Epic Games’ 2022 acquisition of Bandcamp had raised concerns among the music marketplace’s dedicated user base.
When Epic Games announced plans to purchase Bandcamp in March 2022, all manner of musicians and curators expressed skepticism for what was to come. It turns out they were right to do so. In an effort to rein in spending and balance its budget, the game developer must lay off 16% of its staff in addition to selling the online music and merch store to music licensing company Songtradr.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney revealed as much in a companywide email. “For a while now, we’ve been spending way more money than we earn, investing in the next evolution of Epic and growing Fortnite as a metaverse-inspired ecosystem for creators,” he wrote. “I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect I see that this was unrealistic.”
Sweeney wrote that 830 employees would leave the company as part of the layoffs. Bandcamp wasn’t its only divestment. Epic has also sold off most of SuperAwesome; between that and Bandcamp the company is saying farewell to an additional 250 or so staff members.
Epic Games — originally called Epic MegaGames — was founded by Sweeney in 1991, at which time it was headquartered in his parents’ Potomac, Maryland basement. In addition to developing the widely used Unreal Engine, the company is responsible for commercially successful games like Gears of War and Fortnite.
That begs the question: What led Epic to purchase Bandcamp in the first place? The latter brand was founded in 2007 by Ethan Diamond. It grew popular by giving artists and labels the freedom to set their own prices for music downloads as well as physical format and merch purchases. During the pandemic, Bandcamp also began a series of monthly “no-fee holidays” in which it waived all the fees it normally collects from each purchase for a 24-hour period.
It remains to be seen how Songtradr’s acquisition of Bandcamp will fare for the online store.