Category Archives: Music

Bandcamp Music Industry Darling Gutted By 50% Layoff

Bandcamp built a unique music business: profitable and good artists with a popular editorial arm. Now, half the employees at the Bay Area firm are losing their jobs, victims of a sudden corporate swap, SFGATE reported.

The Oakland-based company was purchased by Epic Games – makers of Fortnight and Gears of War – in early 2022. In September, just a year and a half later, Epic announced its plan to sell Bandcamp to Songtradr, a Santa Monica company that specializes in music licenses. Just 50% of Bandcamp’s employees got offers in the acquisition, Songtradr spokesperson Lindsay Nahmiache told SFGATE on Monday.

Of Bandcamp’s 118 employees, 58 did not receive offers, and 60 did, Nahmaiche said. One of Bandcamp’s remaining employees confirmed this Monday, saying that around 60 people are gone from the company Slack. SFGATE granted the employee anonymity in accordance with Hearst’s ethics policy. Bandcamp co-founder and former CEO Ethan Diamond’s Slack account is also now deactivated, according to a screenshot viewed by SFGATE.

The Verge reported that Epic Games bought the indie music platform back in 2022 for an undisclosed amount before selling it barely a year later.

Late last month, Epic Games laid off 16 percent of its workforce, or 830 employees, due to what CEO Tim Sweeney described as overspending. Epic also revealed that it would sell the Bandcamp business to California-based music licensing company Songtradr. In that announcement, Epic disclosed that an additional 250 people would be leaving Epic either through receiving offers from Songtradr or Epic’s divesture from its SuperAwesome ad business. Employees who did not receive offers from Songtradr were notified today and will be eligible for severance.

In an email to The Verge, Songtradr confirmed that 50 percent of Bandcamp employees have been extended offers to join Songtradr and reaffirmed from a previous statement the company’s commitment to keeping the Bandcamp experience the same.

TechCrunch reported the venerable digital music marketplace was acquired by Epic last year, but clearly the Fortnite maker wasn’t quite sure what to do with the company, and late last month resold it to music licensing platform Songtradr as part of a wave of cost-cutting.

According to TechCrunch, it was known from the start that layoffs would happen, and indeed, Epic and Songtradr were fairly straightforward about their necessity as part of the deal – technically the employees were laid off by Epic ahead of the formal acquisition, though it was Songtradr that decided who would and would not be hired.

Songtradr explained in a statement: “Over the past few years the operating costs of Bandcamp have significantly increased. It required some adjustments to ensure a sustainable and healthy company that can serve its community of artists and fans. After a comprehensive evaluation, including the importantance of roles for smooth business operations and preexisting functions at Songtradr, 50% of Bandcamp employees have accepted offers to join Songtradr.”

Personally, I’m sad that Bandcamp is now under new ownership. I’m hoping that things won’t drastically change under Songtradr, and that I will still be able to buy music, and support the artists who created that music, from Bandcamp. Songtradr needs to be extremely careful about the choices it makes with its new acquisition.

Music Labels Sue Internet Archive Over Digitized Record Collection

Rolling Stone reported that Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Capitol, and other record labels filed a copyright lawsuit on Friday against the Internet Archive, founder Brewster Kahle, and others over the organization’s “Great 78 Project,” accusing them of behaving as an “illegal record store.”

According to Rolling Stone, the suit lists 2,749 pre-1972 musical works available via Internet Archive by late artists, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby, among others.

The nonprofit Internet Archive began in 1996 and claims its mission is to “provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.” It purports to be a digital library that provides free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public, Rolling Stone reported. Its “Great 78 Project” follows suit; the community project dedicates itself to “the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records”.

The Plaintiffs – UGM Recordings, Capitol Records, Concord Bicycle Assets, CMGI Recorded Music Assets, Sony Music, and Arista Music – who own in full or in part the copyrights to some of the music in the collection claim the works were illegally distributed to to those visiting Internet Archive “millions of times,” Rolling Stone reported.

The suit seeks statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each protected sound recording infringement, which could exceed more than $412 million, along with attorneys’ fees as well as injunctive and further relief determined by the court.

The Great 78 Project is a community project for the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records. From about 1898 to the 1950s, an estimated 3 million sides (~3 minute recordings) have been made on 78rpm discs. While the commercial viable recordings will have been restored or remastered into LP’s or CD, there is still research value in the artifacts and usage evidence in the often rare 78rpm discs and recordings.

Already, over 20 collections have been selected by the Internet Archive for physical and digital preservation and access. Started by many volunteer collectors, these new collections have been selected, digitized and preserved by the Internet Archive, George Blood LP, and the Archive of Contemporary Music.

Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and other record labels on Friday sued the nonprofit Internet Archive for copyright infringement over its streaming collection of digitized music from vintage records, Reuters reported.

They named 2,749 sound-recording copyrights that the Archive allegedly infringed. The labels said their damages in the case could be as high as $412 million.

Representatives for the Internet Archive did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the complaint. The San Francisco-based Archive digitally archives websites, books, audio recordings and other materials. It compares itself to a library and says its mission is to “provide universal access to all knowledge.”

According to Reuters, The Internet Archive is already facing another federal lawsuit in Manhattan from leading publishers who said its digital-book lending program launched in the pandemic violates their copyrights. A judge ruled for the publishers in March, in a decision that the Archive plans to appeal.

The lawsuit said the recordings are all available on authorized streaming services and “face no danger of being lost, forgotten, or destroyed.”

Personally, I’m not convinced that having the music on “authorized streaming services” is a valid response. There have been plenty of times when content has been removed from “authorized streaming services”, including podcasts and music, without warning.

Bandcamp is Joining Epic Games

Bandcamp announced today that it is joining Epic Games. At first glance, I find this confusing. What does a website that focuses on music have in common with a company that makes video games?

Here is some explanation from Bandcamp’s Ethan Diamond:

…Bandcamp will keep operating as a standalone marketplace and music community, and I will continue to lead our team. The products and services you depend on aren’t going anywhere, and we’ll continue to build Bandcamp around 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 diverse music on the site…

In addition, Bandcamp pointed out they are working with Epic “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.”

Epic Games also posted information on their website:

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Bandcamp will become part of Epic Games. Bandcamp is an online music store and community where fans can discover, connect with, and directly support the independent musicians they love.

Fair and open platforms are critical to the future of the creator economy. Epic and Bandcamp share a mission of building the most artist friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money. Bandcamp will play an important role in Epic’s vision to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more…

It’s the “and more” part that troubles me. In October of 2021, Epic Games Founder and CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted: “Epic Games Store will welcome games that make use of blockchain tech provided they follow the relevant laws, disclose their terms, and are age-rated by an appropriate group. Though Epic’s not using crypto in our games, we welcome innovation in the areas of technology and finance.”

My concern is that Epic Games will enable musicians to create NFTs and sell them on Bandcamp. NFTs are polarizing because some people love them while others (including myself) see them as an MLM scam. I love Bandcamp and have bought plenty of music from it. My hope is that what I love about Bandcamp won’t suddenly become cluttered with NFTs.

Square Acquires Majority of TIDAL

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, and also co-founder and CEO of Square, posted a long thread of tweets in which he announced that Square is acquiring a majority ownership stake in TIDAL. The TIDAL Twitter account also posted a tweet about this change.

The first tweet in Jack Dorsey’s thread says: “Square is acquiring a majority ownership in TIDAL through a new joint venture, with the original artists becoming the second largest group of shareholders, and JAY-Z joining the Square board. Why would a music streaming company and a financial services company join forces?!” The rest of the thread attempts to answer that question.

To summarize the thread, Square started by giving small sellers a simple tool in order to participate more fully in the economy and grow. TIDAL started with the idea of honoring artists by being artist-owned and led. Together, the two companies can work together to integrate merch sales and new complementary revenue streams.

TIDAL posted a news release titled: “Square, Inc. Announces Plans to Acquire Majority Ownership Stake in TIDAL”. From the news release:

Square Inc. (NYSE: SQ) announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a majority ownership stake in TIDAL, the global music and entertainment platform that brings fans and artists together through unique music, content, and experiences. Square expects to pay a mix of cash and stock of $297 million for a significant majority ownership stake, and existing artist shareholders will be the remaining stakeholders. TIDAL will operate independently within Square, alongside the Seller and Cash App ecosystems.

The news release also stated: TIDAL board member and shareholder Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter is expected to join Square’s Board of Directors subject to the closing of the transaction.”

Square’s acquisition of the majority of TIDAL comes not long after another project that Jack Dorsey and JAY-Z started working on together. They created an endowment named ₿trust to fund bit-coin development, which would initially be focused on teams in Africa and India. The two have pledged 500 bitcoin – which is around $23.3 million – toward ₿trust.

Roland Releases Update to Cross-Platform Zenbeats at CES 2020

Roland, a leading manufacturer and distributor of electronic musical instruments and professional video products, is showcasing Zenbeats, an intuitive and inspiring music creation app that runs cross-platform and is free to access on Android, ChromeOS, iOS, Windows and macOS devices, allowing anyone to be creative – anytime, anywhere.

The acquisition of Open Labs’ award-winning Stagelight app serves as the foundation for Roland Zenbeats, highlighting Roland’s ongoing investment in empowering artists, bringing the joy of creative experiences to everyone. With the latest update – Zenbeats 1.1 adds multi-timbral subtrack support as well as support for the Roland A-88MKII MIDI 2.0-ready Keyboard Controller.

Roland has already received praise and awards for its new music creation app as a CES 2020 Innovation Award Honoree and Music & Sound Retailer’s 34th Annual Music & Sound Awards winner of Best Website/App.

Everyone from beginners to beatmakers and electronic musicians can create, share, and collaborate on songs with their friends using Roland Zenbeats, and the app is designed for all screen types, from mobile devices to notebooks and desktops. Kids, teens, and adults can easily begin making beats and entire songs with Zenbeats’ interactive and fun built-in lessons, while more experienced creators will enjoy exploring the app’s expansive composition, collaboration and production features.

Zenbeats also includes expressive onscreen instruments, 3rd party plugin integration including drag and drop support, collaborative jamming via Albleton Link, streamlined cloud support, and enhanced exporting options.

Pricing options for Zenbeats include Free, Unlock, and Ultimate.

Free enables anyone to get started immediately on their musical journey. It’s perfect for those dipping their toes into music creation, providing access to songs, lessons, powerful instruments, diverse sounds, and expansion options.

is available at two price points: Android and ChromeOS, iOS ($14.99 USD) or Windows and macOS ($49.99 USD). Unlock and access all in-app features including eight instruments, 14 effects, plugins (VST/AU/AUv3 where supported), and additional store credits to add more content to a user’s library.

Ultimate ($149.99 USD) is the apex for those looking to collect everything Roland Zenbeats has to offer. Unlock every platform for all Android, ChromeOS, iOS, Windows, and macOS devices. Ultimate also includes the Zenbeats StorePass, which provides instant access to 40 present packs, 40 loop packs, and sounds currently available.

Visit Roland at LVCC, Central Hall, Exhibit #10719 at CES 2020.

Roland Introduces MIDI 2.0-Ready A-88MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller at CES 2020

Roland, one of the co-founders of the original MIDI specification, introduces the A-88MKII, a powerful new 88-note MIDI keyboard controller for studio and stage. The latest in a long line of professional MIDI controllers from Roland, the A-88MKII is supremely playable, with modern creative tools for today’s musicians and producers.

Slim and ergonomically designed, the A-88MKII comes equipped with an acclaimed, weighted-action keyboard, plus cutting-edge features like USB-C connectivity, RGB-lit controls, and more. It’s also MIDI 2.0 ready, making it the first Roland instrument to support the new MIDI standard.

When it comes to MIDI controllers, playability often seems like an afterthought. The A-88MKII breaks that mold with rigid, wooden construction and the 88-note Ivory Feel PHA-4 keyboard found in acclaimed Roland instruments. With high-resolution sensing and lightning-fast response, the PHA-4 accurately translates the subtlest playing nuances, and users can personalize the sensitivity for their own unique touch.

Equipped with a host of real-time performance features, the A-88MKII is equally at home in the studio and on stage. With three user-definable zones, players can layer and split the keyboard with different sounds or instruments. Advanced arpeggiator and sophisticated split and layer functions are also on board, providing direct access to performance tools normally only found in standalone synths and workstations.

Roland’s famous pitch/mod lever and an array of RGB-lit knobs offer expressive, hands-on control of sounds. Eight assignable pads are available to control DAW functions, trigger sounds and clips, and more, and pad bank setups can be stored for quick recall. There’s also a dedicated sustain pedal input, plus two control inputs that support expression pedals or footswitches.

The A-88MKII is ready for the future with modern USB and MIDI protocols. USB-C offers single-cable connectivity and eliminates the need for external power adaptor. And the A-88MKII is ready for the high-resolution control and extended capabilities of MIDI 2.0.

For a hands-on demo of Roland products like the A-88MKII, visit the Roland exhibit at CES 2020 at Booth #10719.

Spotify Upgraded its Premium Family Plan

Spotify announced that it has upgraded its Spotify Premium Family Plan. New changes make it easier for families to filter out things that they don’t want their children to listen to.

With our updated plan, Spotify Premium Family subscribers have on-demand access to 450,000 podcast titles and 50 million tracks of ad-free music. What’s more, parents will now be able to control the Explicit Content Filter setting of all other accounts on their plan (these parental controls are a long-requested feature).

Spotify says the update is now available in Ireland, and will rollout in all markets with Premium Family this fall. Those who are already Premium Family Plan users will be notified as soon as the upgraded Family Plan is available in the coming months.

Here are some things families can look forward to:

  • Family Mix: Families will get exclusive access to a personalized playlist packed with songs the whole family enjoys. Family Mix is updated regularly and you can control who is in each session to optimize your family’s favorite shared listening moments.
  • Family Hub: Billing users can now manage their Family’s settings in one place, including adding or removing family members, keeping your home address up to date, and adjusting your parental controls.
  • Six Accounts: Spotify Premium Family still provides six individual Spotify Premium accounts for family members living under one roof, meaning you’ll keep your own saved music and playlists.

The Spotify Premium Family plan costs $14.99 per month. It might be a good investment for families that enjoy listening to music and podcasts together. The parental controls (after the rollout) will make it easier for parents to filter out things that they don’t want their kids to listen to.