or why we can't have nice things under capitalism
WTF is Synthicator?!
The morning of the day I started writing this particular post I was thinking that I wanted to start writing a music newsletter. The next thought I had was, well what do I start with? Do I pick a new album that I really like? A genre that I’m really vibin’ with right now?
As I started the work day with those thoughts swirling around in my mind I saw a post come up in my Mastodon timeline that expressed exasperation at the fact that just as they had started building up their music library on Bandcamp, they went and got bought by Epic Games.
My immediate reaction to that was: “wait what?! surely this must be a joke!”. As more reactions to the news started appearing in my timeline along with a link to the blog post from Bandcamp announcing the acquisition my reaction turned into: “for fuck’s sake”.
And that my dear reader was the motivation to get this newsletter off the ground. For a while now I wanted to do a creative endeavour where I charge people a subscription fee for access. Why not? I think about music a lot and I usually write microblog sized posts about music I like all the time, why not something longer form?
The way I see it is that by making people pay for access, it gives me some extrinsic motivation to continue writing about music and as a result of doing it more and more I get better at it. You find out about good music you may not have heard of and I become better at writing. A win-win scenario for all of us.
This first post will be available to everyone, most of the posts going forward will be for paid subscribers only. I’m not quite sure what I want to do for free subscribers as of yet.
So without further ado:
Welcome to Synthicator which is a newsletter where I talk about all things music and all the associated feelings I have about music.
So if all of that sounds like something you are interested in, please subscribe!
Back to Bandcamp
So with all that out of the way, let’s get into the topic I wanted to discuss which is: Bandcamp and it getting acquired by Epic Games.
First things first, this fucking sucks. I don’t like Bandcamp getting bought out by Epic Games just because of the fact that Epic Games is a megacorp. Megacorps slurping up other smaller corps to increase their power is never a good thing for anyone who is not the megacorp or it’s shareholders.
Corps buy other corps all the time and the press release from Bandcamp about this reads like any another press release about a acquisition.
Let’s have a look:
I’m excited to announce that Bandcamp is joining Epic Games, who you may know as the makers of Fortnite and Unreal Engine, and champions for a fair and open Internet.
Gross. I refuse to believe for a single millisecond that Epic Games are the champions of anything but their own revenue growth. Folks, don’t be fooled by Epic’s continuous messaging about being on the side of the open Internet and all that entails. The only side Epic Games is on is their own.
Epic employed this particular PR strategy in their lawsuit against Apple and its just as gross now as it was back then. Epic Games vs. Apple is not David vs. Goliath, its just Goliath vs. another smaller Goliath. Neither Apple or Epic Games are your friend and more importantly neither of them are “champions for a fair and open Internet”.
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, we’ll continue to build Bandcamp around our 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 the diverse, amazing music on the site.
Acquisition press release almost always say things like this and it rarely turns out to be true long term. Sure, in the immediate to short term, Bandcamp operations and leadership will stay the same but Epic Games will at some point decide to make changes, whether it is of business model or of leadership.
The stakeholders I am most concerned with right now when it comes to Bandcamp is the artists who distribute their music on Bandcamp and the purchasers of said music (that’s me).
If you are a artist concerned that this acquisition will change things dramatically for you, you can rest assured that this is extremely unlikely. I would recommend keeping your music on Bandcamp for now and considering any alternatives that may pop up.
As for purchasers, the only thing I can think of that really concerns me is music disappearing from Bandcamp because artists decide to pull their music from the platform as protest to the acquisition.
I don’t fault any artist for pulling their music off Bandcamp nor do I fault any purchaser who no longer wants to buy music on Bandcamp. However for purchasers, consider this: not buying a artist’s music on Bandcamp hurts the artist more than it does Epic Games or Bandcamp.
Personally, I will continue to buy music on Bandcamp as I still consider it one of the best platforms for music distribution from a music connossieur’s perspective. I will also continue to share albums I buy on Bandcamp Fridays for as long as they continue to happen. Bandcamp still remains the best way to support music artists other than going to a live performance.
Alternatives and the problems they face
For now there aren’t any serious alternatives as far as I am aware. I saw some folks mention itch.io as one. But they are primarily a game distribution platform and are not geared to distributing music as of right now. This is a good opportunity for itch.io to provide the distribution tools needed for music but right now its not quite there.
BREAKING NEWS (March 3, 2022): the morning after I finished writing this post, the inimitable blackle made a Bandcamp style player for use with itch.io. Check it out here! I hope itch.io adopts it as a ready made template available for music artists on their platform.
There is also the problem of the sheer network effect and brand recognition of Bandcamp as a place for independent artists to distribute their music. I would be amiss if I did not mention their promotional efforts like the Bandcamp Daily blog which serves as a significant promotional method for artists that might otherwise be very obscure.
Bandcamp is also a great tool for music discovery with the use of its tagging system. This crucial element of the platform is something a alternative absolutely needs to imitate if it is to have any chance at becoming a viable alternative.
What I’ve Been Listening To
I want to end things on a more pleasant note so I’m going to share some of the music I’ve been enjoying lately.
Curren$y & The Alchemist - Continuance
The Alchemist is one of my favourites when it comes to hip-hop producers and when he combines with Curren$y’s laid back style it makes for a nice cozy vibe. I have been aware of Curren$y for a while but I’ve only recently started enjoying his style of rapping.
Epik High - Epik High Is Here 下 (Part 2)
I discovered Epik High through a blog post I found on r/hiphopheads in 2021 and I’ve been a fan ever since. They make me wish I understood Korean so I understood what they were saying. Lots of fun features on this one and the track about FaceID is very amusing to me.
Conway the Machine - God Don’t Make Mistakes
Conway’s discography deserves a whole post by itself and one of these days I will write one for this newsletter. Conway is my most favourite of the Griselda crew and he delivers some fantastic tracks in this one.
Conway can switch from doing braggadocious in one track to extremely introspective in the next and do both of those things really well. ‘Stressed’ is one of the most heartbreaking introspective tracks I’ve heard in a while.
Avril Lavigne - Love Sux
This album feels like it time traveled through a wormhole from the 2000s. Avril is doing her pop punk thing on this album and boy howdy does she do it well. If you need a heartbreak salve in the form of a angry Avril, I gotchu fam.
Bloodywood - Rakshak
Indian metal out of New Delhi that goes incredibly hard and sounds fantastic. I wouldn’t call my self a metalhead but I’m here for Bloodywood’s energy. Mixing Indian rhythms with metal is one hell of a combo. More please and thank you.
That’s all I got for this first edition of the Synthicator newsletter. If you liked reading this, please share it with a friend. It really helps.
Until next time!