Bandcamp employees unite for fairer conditions – Rolling Stone

When Bandcamp was acquired by Epic Games in March 2022, fans of the Oakland, California-based music streaming and distribution platform interacted with Warning. Since its founding in 2007, Bandcamp has become an artist-friendly alternative to platforms like Spotify and Apple Music that caters to indie artists and labels by giving them control over the way their music and merchandise is consumed (and, compared to its competitors, sharing a larger portion of the profits). On the other hand, Epic Games is one of the largest video game and software development companies in the world; Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent owns a 40% share in their operation. A year later, Bandcamp is still Bandcamp, but its workers say a change is needed. That’s why they’re joining the continuing wave of creative workers in technology, media, nonprofits, and more white collar industriesAnd, a first for a music streaming platform, they formed a union called Bandcamp United.

says Kami Ramirez-Arau, who has been a support specialist at Bandcamp for two years. “We organized a union to ensure that Bandcamp would treat its workers with the same values.” The proposed negotiating unit would have 62 people—all non-management, non-supervising workers at Bandcamp in the US—and the organizing committee would represent workers across all departments.

The new union’s mission statement emphasizes workers’ commitment to upholding Bandcamp’s stated values ​​while emphasizing that the company needs to do the same. “Bandcamp United is supported by us: designers, journalists, support staff, engineers and more, all dedicated to the mission of Bandcamp,” the mission statement reads in part. “Many of us ourselves are independent artists, label owners, promoters, and all of us fans who participate in our own local music communities. We started here as an extension of our own love of indie music, and believe that a site like Bandcamp that purports to offer an ethical and fair alternative to the streaming economy should reflect its mission internally. “.

The organizing effort has been quietly underway since last summer. The organizing committee finally voted to follow their fellow tech workers in Kickstarter UnitedLead and join Local Technical Workers Union 1010 From the Office and the International Union of Professional Employees (OPEIU). OPEIU currently represents about 88,000 white-collar workers in the United States and Canada, and by organizing Kickstarter in 2020, it has become First union To gain a foothold in the technology industry. “We spoke to a few different actors in different syndicates and we liked OPEIU because they have a specific local location to organize technology, and the syndicates they organized seemed similar to Bandcamp in terms of their mission and relative size,” says Eli Rider, data analyst and founder of Queer at the Bandcamp affinity group. “They also seemed mindful of preventing burnout in their regulators, which is important—we’re people outside of this, too.” (A company representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Bandcamp United has also been inspired in part by past efforts by workers at the intersection of technology and culture such as Kickstarter United, Secretly Group Union, and Google contractors at HCL America. “It’s an exciting moment for organizing across all industries – I’m a longtime member of the IWW and believe in solidarity across the entire working class,” says Bandcamp software engineer Todd Derr. But, it is wonderful if the workers in those industries also join unions and gain some control over their working conditions; You spend too much of your time and energy out there to leave that to anyone else! “

By organizing a union, workers hope to address several fundamental issues that will sound familiar to others who have fought for a seat at the table. One of their primary goals is to create a more equitable and economically stable status quo. “My top priority is the pay disparity across our departments,” says Ramirez-Arau. “As a member of the Support Team, the lowest paid team, I feel the financial uncertainty and injustice growing every year. I am committed to bargaining for guaranteed pay increases commensurate with the rising cost of living, so that no matter what team we work on, we are secure in our future.”

In addition, the staff hopes to address what they see as a general lack of transparency from management, especially in the wake of the Epic Games acquisition. “When Epic acquired us, we were given new business contracts and given a limited amount of time to sign them with no room for negotiation,” adds Jared Andrews, a mobile app developer. This was not fair and it was not transparent. Bandcamp as a marketplace is known for valuing fairness and transparency in how we compensate artists who use our site. These same values ​​should be reflected in the workplace where Bandcamp is built.”


For now, workers are enjoying the new sense of solidarity they’ve built among themselves, and they’re hopeful that Bandcamp will deliver fair and timely elections. (Bandcamp representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

“I love working here, and I love continuing to work here,” says Ryder. “The way the tech industry works is you jump into a job every one to two years to get a job and a pay shift. It’s like in games and music, everyone is expected to burn out. I think workers deserve fair representation and a proper seat at the table,” Equally, in bargaining for better working conditions. It is not enough to have small gains by themselves; I want to see everyone prosper.”

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