they consume!).

Last week — just a month after the union publicly announced its formation — TopShelf Records' Kvin Duquette tweeted that the company had been pressuring it to drop their public support for the union:

Topshelf Records continued:

Bandcamp is a music company. it is the defacto marketplace for independent music. but it is a third party platform bought by a multi-billion dollar tech corporation which is showing why we as a music community should be critical and why its staff should be diligent.

it is possible to love a thing and be critical of it and hold it to the highest standard. a unionized workforce keeps the integrity of Bandcamp, the music company intact within the context of Epic, the tech company. a @bandcampunited Bandcamp is a better @Bandcamp for all of us.

Bandcamp fucked up by selling to Epic Games. can't say that more plainly. higher ups at Bandcamp are signaling they plan to continue down that path of ignoring the community they serve when they reach out to labels like us to union bust.

more of our peers should be signaling support for the staff at the loudest voice in the room right now for independent music. i encourage anyone who follows us to follow @bandcampunited and to tell @Bandcamp you want to see them allowed to hold a vote to unionize.

ultimately, Bandcamp is now a third party platform owned by a billion dollar tech company who see them as a content farm for Fortnite and leverage in their ongoing case against Apple more-so than the vibrant music community that it is and has been for 10+ years.

that community built bandcamp more than any dev or marketing team and it can and will move on to something else that respects and serves it better. we're all watching this @Bandcamp @EpicGames @FoleyandLardner. don't contact us again about union busting. allow this vote. ty

As Topshelf notes, Bandcamp had been bought by video game giant Epic Games in March 2022 — almost exactly one year before the union announcement. There was plenty of speculation about the move at the time, with musician Damon Krukowski pointing out that, while Epic Games is still technically a privately-owned company, 40% of it is owned by Tencent, which also owns minority stakes in Spotify as well as Warner Records and Universal Records. As Rolling Stone reported in 2020:

Tencent Holdings is about to own 10 percent of Universal, which in turns owns around 3.5 percent in Spotify, which in turn owns around nine percent in Tencent Music Entertainment, which in turn is part-owned by Universal's two main rivals (Warner and Sony), but remains majority owned by Tencent Holdings, which in turn owns 9.1 percent of Spotify. (And, yes, no kidding, that's the short version.)

Neither Bandcamp nor Epic Games nor the union-busting lawfirm representing them have commented. The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, though it urges supporters to contact the company rather than boycott Bandcamp and further hurt musicians:

The Bandcamp Union has also put together a toolkit with resources and other ways you can support.