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Bandcamp's Entire Union Bargaining Team Was Laid Off (404media.co)
573 points by mstep 48 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 474 comments

Seems more like the layoffs were about laying off the union members. Some CEOs perceive unions as cancer that has to be stopped from metastasis. In countries with stronger union protection laws this move would have been illegal

> Some CEOs

The executive class exploit the labour of the working class to benefit themselves. CEOs are in general opposed to collective action among the workers beneath them as any shift of power to the workers necessarily represents a loss of power for the executive.

It's probably illegal even in this case, as the US does have some union protection laws. But AFAICT enforcement is very lacking. The typical theory versus practice scenario where in practice they are not really effective.

It is theoretically illegal in the US. It's just plausible that Rentseekr have managed to either stay within the letter of the law while violating its spirit, or have produced enough plausible deniability to deter a legal challenge.

I wonder if a compromise between "French-style" and "American-style" would be the government taking over the layoff business. Need to cut headcount? Send the Department of Labor your payroll, and they'll tell you who to lay-off.

I can't wait for the next layoff where my newly hired star performers get laid off because some bureaucrat thought tenure was more important than job performance or whether they were working on an important project or not.


You posted that yourself. You're spamming the same comment over and over while trying to create the illusion that it's a popular opinion.

I'm not at all "spamming" it, I posted it where it was relevant as an example of a problem I had with recent union activity?

I don't understand the issue with that? It's just as relevant to this thread's conversation.

I might be "double dipping" by using the same example? But I hardly consider a second post about the same topic to be spamming.

So...sorry for not leaving to find a different example that I found relevant to the conversation? But it was pretty much the same conversation about the same issues people may have with unions.

French style would be to hire most of your employees as contractors to avoid stricter labor laws lol.

I have seen exactly what you are talking about.

Some court cases in the US have said contractors with no autonomy get the same rights as employees, has anyone made that argument in France?

I guess that's a great thought experiment and would be interesting, but given the current stranglehold that corporate special interests have in washington I have my doubts about anything like that ever happening in our life times.

If by "some" you mean "every single one", sure.

In the UK we have large unions that represent the individuals regardless where they work. I’ve not heard of company-specific unions here, although I’ve not looked for them either. Presumably companies must still recognise the unions.

Is it more common in the US to have company-specific unions? Are the large “independent” unions present at all?

I would assume that being larger and independent of an employer would make them more useful to their members.

Watching, casually, the news of Bandcamp’s and Moog’s unions over the last year, I couldn’t shake the feeling they wouldn’t work out as they’d be too small and likely their leadership inexperienced.

They weren't a company-specific union but a branch of OPEIU which looks like a general union for what letting agents call "professionals". To translate what I think was happening into British parlance: they were trying to negotiate employer recognition plus a collective bargaining arrangement.

I don't know if their leadership was good or not but American trades unionism is pretty different to ours. Employees typically don't have a huge amount of legal rights and so getting your workplace unionised is much more of a battle than here. On the other hand, America has de facto closed shops which are illegal pretty much everywhere in Europe.

I've worked for a company in the UK which had a "staff association", which was orthogonal to any part of the business (i.e., no conflicting interests) and as such operated as a de facto union -- in the employee assistance and collective bargaining senses -- for the company's employees. While it was recognised by HR, ultimately its functions were incorporated by HR into the company as a matter of policy and the independent association was disbanded, amongst much consternation from the loss of true impartiality.

In Austria, companies can have a Betriebsrat, the... company-council, I suppose. It's made up of employees and they have some legal powers like delaying someone getting fired, they should provide legal health and generally support employees in any kind of "altercation" with the employer/manager side etc.

It's not mandatory and not all companies have it. I once joked, at my first job: "We should create a Betriebsrat!", my boss took me to his office and explained to me for an hour how horrible those are for a company. Companies are absolutely not allowed to prevent employees from forming one and he was incredibly afraid of having one in his company...

Bandcamp has served me well for many years, but I don't use it anymore.

I would really like to see something like Castopod [0], but for artists! Spinning up a website where you showcase and sell your music should (and could!) be as easy as using Wordpress, either via a subscription or self-hosted – on your own domain.

Being plugged into the Fediverse makes it much easier to interact with fans and build a connection with your audience. It also makes it easy for people to share and talk about a track or and album. None of this requires that you tie yourself to yet another VC-funded startup and a closed garden.

Maybe someone is building something like this already, that I am not aware of?

[0]: https://castopod.org/

If you're not a technical type you will not be bothered with setting up a website so that's why I think centralized services will always win. It's similar to why people don't make their own websites but just post to social media.

I can imagine a 1-click solution that would set up everything. But bandcamp also has this functionality where labels can list their artists etc so I think it wouldn't work that well.

Thats why I used Wordpress and Castopod as examples, as both offer subscription services in addition to self-hosting. The most important part is the option to use your own domain name, so an artist can take controll over its own brand and keep options open for the future.

Wordpress has already integrated with the Fediverse, btw!

People need to stop spouting the idea that plugging into the fediverse is "easy." Maybe for you, maybe for me, but the vast chorus since Twitter started circling the drain says otherwise.

While I am a fan of federated social, it does not solve the problem for artists of replacing Bandcamp in any way, shape, or form. Bandcamp provided a storefront, payment handling, a distribution mechanism[1], and a potential audience + editorial that kept people coming back.

A Castopod for Musicians does none of this.

[1] Distribution of digital media, anyway. Distributing physical media was still an exercise left to the artist.

> Songtradr had no access to union membership information and we executed our employment offer process with full-consideration of all legal requirements

I know this won't be a popular thing to say, but I'd like to take a moment to thank Songtradr for consulting their lawyers and full-considering all legal requirements.

I believe them when they say they didn't legally acquire the union's documentation on membership. But they "carried out a comprehensive, full company evaluation that involved a detailed examination of each role" and seem pretty anal about their legal requirements. It's become expected that a prospective employee's social media accounts will be "evaluated" as part of the hiring process, so I imagine that was the case here, too. (Do you think any of the union members, the union-curious or even the anti-union weirdos ever mentioned the union on twitter?)

It goes on to explain that the "evaluation considered several factors such as product groups, job functions, employee tenure, performance evaluations[0]," and amusingly "the importance of roles for smooth business operations".

[0] performance evaluations were just one of several factors evaluated (comprehensively) in the detailed examination during the full company evaluation

> I know this won't be a popular thing to say, but I'd like to take a moment to thank Songtradr for consulting their lawyers and full-considering all legal requirements.

That's just the bare minimum they have to do to not get sued, is that really thankworthy?

apparently the bar for companies is that low that HN is bootlicking the bare minimum. it's honestly hilarious.

this is extremely shady, and I don't know why people are trusting the source directly lol. they wouldn't say they did anything untoward, ever

You are here, so you are also HN. There are also other HN comments here that disagree with the parent post just as you do. Saying what HN does or does not do is almost always going to be provably false and tends to add nothing of value to the conversation. I would even go so far as hypothesizing that on any given controversial topic there tends to be a large divide of opposing opinions on clear display. But maybe I just think that because I'm HN.

What, exactly, is to be thankful for? I'd have been thankful if Songtradr had carried over Bandcamp entirely, all employees, and proceeded from there.

There's nothing here to be thankful for, not a damn thing.

They consulted their lawyers to be able to structure the buyout and the layoffs in such a way as to have plausible deniability for busting the union. Are you saying that it's to their credit to not have bulled forward with blatantly illegal union busting, but rather to have done enough diligence to possibly have stayed within the letter of the law?

Reply to replies:

Well, I did say I knew that wouldn't go down well here...

No, nobody should be thanking them for this.

We should be mocking them for making such a ridiculous, offensive and typical statement. As if anyone would expect them to not have the forethought to check where the line would be. As if a company protecting itself in the usual way is a reason for why no actual people should think ill of them. As if we should be thanking them.

Note that all they are saying is they weren't given access to membership information. The only way they could have had access is if it were given to them. When I say "legally acquire" I'm not ruling out other means of accessing that information directly, but the trick being performed here is mentioning this when it's irrelevant. They don't need access to membership information to know who is "on their side".

they’re a licensing company, legal requirements are their bread and butter

Yeah, it's not popular. Most won't thank them for the upcoming enshittification of Bandcamp.

Why you're thanking corporation for doing their due dilligence before squashing union movement in company ?

It's disgusting

For another perspective, in Germany, if you are an elected representative of the workers (Personalrat) you have special protection against being laid off during your term. It's basically impossible (technically it is but it never happens and the requirements are very strict). There's pros and cons to this of course.

These are not the union bargainers though but rather the people who represent workers' interest in the company (they need to sign off on contract changes etc.). The bargainers are usually working for the union and not a company.

It's illegal.See "Discriminating against employees because of their union activities or sympathies" [1] Enforcement is weak, but it's illegal.

[1] https://www.nlrb.gov/about-nlrb/rights-we-protect/the-law/di...

If I understood correctly, they are claiming that Epic effectively laid off everyone and sold some of the assets to SongTradr. SongTradr then made offers to half the previous employees. As these people were not previously SongTradr employees, SongTradr hasn't laid off anyone because of their union activities - they didn't employ them in the first place. At least I expect that's their argument.

Seems like the way the sale was set up, it was deliberately done to avoid any commitments to the Bandcamp workforce. No idea of the legality of this, but if I was a Bandcamp employee that was lucky enough to move to SongTradr, I'd be polishing my resume, because it doesn't bode well for them being a good employer.

I don't know about elsewhere, but under UK law this would be illegal - precisely to stop this sort of thing happening.

The new company has to offer employees a "transfer of previous employment" - so even though you're working for someone else, your history at the previous company is moved over with you. So if they wanted to get rid of you, they would then have to go through a redundancy process - which involves explaining why they're letting you go, offering you alternatives and giving you a payout based on your length of service.

But in this case apparently they didn't actually sell the company, so no employees moved. The employees were still employed at Epic, until laid off by Epic. So presuming there was a violation of labor law (in the US or hypothetically in the UK) wouldn't all liability rest with Epic? Unless the argument is that it really _was_ a sale of the company, which probably rests on very technical arguments specific to the jurisdiction.

> wouldn't all liability rest with Epic?

I think how it gets prosecuted also depends on if there is a way to prove collusion between the two companies in this. It is absolutely fishy that Epic laid everyone off just before the sale/transfer concluded to Songtradr and both companies can currently pretend they did nothing wrong and hurting the union was an accident of bad timing and Songtradr especially looking "clean" hiring back in "waves" based on BS metrics and "goodwill" since it could have just not offered jobs back to people already laid off by the previous owner. It can be hard not to imagine that there wasn't some "golf course handshake" on the whole thing, but proving that existed may be tough to do, especially if the collusion was literal golf course handshakes with no paper trail.

This is just the Prop 13 workaround for business real estate in California; don't sell the property sell the LLC that owns the deed to the plot.

This should be illegal but it just sounds like good free market business.

In the US, we reward companies coming up with clever loopholes to screw people over. In Europe they see these tricks for exactly what they are and punish these companies anyways.

The Songtradr press release says "we have acquired Bandcamp" - which to my ears sounds like "we have taken ownership of the company registration" (in UK terms). In which case TUPE would apply, if they were Bandcamp employees. Even if Bandcamp was dissolved as a company, I suspect there would be a case for TUPE seeing as the acquisition happened so soon after the dissolution.

If they were Epic, not Bandcamp, employees then Songtradr would be within their rights to proceed as they have. But Epic would have had to go through a redundancy process (including explaining why it's happening, detailing the alternative tactics they have explored and trying to find other roles within the organisation for the affected employees).

Of course, it's all immaterial as UK law doesn't apply (and I only took a short qualification in it so I know it's fiendishly complex anyway).

EDITED to remove information I had included in the original post

Firing everybody and only re-hiring the meek employees is a classic union-busting tactic and plainly unlawful.

"Fire and rehire" in the UK British Gas (former gov owner entity, privatised) tried this in 2021.

They were told if they didn't sign a worse deal they would be fired, causing a fight with the union.

i think the argument the parent is making is songtradr didn't fire anyone the only hired who they preferred.

Does a judge want to set the precedent that union busting is legal when you do it with extra steps?

1) Fire everybody

2) Create new corporate entity

3) Rehire the meek and compliant

4) Sell corporate entity back to original company

Judges tend to get very cranky when they have to deal with shenanigans like these.

Except there is no #4 in this case.

The question really should just be in #1 is legal. The extra shenanigans doesn't change that question.

But it would still set the /precedent/ that you can lawfully shed troublesome employees who you could otherwise not fire by changing the ownership structure of a company.

#1 by itself is not illegal. When companies move a factory overseas they also just fire everybody. Not nice, but not illegal.

> #1 by itself is not illegal. When companies move a factory overseas they also just fire everybody. Not nice, but not illegal.

It's not illegal in se, but it is illegal if it's done in order to retaliate against employees for organizing, in order to target union employees, in order to undermine a union, etc.

There's a question of enforcement, and there's the challenge of proving that to the requisite legal standard. But assuming the facts are established, it's actually a very clear violation of the NLRA.

Maybe lesson for next time: have some "sleeper cells" in the company that are not part of the union who can slow down development, create bugs, and waste time, accidentally check in AWS creds, etc.

Aside from sounding like an idea my 14-yr-old son might suggest, if you actually want to promote organization as a superior arrangement for software development and tech companies this would make them look worse. Most of us are too busy working to play Tom Clancy.

If I understand the statement below right, 27 of the union members received offers

> “Of those laid off, 40 were in the union bargaining unit out of a total 67 members. None of the eight (8) democratically elected bargaining team members received a job offer.”

Seeing the headline, and remembering that 50% of employees were laid off, my first thought was: "what're the odds?"

I assume I'd have to use NCR or something to calculate that. I know the upper (rarest) bound is 1/2^40, but it's likely much more likely, and not random.

You want the binomial distribution. ( https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/office/binom-dist-functi... , https://help.libreoffice.org/6.2/en-US/text/scalc/01/0406018... if you want to use Excel; https://help.libreoffice.org/6.2/en-US/text/scalc/01/0406018... ("B") for LibreOffice Calc.) 1/2^40 doesn't come into it. There are 67 relevant employees.

Given that 50% of all employees were laid off, what were the odds of at least 40 employees out of 67 randomly-selected employees getting laid off?

    > 0.07103569
[This is the LibreOffice formula: "in 67 trials which each have a 0.5 chance of success, what is the probability of seeing between 40 and 67 successes?"]

One-tailed p-value of 0.07, two-tailed p-value of 0.14. So the odds are about 1 in 7, or 1 in 14.

You might want to ask yourself "Do I really believe that, if I thought I might be about to get fired, that would have no influence on whether I tried to join a union?" [Answering this question in the negative means you can justify using the one-tailed p-value, but it also means the odds of getting fired should be substantially above 50%.]

Note also that this number shifts substantially as you move the odds of getting laid off away from 50%. At 53%, you have a one-tailed value of 16.44%. At 47%, it's 2.5%.

You've computed the odds that at least 40 of the 67 union members get laid off, bargaining team member or not.

You actually want the odds of a specific set of 40 individuals getting laid off. It looks like Bandcamp had 118 employees and 60 layoffs per various news outlets (and on the wikipedia page [0]). Assuming each employee was equally likely to get laid off given the target retention [1], you could compute this from the binomial distribution using "number of ways to predetermine those 40 are getting laid off, plus 20 from the remainder, divided by number of ways to select 60 individuals out of 118".

Or, more concisely, (78 choose 20) / (118 choose 60), which is actually closer to 10^-16 (2 orders of magnitude more unlikely than the simple approximation of 2^-40, which assumes an infinitely large pool).

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandcamp : "Songtradr stated that only 60 of Bandcamp's previously 118 workers had been offered a contract."

[1] This is by no means guaranteed.

> You've computed the odds that at least 40 of the 67 union members get laid off, bargaining team member or not.

Well, close. I've computed the odds that at least 40 of a group of 67 special people get laid off.

There is another comment in this thread suggesting that 67 is the number of bargaining team members. I don't know, because I haven't read the article. So my calculation might or might not be right, depending on whether you interpreted the article correctly or the handful of people taking the other position did. My interpretation was that 40 out of 67 union members got fired, which appears to have been wrong.


> You actually want the odds of a specific set of 40 individuals getting laid off.

I definitely don't want that. You never want to make a comparison against a specific outcome when you ask "what are the odds?" like this. All specific outcomes are rare, so that question will never tell you anything informative. (I almost wrote "will never tell you anything useful", but if what you're looking for is a scapegoat, you might find the calculation you propose useful for that. It's not useful for anything else, and frankly it's a disgrace that you suggested it.)


This is what the article says:

> “On Monday, October 16, 2023 over half of Bandcamp was laid off as a result of Epic Games’ divestiture to Songtradr,” Bandcamp United said in a statement. “Of those laid off, 40 were in the union bargaining unit out of a total 67 members. None of the eight (8) democratically elected bargaining team members received a job offer.”

So it looks like there are these groups:

- bandcamp employees (number unknown)

- union members (number unknown)

- union members on the bargaining team (67)

- union members on the bargaining team who got laid off (40)

- union members elected to the bargaining team (8)

- union members elected to the bargaining team, who got laid off (8)

This suggests that the calculation I gave was the same one that was sought, and also that the base rate, as far as we believe in it, was over 50%. Remember that shifting the odds of being fired from 50% to 53% more than doubled the odds of seeing the pattern we did see.

The calculation you provided is probably more closely represented as "what is the likelihood that the outcomes affecting the union were random happenstance, versus the union members being singled out".

I incorrectly conflated the number of laid off union members with the total number of "special" individuals, while only 8 of them were actually "special" (i.e. democratically elected bargaining team members). It'd be more accurate to describe that probability of the impact to the bargaining team as (110 choose 52) / (118 choose 60) which comes out to about 0.35%, not too far off from the 2^-8 estimate (0.4%) that your approach of using the binomial distribution on this same set would result in. Both approaches would yield similar results, and the result is still somewhat in the realm of plausible deniability.

> All specific outcomes are rare, so that question will never tell you anything informative.

I'm not describing any specific outcomes in this case, though. You could throw up your hands and say "oh, we laid off these specific 60 people, there's only a 10^-34 chance of picking exactly those 60 people out of 118". That would absolutely be useless.

I'm describing the event that "all of this one group got laid off" as a subset of the space of possible outcomes given what we observed, and ascribing a probability to that event.

I will admit I used the wrong inputs, but I stand by my approach.

- bandcamp employees (number unknown)

118 (ironically, not 120) per https://finance.yahoo.com/news/half-bandcamps-120-person-sta...

There’s an implicit assumption that the layoffs were evenly distributed and that the union bargaining team was also evenly distributed within the organization. If those aren’t true, this analysis is going to give deceiving results (could be either direction).

And also that the union employees were identical to others -- which is kinda demonstrably false. People who self-select as union leaders are likely to be different from the other employees in various relevant ways.

Modelling any of these assumptions yields an arbitrary probability of your own choosing.

Are you saying anything I didn't already point out in this paragraph?

>> You might want to ask yourself "Do I really believe that, if I thought I might be about to get fired, that would have no influence on whether I tried to join a union?"

Being a union bargainer is different from just being a member of a union? I would assume it takes more lead time than most people in the 'about to get fired' scenario have?

I think that's probably true in general, but if the whole union movement at the company is fairly new I don't think it necessarily applies (or is at least severely tempered).

Ah, fair enough.

Isn't this a statistical catch-22? If being in a union increases the odds of getting fired… well, then there's nothing to discuss because that's illegal. And if it should decrease it because of fear of legal retaliation, wouldn't that make it less likely that this happened randomly.

This feels like the wrong conclusion to draw (especially the second part), but I suck at statistics so someone please explain where I'm off.

> Isn't this a statistical catch-22? If being in a union increases the odds of getting fired… well, then there's nothing to discuss because that's illegal.

Extreme example: suppose a company has 100 employees. Four of them are in the union bargaining team and they just happen to all work for the widgets department because of an accident of history or randomness etc. The widgets department has 10 people overall.

Now the company decides for business reasons entirely unrelated to unions, that thanks to GPT they don't need so many people in the widgets department. So they fire 8 people from widgets. Assume further that they went out of their way to protect the union bargainers: of those 8 people fired, only 2 are in the union bargaining team. (That means that the remaining 2 widgets people are both union bargainers.)

Even though the company went out of their way to protect the union bargainers, statistically they only laid off 8% of the company, but 50% of union bargainers. Would that be illegal or even unfair?

(In the real world, I am fairly sure that union bargainers are concentrated in some departments. Mostly because it attracts certain kinds of people, and different departments also attract certain kinds of people.

But, of course, I have no clue what the reality inside of Bandcamp was like. I'm just speculating about hypothetical examples.)

It would not be illegal if that was the genuine business reasoning. If they quickly rehired people to those roles it would likely not hold up as legal.

You've given a really clear example of confusing probabilities! Would this be an instance of Simpson's Paradox?

You can characterize it that way:

    P(lose job | bargainer): 50%
    P(lose job | not bargainer): 6.25%


    -----widgets team-----
      P(lose job | bargainer) 50%
      P(lose job | not bargainer) 100%
    -----everyone else----
      P(lose job | bargainer) NaN
      P(lose job | not bargainer) 0%
Simpson's paradox in its prototypical form occurs when the comparison drawn in the top table (of just one cell) is reversed in every cell of the bottom table. (Which has two cells, here.)

This isn't the cleanest example, since the comparison at the bottom can't be drawn at all. But the way the problem is narrated, it would counterfactually have exhibited the paradox.

I'm not sure. Simpson's Paradox is even more confusing, if I remember right.

My example crucially hinges on the company being able to convincingly argue that they singled out that particular widget department for reasons unrelated to the union. If they can't make that argument, or someone even manages to proof that they fired from the widget department _because_ of the union people, then they would be in deep trouble.

One thing you might not have considered is that some notion of "dissatisfaction w/ job" would increase both the likelihood of you wanting to join a union and your employer wanting to fire you or lay you off.

Edit: also, another confounding factor that hasn't been discussed is job role/department. Layoffs and union membership are definitely not evenly distributed across role/department, but there is not enough info in the article to know if the layoffs were targeting specific roles or uniform across the company.

Higher odds of getting fired increase the odds that you will seek to join a union. So you'd always expect layoffs to hit proto-unions especially hard regardless of whether proto-union membership is considered at all. It's not a catch-22.

As an HR would say, those people are "a bad cultural fit", which legitimately raises the probability of them being laid off to 100%. Simple.

still not legitimate, because then any laying of on union members/leaders could be legitimized that way

in any country which properly enforces labor protection law laying of any union leaders without the agreement of the union is extremely hard and requires missteps of the members like e.g. stealing. Or really unusual situations like you lay of half of the members and over half of the members have young children (or e.g. are disabled, project leaders etc.) but non of the union members have any of that. The likelihood of which is basically 0 in practice.

If that went to an arbitration, the HR would have some difficulty unless they could show a paper trail (eg emails in which people expressed concern about the cultural fit of these individuals) ahead of time. They could of course have paved the way by preparing such a trail ahead of time…

But that would lead the way to the question of why this was a redundancy rather than dismissal for cause.

Im not any sort of lawyer let alone an employment lawyer, but I’m sure there are some employment lawyers getting in touch with these folks now to test their interest in pushing a case.

if these employees were focused on the organization efforts it seems reasonable that it would be pretty easy to show them as subpar performers against the corporate-oriented performance expectations, compared to others who were focused only on their work tasks. Stacked Ranking is reprehensible but not illegal.

Bad culture fit is hard to argue when those 8 people were literally elected by their peers to represent them. One might say they're as perfect a representation of company culture as you could find.

That sounds plausible as a rationale. In my experience "bad culture fit" has been used as a stand in for "I don't want this person working here and I don't want to explain why" about 80% of the time.

The reason is often racism. This time it could legitimately be illegal union busting.

Competent HR professionals would not do this to current employees because their documented performance record will render this "soft judgment" more than dubious in any litigation.

"legitimately"? I'd be surprised..

That's the argument HR would make, as a means of laundering the actual reason.

You might need an /s, this is a perfectly plausible comment on HN.

I believe it’s a sincere comment actually.

The fact that you're not 100% sure is what worries me.

There's probably a performance component as well. If you're high performing, can pick whatever job they want, and therefore get paid well above your peers, why would want to join a union?

This was so much more than a job to many of them, just like Bandcamp is more than an e-commerce platform. Bandcamp employed a lot of people who had been there for 5+ years and contributed heavily to its role as cornerstone and defender of independent music. To them, it was as much an extension of their identities as it was a job, and they saw protecting Bandcamp as being equal to protecting independent music. The union came about after they were sold to Epic in an effort to protect not only themselves but also the company and everything it did and represented. Clearly, they were right to be distrustful.

Because unions protect everyone in ways that don't directly relate to pay scale. They help defend against abusive time-off, on-call, or surveillance practices, advocate for pro-worker policies like parental, bereavement, and sick leave, help prevent employees from being fired for using these benefits...

The scarcity of your skillset will protect you. Nothing else can.

That's a bleak perspective that is not borne out by the facts. The greatest source of protection for any individual is the group.

Why do some of the most highly-paid people (actors) join a union and join the picket line? Even if you are high performing, joining up with other workers increases your bargaining position. Why did Steve Jobs join up with Adobe to stop poaching when they were highly sought after work places? Because even if you're a behemoth, you can be stronger in a union.

>Why do some of the most highly-paid people (actors) join a union and join the picket line? Even if you are high performing, joining up with other workers increases your bargaining position.

Perhaps, but there's also a real chance that the union structure you end up with ends up being net negative for top earners. If you're in the top 10%, what makes you think the bottom 90% won't vote for policies that end up redistributing your wages to them?

Also as I said in my other comment[1], whether this is actually true is irrelevant. All that matters is that it sounds plausible and some fraction of people believe it. Perception is reality in this case.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=37942073

> If you're in the top 10%, what makes you think the bottom 90% won't vote for policies that end up redistributing your wages to them?

We already have the bottom 10% (executives) doing that. We would need evidence to be convinced that your scenario would plausibly happen if workers had more power and executives less.

Weird that you conflate a union with an oligopoly; historically they've been the polar opposite answer to each other.

I have to say, this claim goes against what I have seen in real life. As in, people active in unions or other activism are not lesser performers.

Not every talented person is motivated by greed for personal wealth and status. Actually most aren't.

>Not every talented person is motivated by greed for personal wealth and status.

What I said doesn't require everyone to be "motivated by greed for personal wealth and status". The effect will still be present even if only a fraction of people behave that way.

>Actually most aren't.


Forget about money - do you know a lot of talented people who are happy working with people who don't share the same motivations?

Of course? The most famously talented people their lives teaching, mentoring and otherwise trying to lift up those around them. Could any person be an effective leader if they didn't enjoy the challenge of working with people with different values and motivations to themselves? I've certainly never seen one.

I will share an anecdote. A friend of mine, his dad owned a construction company. I was talking to him at a party and made a comment that was fairly anti union thinking he’d agree with the sentiment. His response was he loved unions because they gave him access to the best workers. He had 2 unions represented in his company, and his experience was that union workers were objectively better than non union workers. This surprised me because I couldn’t fathom a world where a capitalist would prefer to have unions in his company.

As to why a talented free agent would want to join a union. It seems to me that in an industry with strong union presence then union is obvious to join. It provides so many protections and adds leverage to intangibles that even high earning individuals can’t negotiate for.

Because one day you won’t be high performing and you’d like to have some protection for your job? Among many other reasons…

Regardless of whether as a high performer, joining a union is actually better for you in the long term, the fact that there's a plausible case against it makes it more likely that pro union employees will be disproportionately affected. Not everyone is 100% bought into unions so I'd expect these factors to play a significant role

Is this a direct admission that unions are for protecting low-performers?

Because if yes, that’s not a good look for them at all and is kind of a perfect ammo for the anti-union side.

No. Unions are for protecting employees against abusive employers.

Your highest performing state is temporary. There will be times where you’ll have off days. You will deal with death in the family. You will be eventually injured. If you aren’t already disabled, you will eventually be (this is just old age). You may become a parent. You might immigrate and come under restrictive visa. You’re a human being with fluctuating states, same as everyone else, and an abusive employer shouldn’t get to power trip over you just because they don’t think it’s legitimate enough for them or something.

So yes, there’s a lot of reasons why a “high performer” might want to be in a union. There’s a lot of life shit we all go through.

Edited to add: this is not the mention your employer might just pull some crap like nepotizing a promotion over you, where a union would come in handy handy!

Is it "abusive" for employers to fire/not pay you if you're away for weeks, or underperforming for months? The terms of the exchange is your time for money. The company isn't a charity.

Even if you think there should be a social safety net for these types of circumstances, it makes little sense for employers to provide it. For one, it has the usual problems of tying important services to employment, similar to how healthcare is in the US. It also puts an undue burden on small businesses. You run a 10 person startup and one of your employees got a long term disability? Congratulations, you have to now find a replacement AND continue paying them. Large companies have law of large numbers on their side, but as an unlucky small business that's 10% of your payroll.

>Edited to add: this is not the mention your employer might just pull some crap like nepotizing a promotion over you, where a union would come in handy handy!

1. has there been a good track record of unions being able to successfully prevent cases like these?

2. Given the level of corruption associated with unions, at least in the US, you're just replacing one problem with another.

> The terms of the exchange is your time for money.

So the contract only covers time? Not actual work, but only time? Do I get to spend the time how I want as long as there is a paper trail that it was your time I just wasted?

> The company isn't a charity.

Yet both are legal and social constructs and not something you can make up on the fly to fit your personal preferences.

> it makes little sense for employers to provide it.

I have been worked to exhaustion for one employer. You don't get to reap the profits and socialize the costs, that only incentivizes more abuse.

> You run a 10 person startup and one of your employees got a long term disability?

So if that person was you would you fire yourself and move onto the street in front of your former business?

This is why we need to both good private (insurance) and public (social benefit) safety net programs in place.

In the case of a small startup, long term disability insurance should cover the living costs of that disability. Yes, that person should be let go, even a founder, if they are unable to perform their duties. But they shouldn't be kicked the street, and the company also shouldn't be on the hook for their care. Either through premiums or taxes, this situation should be accounted for ahead of time. Employment shouldn't be a lifetime obligation of a company.

>So the contract only covers time? Not actual work, but only time? Do I get to spend the time how I want as long as there is a paper trail that it was your time I just wasted?

I'm not sure whether this is supposed to be gotcha at my wording, but it's pretty obvious that if you're paying for someone's time, there's an expectation that they're doing what you want them to do. Otherwise it's like ordering an airbnb but you don't get to use it.

>Yet both are legal and social constructs and not something you can make up on the fly to fit your personal preferences.

Let's go with the legal construct then. Most companies are not in fact "charities" as defined in Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)).

>I have been worked to exhaustion for one employer.

No one is forcing you to work "to exhaustion".

>You don't get to reap the profits and socialize the costs, that only incentivizes more abuse.

If you read my previous comment carefully you'd note that I was only against leaving the responsibility of providing those services to companies. That does not preclude companies paying for those services in some way. Most developed countries don't leave the responsibility of providing healthcare to companies, and instead use a combination of public/private insurance schemes that companies and individuals pay into. Are you against that as well, because that would allow companies to "reap the profits and socialize the costs"?

>So if that person was you would you fire yourself and move onto the street in front of your former business?

In reality there are other considerations for key employees like the CEO which complicates this, but in principle? Yes. The CEO has a fiduciary duty to shareholders and if he's incapacitated and unable to fulfill his duties he should step down rather than using the company as a personal rainy day fund.

> I'm not sure whether this is supposed to be gotcha at my wording, but it's pretty obvious that if you're paying for someone's time, there's an expectation that they're doing what you want them to do.

It was indeed a good question, getting you closer to the truth: No, the employee isn't getting paid for time. No, the employee isn't getting paid for results. The employee is getting paid for fulfilling their terms of an employment contract which may include terms regarding time, results, and benefits that treat the employee as a human being, rather than a cog.

So the main reason to give such benefits to an employee of yours would be because the contract you signed says you have to.

My experience with underperforming workers is that often it is directly the result of poor management. I’ve seen entire teams underperform because of some arbitrary decision from a director. Changing priorities at times when it was guaranteed to remove momentum, or worse, destroy moral. I’ve seen individuals underperform as their manager interrupts them at a concentration destroying cadence. Hell, just 2 well placed meetings can completely ruin a developer’s productivity for an entire day. And then there’s environmental problems. I sat in a cube where the accoustics were such that one particular cube far away sounded like the person was in my cube. I tell you that was hard to ignore. I also once sat somewhere where sales constantly was walking past me. That led to many frustrated hours, and if they didn’t work 2 hours earlier than me, so I could start getting things done at 3pm I don’t know I could have done anything in that job.

So maybe firing someone for underperforming is abusive?

> Unions are for protecting employees against abusive employers.

That's one important role of unions, but it's not the only one. The primary purpose of unions is to allow employees to negotiate with employers on a more equal playing field. Without unions, the power imbalance generally ensures that employees are at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating a fair deal.

Unions are a protection for both high performers and low performers.

I don't think they should offer protection for non-performers – outside of situations where a life event has mad a performer a non-performer for some reasonable amount of time.

it's directly saying that unions protect against anti-worker bullshit corporate speak.

which you seem to eat up and want to spit right back at people

Admission? Like the commenter is some kind of representative?

And while unions aren't homogenous, they generally don't protect incompetence. I've known people in unions that got fired for poor performance, generally. But if I was a cook and cut off a finger while making some company profitable, my performance would certainly suffer while it was healing, and lots of companies world very much rather stop paying me. So in that case yes, I very much hope that a union would protect people from that performance-related loss of employment.

I've known people who managed union employees. While being walked out (fired) for bad performance, they learned the magic words "I have a drug problem". Automatically reverses firing, employee goes to some (company paid rehab) for 1-3 months, gets their job back. They just use this as an option to keep their job, they dont even care. Every "compassionate" benefit you offer will be equally exploited by losers. It seems to me a zero-sum game.

The exceptional number of people I've known in Unions for decades are mostly career professionals with good professional ethics. Your anecdata vs mine. I hear garbage like that from anti-union people but have never seen that in reality. Is it a union for bank robbers?

> And while unions aren't homogenous, they generally don't protect incompetence

They tend to insist on due process for adverse actions, and management tend to hold out the idea that being able to dismiss arbitrarily without evidence or process is essential to efficiently dealing with incompetence.

Your assertion tends to rely on your anecdata which tends to not be any more useful than anybody else's. I've known a huge number of people in various unions and this simply does not reflect any reality I've experienced in 25 years of work experience.

Because union representation isn't just about pay?

Some of the most important things unions negotiate for aren't about pay and benefits. They negotiate things like working conditions, handle disputes, and the like.

Those things are usually much more important than pay and benefits, and when union negotiations stall, it's more usually about that sort of thing than about money.

I hate to bring up the old example, but it's used because it nicely illustrates the value of unions for everybody -- not just the union members. Things like having a 40 hour workweek and weekends only happened because of unions.

It clearly wasn't random, in fact, they said as much. It's a cost-cutting effort, and US salaries are generally much higher than non-US salaries.

If you want to know the odds, you'd have to know their criteria. You can't assume that it was random, because it definitely wasn't. (Though, I've seen the aftermath of a random layoff, I'd take criteria'd layoff every day, even if I'm the one with the pink slip.)

The probability of getting caught multiplied by the economic value of the consequences of getting caught is the only thing that matters in business in the US. If that number is zero or close enough to zero, then the activity is effectively legal.

They just acquired the company two weeks prior and layoffs are extremely common after one.

I don't think anyone is too worried about the layoffs, but these look like targeted layoffs, reinforcing the notion that union members / representatives are troublesome.

At the very least, for the sake of optics, they shouldn't have fired the union reps. Not all of them anyway.

It looks very much like they layoffs were structured to provide plausible deniability for firing the union organizers and a majority of union and union-eligible employees.

Is it not likely that those most vested in unionization, particularly those who want to take on greater union roles, are those who already recognize that their job is in a more precarious position?

If you recognize yourself as an important player in the organization, with a strong individual bargaining position, it seems likely that unionization would be seen as less pressing. Such a person may be willing to join a union in effect, but doesn't have the same kind of incentive to make a union happen.

It is certainly not surprising that the more precarious jobs are the first to go.

>I don't think anyone is too worried about the layoffs

Yeah sure, why care about the people that built the working machine and their family, as long as the 1% can get profit out of the machine?

They probably mean in the context of the thread. Layoffs are not a good thing, definitely not with Bandcamp, where the curators and writers are essential. But they are specifically bad in this context if they target union team members.

You haven’t been part of a startup acquisition lately. The optics are intentional.

The Musk management style is common in this type of acquisition.

union members / representatives are troublesome

Unions are parasites and sources of great evil. Want to control a company? Found one, or buy its shares.

Heaven forbid people who create the value for a company have a say in its operations.

Unions exist for the direct benefit of the employees. Firms can't exist without employees. Why do you think that unions are parasites? Do you think employees are parasites on firms?

You forgot /s

> At the very least, for the sake of optics, they shouldn't have fired the union reps. Not all of them anyway.

We're all making assumptions here, but let's assume they had legitimate business reasons for the layoffs. What you suggest is that they make less optimal decisions for the sake of optics.

In a free-market economy, the companies that make less optimal decisions will have their lunch eaten by those that don't.

> In a free-market economy, the companies that make less optimal decisions will have their lunch eaten by those that don't.

When the downfall of some of these companies takes more than a life time, who gives a hoot?

Lots and lots of companies are starting to be too big to (fully) fail.

It's the end consumer that has to pay for every extra bit of overhead accumulated along the way.

And the bill isn't delayed by a lifetime either.

Who pays venture capitalists and executives?

Did you confuse my comment with someone else's?

When it becomes too big to fail, it feels to me something other than the market is intervening to keep it alive.

> In a free-market economy, the companies that make less optimal decisions will have their lunch eaten by those that don't.

In a race to the bottom, concern for others is a liability. Ugh.

I'd say an example of not showing concern for others is, for instance, using state power to bail out banks after the executives gambled with their customers savings and cashed out. Bad corporations are given a lifeline until the next set of customers is screwed.

The free market would have allowed those banks to fail and their customers would have lost all their savings. Personally I'd prefer if they'd bailed out the customers instead, but that still counts as a state intervention.

Sure; or spending 8 trillion dollars - well over a trillion on interest to those same banks - on a 'war on terror' that actually increases terror.

But was any of that state 'power'? Or state weakness?

> In a free-market economy, the companies that make less optimal decisions will have their lunch eaten by those that don't.

And that's one of the reasons we don't have free market economies in general; because they are extremely harmful to society as a whole.

The USSR collapsed because of imbalances caused by decades of centralized planning and control.

China survived communism because it implemented free-market reforms (while retaining centralized control in the political structure).

I'd say generally, the free market is what makes economies work.

Edit: minor rewording

No, some amount of "free market" leaning is useful. But absolute free markets are catastrophic to society. I'm not aware of any major countries that have an actual free market. They all have laws limiting what companies are allowed to do.

The idea that businesses operate with laser focus on revenue is fantasy. Businesses are filled with individuals acting mostly on emotions and vibes, people who waste time empire building, etc.

That is true, but it eventually catches up with them. On the whole, large organizations with this kind of internal environment stagnate and are unable to innovate any longer. They then resort to buying startups to acquire products or talent.

Yes and they lurch on sucking the life out of parasitized host after host for decades.

What do you think a free-market is? Something where the company could harvest the organs of the employees instead of firing them to maximize profits?

I'd say that's quite an uncharitable interpretation. Free market doesn't mean breaking laws and violating social contracts.

> Free market doesn't mean breaking laws and violating social contracts.

You mean like firing the union bargaining team or laying off half your workforce?

Disregarding externalities is the essence of free market dogma. Whether it's pollution, cheating customers, forcing unpaid overtime on employees, unsafe workplaces, collusion and price fixing. It's a disastrous race to the bottom unless "Big Government" puts rules in place to get companies to engage in positive-sum behavior.

And that's the key issue. Positive sum (along with "first, do no harm") behavior is what makes societies healthy and prosperous. Laissez faire free market capitalism rewards extractive actions over positive sum actions with predictable catastrophic consequences.

Coincidences happen all the time, but I don't _trust_ coincidences.

Once i worked for a company which had to lay off some people due to reorganisations. Management told and wrote to us that these people would be chosen based upon their performance only.

It was quite the weird coincedence that people who had an excellent performance, but refused to renegotiate their old contracts in an earlier stage, were all laid off.

How does that work in court if the employer shows all of them being low performers or problematic in other non-union related ways?

I guess it really comes down to who has the burden of proof?

They're not employees. These aren't technically layoffs.

The company is being acquired and then they are choosing not to issue a bunch of people contracts.

That is still a lay off. If the company is acquired you don't get to pick and choose what contracts it had are valid, you have to argue your new contract is similar employment terms or you have laid someone off.

If everyone were laid off before the company was acquired, why wouldn’t the new owner get to choose who to employ?

Do you perhaps know how this works legally? I'm curious. Did their contracts under Epic say something in the lines of, "on the event of ownership change your contracts are null and void" just like that?

My estimation is that Epic sold all of the IP (name, other trademarks, code, infrastructure, etc) along with the right to be the successor to the extensive license agreements and contracts that they held. Included in this is HR records, which allows the new owner to make offers to the folks that Epic is no longer employing after the deal finishe(d/s).

M&A transactions can get pretty complicated for exactly these reasons; frequently, they disassemble the entire set of assets for sale and divvy them up across one or more buyers, who will pick and choose what they want and then reconstitute whatever they have purchased to their desired degree.

"Hey, we sold your entire department's work to this subsidiary, but we're keeping you as part of the parent company. Oh look, there's no work for you to do! You're all laid off. I hear this new subsidiary is hiring."

Time to make sure you have downloaded everything you bought on BC.

My thoughts too. This is going to be tedious for those of us with larger collections… too bad there doesn’t seem to be a way to bulk download from my library.

One solution to this, albeit a fairly technical one, can be found here: https://github.com/Ezwen/bandcamp-collection-downloader . I've been using it for years to download my library in FLAC format.

There are also a bunch of GUI tools that claim to download libraries (search for "bandcamp downloader") but I haven't used any of them.

I was hoping someone would chime in with something like this. Thank you!

Is there a good alternative platform for independent artists?

I download everything I buy on BC immediately.

This kind of explains why Epic sold them. This still doesn't explain why Epic bought them…

To use as a pawn in their app store lawsuits


That seems like a rather obviously wrong take. There were ample companies supporting Epic (or rather, fighting Apple) before they filed their lawsuit, which was also long before Epic acquired bandcamp.

08/2020 Epic files suit against Apple and Google https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_Games_v._Apple

09/2020 Discussion of Epic vs. Bandcamp and app store fees: https://www.shacknews.com/article/120550/tim-sweeney-on-why-...

05/2021 "The trial ran from May 3 to May 24, 2021" from the same wikipedia link.

03/2022 Epic acquires bandcamp, a year after their trial. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/02/arts/music/epic-games-ban...

Why would Epic acquire bandcamp as a "pawn" to use a year after their trial concluded? It's far more reasonable to assume Epic had a legitimate business interest in Bandcamp, and if anything, the execs of the companies had started talking due to the (concluded) lawsuit and shared interest in not losing 30% of their revenue.

This is just a guess from a UE game developer, but:

a) Epic makes Unreal Engine and runs an asset store that includes sounds and music. Why not include bandcamp and their huge catalog in that store?

b) Epic makes Fortnite, which has tons of music industry tie-ins through purchasable emotes, song tracks, and free in-game concerts. Bandcamp sounds like a great avenue to expand existing agreements to sell music through Fortnite.

c) Epic also acquired Harmonix, which is the original developer of Guitar Hero and various music game spinoffs. Who knows wtf they're doing with Harmonix, but Harmonix+Bandcamp seems like an easy business strategy. "Buy this album on bandcamp and get it in the new Harmonix game too", and vice versa.

Epic has their hands in an awful lot of pies these days, and their layoff statement seemed to be a straightforward admission that their eyes were bigger than their stomach.

Well that's one negotiation tactic.

Bandcamp is heading for the dead pool, and it fucking sucks because it's my go to online music store. God damnit Epic.

And Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond, who agreed to the original acquisition. Looking back 2 years ago he was making the usual promises that nothing would happen to it, after all his parachute depended on saying so.

They always say nothing will change. It's the surest indication that there will be changes.

There are ALWAYS changes. I can't (or don't) believe anyone actually really believes it when that is stated.

Some people just think they can get away with the most stupid moves. It's incredible.

SongTradr recently acquired 7digital. They plan to put the Bandcamp catalogue in there, so my biggest fear is that they get rid of Bandcamp as a separate product and just force everyone to use 7digital. That would make sense, considering they fired most writers (which is one of the things that was making Bandcamp special) and would confirm that everyone who said "The buyer doesn't understand what they are buying" were 100% correct. For them, Bandcamp was some sort of "itunes store for weird music".

So basically they are assuming they will reach bankruptcy before the lawsuits resolve.

Ofc Epic had to ruin everything

Epic sold it to Songtradr.

Yes. They acquired the company for no logical reason, did nothing with it, and then dumped it rather than spin it out because they don't care and want their money back.

Epic ruined it.

From the perspective of a Bandcamp customer, does any of this actually affect their ability to browse, buy, and listen to music? "ruin" implies the quality degraded, while "nothing" implies a neutral progression.

The only degregation here is the layoffs from the torch passing, but I believe Bandcamp still has more employees now than they did before being acquired.

Nearly the entire editorial staff have been laid off, for music fans /artists of certain genres, these were the only people writing about their music. That's a significant degradation. The employee head count bit needs a citation I think, I wasn't aware that Epic had hired anyone at all into the Bandcamp team during their brief custody which would make that statement completely impossible.

I didn’t even know Bandcamp had any editorial staff. I usually just follow links from YouTube to songs or artists I like and buy music that way.

Easiest source I can find right now is that Bandcamp had 76 employees in 2020: https://www.inquirer.com/business/bandcamp-spotify-covid-art...

And it was 118 at the time of layoffs, as you'd see in pretty much every article (and Wikipedia) talking about the topic. I can't exactly pinpoint how much they had when Epic swooped in, but even Bandcamp had a modest growth over the pandemic.

And my condolences for the editorial. I didn't even know Bandcamp had articles before reading this comment.

what did they edit? im honestly curious as in my perception bandcamp is something that i get a link to from a band and that i then use to buy music. have problably spent a couple of 100 € over the years there.

It's not that hard to visit the Bandcamp home page and see a ton of editorial content. I've spent thousands, if that's relevant.

i just did and almost missed it. it looks like ads for albums except there is a small "feature" string. i'm honestly not sure i ever visited this page before. always went directly to the band site.

to understand my POV better, my usecase is: - band that i like and follow (mostly newsletter, some social media, rarely friends that mention it drecty) sends an update "hey new stuff, click here" - i click the link, listen a bit, buy and download

I understand perfectly your POV, but it's not the experience of all of Bandcamp's users, particularly artists who release there, DJs, or fans of niche genres. The loss of the editorial team is huge to these groups.

Well, it shows a different philosophy that will eventually get spilled in the rest the service.

> They acquired the company for no logical reason, did nothing with it, and then dumped it rather than spin it out because they don't care and want their money back.

They acquired it to use as a tool in their antitrust lawsuit against Google.


Anyone willing to speculate if there is any legal recourse?

I think the NLRB recently changed their rules and any interference or law breaking automatically confirms the union.

The problem then becomes bargaining—companies (see Starbucks) can drag out negotiations indefinitely. This part of labor law probably can’t be changed without congress unfortunately. The PRO Act included rules which forced companies to negotiate within a certain time window but it didn’t pass.

In the Wild West?

Probably complain to the NLRB I assume.

I'm the most pro-union person you'll ever meet, but this is so cringe. Strikes work when you can shut down a factory and physically keep the scabs from getting in with a picket line. Not so much when you're a remote tech worker who can be instantly replaced by an equally competent third-worlder for $2/hr. You gotta know where your bargaining power lies, or you're just being an idiot.

> I'm the most pro-union person you'll ever meet, but this is so cringe. Strikes work when you can shut down a factory and physically keep the scabs from getting in with a picket line. Not so much when you're a remote tech worker who can be instantly replaced by an equally competent third-worlder for $2/hr. You gotta know where your bargaining power lies, or you're just being an idiot.

You can't call yourself "the most pro-union person you'll ever meet" if your opinion is equivalent to "unions are only appropriate for those who already have structural power".

I am hearing "engineers are fungible." But any company can just outsource whatever they want. Why hire anyone from your own country for any reason?

And why hire people in silicon Valley where they cost double what they would pretty much anywhere else?

The US has an ultra-employer-slanted legal system, where a workplace changing hands can have the new owner firing all employees then deciding whom to re-hire, rather than needing cause for any termination, and being required to act with minimal good faith, to hold a session hearing with candidates for termination to allow them to make their case for keeping them in employ etc.

But, hey songtradr, here some ideas for Bandcamp's new name!

* Banned Camp

* Boot Camp

* Sudden Death Camp

* Union Busting Camp

* Camp Greed


Does anyone know the size of Bandcamp's catalogue. I'm just wondering about hardware costs (storage) would be for prospective competitors who intend to swoop up Bandcamp's customers (artists and listeners). Audio is a lot less demanding than video, and since there's no DRM it's basically just static files with some access control.

Another factor to consider is that BC makes files available to download in a variety of formats (MP3, FLAC, AAC, etc.) Presumably they're transcoding on the fly from a lossless format and not storing all those extra files...

Yes, there's often a wait on the download page while the transcoding is done.

No. It's a different article.

I get the impression there's an attitude from the newer generation of tech workers--the ones that are more progressive and less libertarian--about their right to unionize. They were so interested in union politics and the reading about the glory days of unions that they overlooked their current situation.

You don't sell a company to break up a union and lay off half the staff. Bandcamp wasn't a good fit any more, and it was over-staffed. Unions worked during their heyday because there was a labor shortage, so they had leverage. Bandcamp employees didn't have that leverage.

Unions don't need a labour shortage to have power. Collective bargaining is its own leverage.

Besides, unemployment is low, so I'm not sure why you're talking about there not being a labour shortage.

> Besides, unemployment is low

Is it low in tech? There have been a lot of layoffs over the past year.

It's 3.1 percent in tech, so, yeah, it's low. Those layoffs are peanuts.


Not sure what this proves. Maybe some people looking now are frustrated, but that's only from those who are looking. The point is a low number of people are looking in the first place. Hence low unemployment.

They (Epic) literally bought Bandcamp as fuel against their ongoing litigation vs Apple. They've outright admitted so [1]. This wasn't about Bandcamp being a 'good fit' or 'overstaffing'. This was because now that the litigation was over, they had no more use for the bludgeon they bought.

[1] https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2022/04/epic-games-drags-ban...

This is the only take that has any merit.

By most accounts I've seen, pre-epic bandcamp was not struggling at their size. Perhaps this is uninformed, but it will be interesting to see what information comes to light after NDAs expire.

I suspect Epic had plans for bandcamp, for various reasons they had a change of heart... and re-sold partially out of a combination of frustration and the shifting economy. This wouldn't be the first time a somewhat purpose-driven company had a post-acquisition fallout, and it won't be the last.

That seems like a hack

The hack is knowing that this will lead many other Bandcamp staff who want a union to look for new jobs. Bandcamp bust their union and do a cheap layoff at the same time.

Seeing that half of the employees were already laid off, I assume most of the others will see the writing on the wall and start looking for new jobs no matter if they want a union or not...

An efficient hack. Cheaper than calling in the union busters!

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

publishing is no longer a business model.

the only 'business' left for people in that 'industry' is to charge rent which is taxes

Bye-bye bandcamp.

For some context, it’s important to understand the degree to which Bandcamp’s success and ubiquity with independent music is built on a people-first, anti-corporate culture. Bandcamp is an obsession for a very large and engaged segment of the independent music world. A good friend, a professional musician, told me “I feel like I’m watching my childhood home burn to the ground.” This is far from a unique sentiment. People are mourning. I’m building an alternative[0] to Bandcamp, announced the day after Epic’s sale, and I am receiving a disruptive volume of messages from people looking to sign up and get involved in response to this. It’s not just users, it’s bands and labels and people who’ve contributed to Bandcamp over the years. Many of these are people with large voices and followings and businesses of their own.

This has been building for some time. The Epic sale set it in motion. The formation of the union was a signal to supporters that the staff distrusted the new owners and were taking steps to protect the company’s mission. The Songtradr sale escalated it. The perception of targeting union members is being interpreted as confirmation of all fears.

So while the tech industry has dealt with high-profile layoffs for the past year, I don’t think most if any of those companies have the cultural significance of Bandcamp or have a for-the-people ethos baked into their DNA. This is much more significant than layoffs after an acquisition. The perception of targeting union members could do irreparable harm to a brand built on honesty, support, and integrity.

[0] - https://ampwall.com

This just feels like an ad. Bandcamp hasn't changed one bit since the sale to Epic. 99% of users don't know anything about Bandcamp's operations let alone that the staff planned to unionise. Bandcamp has been around for a long time. People have libraries. Artists have their entire discogs on it. Niether of those camps are moving unless something fundamentally changes to force their hand - which hasn't happened yet.

I most definitely do not intend for it to feel like an ad so I apologize if that's how it comes off. I chimed in with my perspective because a lot of the replies were looking at this news from the lens of "layoffs in tech" and I want to offer context as someone tangentially connected. I mentioned my involvement as a way of demonstrating my relationship to the situation and, sure, as a disclaimer in case someone wants to write me off.

You are correct in that most people do not know anything about what's happening. But Bandcamp is largely a platform that courts super-fans and a sizable portion of this people are keyed into independent music, with all its happenings and drama. This is especially true for the successful bands, labels, and journalists who use their platform. So while 99% of their users might have no idea, the 1% that does contains many people who are heavily involved in making and influencing independent music. We see visible evidence of this in the number of music news sites that are posting updates on the situation. And I see evidence through the volume and intensity of feedback I'm receiving.

Is that contact form the best way to get in touch with you about getting involved?As a programmer and amateur DJ it breaks my heart to see the best website for buying tracks go down in flames.

Email is best! Inbounds are getting kind of wild so we just setup hails@ampwall.com so I'm not a bottleneck. You can also do chris@ampwall.com but I'm monitoring the shared box. The form on the page adds you to the mailing list, which I'm trying to delay using because I loathe newsletter spam.

I was wondering why noone had started a bandcamp alternative as I read this article. Bandcamp isn't a complicated product. It's the people and content that define its value.

If trust and goodwill are eroded, then the platform loses its value.

Glad to see an independent initiative in this space.

> It's the people and content that define its value.

That's exactly what makes developing a replacement difficult. It's not the software. I'm sure that a very large majority of people here could write that in a reasonable amount of time.

But the software isn't really the main value that Bandcamp provides. For a service to replace Bandcamp, it needs to be trustworthy and have a track record of doing right by both artists (and mostly small indie artists) and audiences. That takes time.

That's my point though, bandcamp is alienating the people that give it its place in the music business, and creating an opening for competitors.

Saying bandcamp isn't complicated isn't the same as saying it's easy to replace. I'm just saying it's feasible to try with a small team and small amount of capital.

As someone who has been lucky to work on some large-scale apps that are household names with very very small teams, I find it fascinating/hilarious that comments from the Y Combinator peanut gallery often reduce acquired companies to 'isn't a complicated product, let's just rebuild over a weekend.'

While the core technology may not be as 'complicated' as quantum computing, the unique challenges in execution, user engagement, and market fit should not be underestimated, simple is hard ya'll... The real value and are far from trivial to replicate and come from the people.... no offense just sayin' this is a funny pattern around here.

There's a strong tendency for devs to underestimate how long it takes to develop software. My hypothesis is because devs tend to focus on the core functionality and are really estimating how long it would take to do that. But in most projects, that's only about 20% of the work required.

I'm also reminded of the old saying that "nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't have to do it."

There are quite a few alternatives - Resonate, focused on streaming (https://resonate.coop/) and Formaviva, focused on independent electronic music (https://formaviva.com/)

Rob Dougan (you'd know him from The Matrix soundtrack) started selling his music on Gumroad a while ago. https://robdougan.gumroad.com/

IndieHD (https://indiehd.com/) has been around for almost as long as Bandcamp.

Someone makes something awesome that people love, it gets bought by a giant company, the giant company extracts as much value as possible and discards the corpse, someone makes an awesome new version. This is the software lifecycle.

So why am I still using and recommending VLC? Because it doesn't have to be that way.

In before the true scotsman of software lifecycles.

VLC is developed by a non-profit (as far as I'm aware). I'm kind of interested in what the world would be like if all companies were non-profit.

I mean Google started as a non-profit and basically defined the search engine and it's tools. Then it went private, continued briefly, and has slid more and more into yet another corporate rent-seeker ever since.

I don't even think it's necessarily profit vs. non-profit, I think it's private vs. shareholder ownership. Once the shareholder brain-worms take root, a company will set itself on fire to maintain the illusion of quarterly growth, because anything else is failure. Even if you somehow managed to dominate a market to complete exclusion of meaningful competitors, if you fail to grow, you are failing. That is fucking absurd. A company reaching a natural plateau of steady customers generating excellent profits is, by Wall Street's definition, a failed business. I'm reminded of Greta Thunberg's notion of "the fantasy of infinite growth."

For-profit entities certainly can do some sketchy things to ensure profitability, and that warrants skepticism. But you really only see the truly brain dead nonsense decisions from publicly traded corporations. Shit like laying off 2/3 of your staff because you had a less profitable period (not not-profitable, _less_ profitable!).

> if you somehow managed to dominate a market to complete exclusion of meaningful competitors, if you fail to grow, you are failing

This is a trope in Silicon Valley, but it's simply not true. Most companies in a developed economy aim for a stable state, i.e. close to zero real growth with payments made to investors via sole proprietorship pay-outs, dividends and/or debt.

Now a growth company is worth more than a stable-state one, ceteris paribus, so there are incentives to promise it. If your promise growth and fail to grow, you are failing. That doesn't mean the company is failing. It's just mismanaged and likely misrepresented by its capital structure.

I mean, fair point. But name a corporation that's publicly traded right now that isn't promising growth to shareholders? If they're all doing it, that's the status quo, irrespective of if they should be or not.

FFS, Amazon promises growth. Amazon! A company so formidable that even it announcing it's thinking about entering a market causes a small stock blip to any major companies in that market, because it's presumed they will fucking obliterate them.

> name a corporation that's publicly traded right now that isn't promising growth to shareholders

The entire E&P sector comes to mind. For example, Marathon Oil "expects to deliver maintenance-level total Company oil production" this year [1].

Note that "publicly traded companies constitute less than 1 percent of all U.S. firms and about one-third of U.S. employment in the non-farm business sector" [2]. Most small businesses aim to stay small.

[1] https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/101778/0000101778230...

[2] https://www.nber.org/digest/apr07/changing-business-volatili...

> I mean Google started as a non-profit and basically defined the search engine and it's tools. Then it went private, continued briefly, and has slid more and more into yet another corporate rent-seeker ever since.

Wait, when was Google a non-profit?

Started as a research grant-based program at Stanford in 1995. Three years later it became a company after building the basic product to a launch-ready state.

Ah, you mean before it was called Google.

Honestly, the non-profit engine was not nearly as good as the one the subsequent for profit business created.

I think the author of VLC has shared the fact that they keep receiving offers to buy the project for some significant sums of money. They refuse to sell on principle.

It is difficult to prevent enshittification when it requires people to refuse to get rich. Most aren't willing to stick to their principles in the face of that.

Because OP isn't actually describing the software lifecycle, but rather the business or services lifecycle. Our society is so steeped in the business imperative of creating ongoing reliance on services, often with such relationships being marketed as "software", that the two are commonly conflated.

The difference here is that the owners had always signaled to not want to do it

Stupid question: why weren't the employees unionized before epic took over? From what I'm reading it seems like it would've been easy considering the corporate culture it had. I know, hindsight and all, but I guess my point is that I'm wondering if Epic did something that led to unionizing. It sucks since it looks like bandcamp was doing pretty ok and didn't need to be sold around.

I guess many saw it as a stable business that wasn't trying to "expand and grow above all else", so they felt relatively safe. As soon as it got sold, the perceived safety went away, so they started organizing so they could start to feel safe again.

I think this is a good question. I’m guessing it might just be a circumstance of being located in California (as opposed to e.g. the UK) where unionization of tech workers is very rare. And that there simply wasn’t a push to start unionization efforts until after the Epic takeover. I also suspect that the unionization wave which is taking over the USA just didn’t start soon enough to start union efforts before the takeover.

> the unionization wave which is taking over the USA

Union membership fell to an all-time low in 2022 [1]. Given Yellow's bankruptcy and the writer lay-offs, I'd expect that to have continued this year.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/union2.pdf

The wave of unionization refers to new unions being formed, more workplaces unionizing, and a general zeitgeist favoring union. It does not refer to total number of union members.

Since the 1980s the trend has been that unions, unionized workplaces, and union memberships have all been on a steep decline (along with pay, worker rights, etc.). It is not surprising that union memberships will continue to decline given the previous trend, but also the confounding variables of union member being more likely to be close to retirement age, rate of unemployment, gig workers, contractors, etc.

However, this trend is starting to reverse. There have been several high profile workplaces unionizing, several high profile unionizing efforts, and a general positive reaction among the working public. Notable also—and very much a part of this wave—are several high profile strikes, near strikes and other direct action. UPS narrowly avoided a strike, UAW are striking, screenwrites had one of their longest strikes, actors are in one of their longest strikes. Amazon has seen walkouts, etc.

This is very much a wave, even though one particular line does not reflect it.

> wave of unionization refers to new unions being formed, more workplaces unionizing, and a general zeitgeist favoring union

Public opinions is high and rising [1] and election petitions are up [2]. But job growth is accelerating towards non-union sectors with no sign of the unions following [3].

It's a plateau, not a wave. Unions are diminishing. But where they exist, they're expressing themselves more forcefully. The conditions for a wave exist. But a combination of labor law restrictions on unions and disinterest among nonunion workers fundamentally limits reversal.

[1] https://news.gallup.com/poll/398303/approval-labor-unions-hi...

[2] https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/election-petit...

[3] https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2023/02/28/1159663461/you...

If you want to build trust in this industry, I think you'll need to do better than cloning an existing product and slapping a "for the people" label on it. Content creators of all types are exhausted by the endless nickel and diming, so at this point, transparency is going to be the only way to attract a mass audience.

When everyone knows hosting costs equate to a fraction of a penny per sale, you'll need to strongly justify that 5% fee. You'll need to pay ~3.5% in PRO fees just to have public playback on the site -- even if there's not a single cover song among the uploaded albums -- so let both the artist and fan know where that money is going and why.

A huge problem with the "pay what you want" model is that the host and PRO still get to middleman what is fundamentally a tip from the fan. Find a way to implement a secondary form for tips that go straight to an account the artist owns, without making the purchase form more complicated, and you'll have an attractive and unique feature.

However, Fourthwall already has a polished version of your product roadmap and charges less for it, albeit without the music-specific theming, and even Patreon recently implemented direct digital sales. You're facing an uphill battle against entrenched and VC-backed products.

If you succeed in making it a Bandcamp alternative please make the tos and privacy terms extremely brief and transparent, for me (and I imagine many other privacy-minded people) that's one of the most important factors in deciding to try and trust a service these days

This is important to me. It should matter to everyone, especially in the independent music/arts where value so easily gets leeched out by people with resources.

Thank you, I agree

> For some context, it’s important to understand the degree to which Bandcamp’s success and ubiquity with independent music is built on a people-first, anti-corporate culture.

That is why I'm wondering if the new owner doesn't care about what makes basecamp work and just wants to use all of basecamp data for its "AI" business. Otherwise you're left with another owner who doesn't understand what they bought.


> just wants to use all of basecamp data for its "AI" business

Which data specifically? The music itself belongs to the artists and labels, which leaves us with the user activity data, but that must be acquirable much cheaper with larger amount of data elsewhere. Also the data would be tailored to indie/electronic music, rather than applicable to pop music, so the usefulness of even user activity data seems kind of low.

> The music itself belongs to the artists and labels,

As if not owning the data has stopped AI companies in the past.

Exactly! So why would a AI company who want the music itself bother themselves with buying the company first? Just scrape it like everyone else.

If you have the kind of cash to throw at a bandcamp purchase its probably easier/faster to buy it than downloading and scaping every album.

Otherwise the new owner doesn't get bandcamp and why so many of its customers like it.

> another owner who doesn't understand what they bought.

I couldn't imagine who you might be referring to! /snark

It was building up since the original team sold to Epic. Can't trust after that.

What is the difference of your service with eg. Deezer? Someone in another thread mentioned it offers lossless DRM-free downloads these days.

I can't speak about Deezer specifically since I'm not familiar with their product, only their name. There's a little FAQ up at https://ampwall.com/faq-alpha that might answer many of your questions, I'd prefer not to go full Pitch Mode on HN. But in short: artist-owned and operated -- I am the first user and have skin in the game that goes beyond money, incorporated as a Public Benefit Company, with a distinct vision that is more inclusive of music culture beyonds just bands and labels. It'll take time for the vision to be realized but we're on the right track. Happy to answer any other questions through email if you'd like, hails@ampwall.com or chris@ampwall.com.

I wish you every success with this, I'm really glad there are people that still care.

In case anyone else was curious about Public Benefit Corporations, or PBCs, I found this comparing them with a B Corp: https://socapglobal.com/2021/04/whats-the-difference-between...

Thanks for being a part of this. I have been a supporter of Bandcamp since I found it a few years ago. I would donate some money to keep a site like this going that works directly for musicians and provides non-drm digital files., streaming was a nice bonus too. Can't believe this bullshit.. really sad right now :(

As a previous fan of Deezer, it's just another streaming platform. They do have high-quality streaming, but at the end of the day they'll squeeze stream monetization as much as possible, and you still don't own the music. We need a transparent, fair marketplace for musicians to sell their work that doesn't behold them to streaming providers + publishers.

Thank you for making this a public benefit company. We need more companies to follow this route to protect against future enshittification. But with public benefit corporations, I’ve been wondering, is it possible at some point for the board vote to change to some other type of entity, like a C-corp? And what rules are in place to enforce that it is working in the public benefit?

Cory Doctorow talks about using Ulysses pacts like this to protect against future bad behavior, but I’m wondering, what is the strength of the pact?

My understanding of it (and IANAL) is that while the board could potentially vote to change it, the shareholders can take legal action for failing to pursue the public benefit obligations. I can't say whether trying to remove the public benefit obligation alone is grounds to bring a suit, but I think they'd be able to make a case for it. My hope is that being a PBC will scare off predators and encourage like-minded people from day 1, leading us to a point where a future board is made up of people who are 100% committed to the mission from the start.

That's a long way of saying what you said: I want it to protect against future enshittification. I want it to work.

Thanks for the answer. Yeah, hopefully if there are enough disincentives, that can protect you. This is all uncharted territory, though. Kudos for trying it out.

Nonissue once you’re big enough to have a legal dept to deal with shit like that.

Glad to hear someone is working on this.

Sounds good, but since it is not EU based, my band and I will have to stay put. Good luck though. Competition is a good thing.

Bandcamp wants EU based either they came from Oakland, CA. So what’s the objection?

I don't use Bandcamp.

I'm not affiliated with Ampwall (or even American) but I'm curious what the objection is here?

(Usually) Better/more stable working conditions for workers in Europe compared to the US. Band could also just be based in EU and prefer the user-protections EU offers compared to the US.

Bandcamp was/is American too, though. Bandcamp was fine, but this isn't?

I guess maybe you learn from your mistakes? I'm not GP that said I wouldn't use ampwall, so I'm just guessing what the reasoning could be.

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