✖️ Metaverse thoughts about Epic Games / Bandcamp acquisition
And: Kanye, fame, and accountability; State of music DAOs; Pussy Riot & equality in web3; Resilience for musicians; "The MiniDisc is the message"; Ukraine donation
Independent music's most important vestige, Bandcamp, has been acquired by Epic Games. Epic Games is mostly known for two things: Fortnite and the Unreal graphics engine which powers significant parts of contemporary culture in both video games & animation. Epic Games, while having an independent spirit, is not actually independent and is 40% owned by Tencent - also an investor in Spotify.
What does this mean for Bandcamp, Epic Games, and online music in general?
1. Why is Bandcamp interesting to Epic?
This is the big question. Epic's founder, Tim Sweeney, has been vocal about opposing Apple's monopolistic App Store practices and famously sued the company after it took down Fortnite for selling things in-game. Bandcamp, though long available on iOS, has only been able to act as a discovery mechanism and a way to listen to your library. If you want to buy music, you have to go to desktop. This is due to the same or similar terms & conditions that Fortnite ran afoul of. Is this an acquisition in order to be able to put more legal pressure on Apple?
There are some more calculated takes to consider, like this one by Mark Mulligan:
“Epic Games is establishing the infrastructure for the company it wants to become, rather than for the company that it currently is.”
2. Why did they sell to Epic Games?
People are concerned about Bandcamp's future, now that it is no longer independent. Experts speculate about whether a crowdsale would have been possible, where the musicians and fans who need the platform come to own it themselves. Especially in the context of web3, where many tools & protocols are setting themselves up to be DAOs that are controlled by the users, moving towards a crowdsale would have seemed logical. I have no doubt Bandcamp would have been able to raise significant sums - likely upward of $100M.
3. Is anything going to change?
I'd be surprised if anything significant changed about Bandcamp itself in the next 2 years. If anything, I'd expect the product to become stale. Some have speculated over the deeper integration of music in other aspects of Epic Games' businesses - if that's the case, then integration work will likely have priority over improving the core UX of Bandcamp.
Roblox has been leaning heavy into music and so has Fortnite through virtual events. Is Epic doubling down?
4. No metaverse without music
Out of all the tech millionaires, I think Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney has some of the most interesting thoughts about how to define the metaverse and where it’s going. I often share the below video as required watching.
Music is a crucial component to the metaverse. Could it be that Epic Games is exploring Bandcamp as a way for artists to plug their music in directly and then monetize it, rather than Epic having to license everything from labels with very strict terms?
In the piece by Mark Mulligan quoted above, Mark highlights this statement by Tim Sweeney from 2016:
“It’s going to be user driven. Users are going to build stuff…It’s all going to be about empowering the users to make this stuff happen on their own.”
This vision is very similar to Roblox and Epic has been on that path, through its Unreal Engine, since 2015, when the company made the engine available for free.
Bandcamp’s sale is a loss for music. The fact that artists, whose music has helped build value for the platform, don’t get a cut of the sale has left a sour taste with many. But it can also be looked at as a building block towards the metaverse. The question is, do we want the metaverse to be operated by corporations who have to prioritize their shareholders over anyone else, or do we finally move towards artist-owned models? Bandcamp, unfortunately, appears to have chosen the former.
💯 ‘Jeen-Yuhs’ Shows What Really Happened When Kanye Got the Fame and Power He Wanted (Andre Gee)
"When you’re deemed a “genius,” especially as a male, your mistakes are often dismissed as a mere side effect of brilliance, shielding you from accountability, and enabling you to further inflict damage on yourself and the people around you." (via @deenahbass)
✊ How Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Is Using Crypto to Fight for Equality (Raisa Bruner)
“Currently, art by women sells for 50% less than that of art by men, and as few as 5% of NFT sales go towards projects from female artists, according to Tolokonnikova and her group’s research.”
🧘 Why Resilience Matters For Musicians (Dr. Taryn Marie)
“To meet the extreme demands of this career path and sustain your creativity, joy, and motivation, prioritizing your personal mental health and wellbeing is essential.”
💽 The MiniDisc is the Message: Unpacking David Rudnick's 'Tomb Series' (Jose Mejia)
“Tombs are 177 drawings of physical data storage devices that are divided into eight sub-collections called Houses. The Tombs will cross mediums both digital and physical to exist within the pages of Tomb Index, a 240-page book that pushes the boundaries of contemporary print production, and as a series of NFTs, to be released across multiple platforms and blockchains.”
💫 The state of music DAOs (Water & Music)
“From the DAO member’s perspective, the highly emergent nature of what a “music DAO” in the first place means that potential contributors to music DAOs are often roped into a community by more intrinsic incentives first and foremost — because no alternative motivating factors exist.”
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I don’t think the importance of moombahton for the development of contemporary pop, trap and dance music can be overstated. One of the OGs in the space, Munchi, recently dropped a re-up of early moombahcore tracks — moombahton songs that drop a little bit harder, often borrowing stylistic elements from the dubstep of those days. It still sounds fantastic.