In March 2022, indie-music platform Bandcamp was purchased by Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite. Last month, members of Bandcamp’s US editorial, design, engineering, and support staff organized with the Office And Professional Employees International Union to form a union: Bandcamp United. “The music and tech industries are at a juncture, and it’s time that we as workers have a seat at the table to weigh in on the challenges and opportunities of this moment,” they write on their official website. Now, Topshelf Records (home to Knifeplay, Ratboys, Parannoul, and They Are Gutting A Body Of Water, among others) has revealed that Bandcamp management asked them not to support Bandcamp Union.
According to a statement from the record label’s Twitter account, Topshelf was “petitioned to cease supporting [Bandcamp United],” which they declined to do. “[W]e fully support @bandcampunited and want to see the platform that espouses to champion independent music do so equally for their staff,” Topshelf writes, adding: “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.
“To be clear,” Topshelf continues, “we fully support @bandcampunited and want to see the platform that espouses to champion independent music do so equally for their staff. let them vote immediately.” (Since its formation, Bandcamp United claimed the company had engaged in union-busting, delayed the official election, and hired Foley & Lardner LLP, a group which specializes in “counsel on union avoidance considerations.”)
“Bandcamp is a music company,” Topshelf concludes. “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.”
Deerhoof have been similarly critical of management’s union-busting. “Rather than come out in support, or acknowledge their employees’ legal rights, the top brass chose instead to hire this famous union-busting legal firm right out of the gate,” the band tweeted on April 4, pointing to the aforementioned law firm.
“Send a message to [email protected] to let management know if you are confused or disappointed in what appears to be an effort to deprive their employees of their legal right to vote and to organize, and follow @bandcampunited for updates,” Deerhoof wrote in their thread.