The Uncertain Future of Bandcamp
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably already know that I run a record label. If you haven’t, now you know I run a record label. It’s called Analog Revolution, and we do the bulk of our sales through our website (and our cassette subcription platform), but we have also been, for the last ten years, big fans of and users of Bandcamp. It was recently announced that Bandcamp was being sold (again) and this time, they’re laying off half the staff. This is almost certainly in response to Bandcamp’s efforts to unionize (see the bandcamp union’s response to the layoffs on instagram) and it leaves folks like me in a curious position. So, let’s talk about the future of music distribution in a world where the future of bandcamp is uncertain.
Will Songtradr do the right thing?
I’m not going to speculate about what songtradr might do! I’m just going to point out that they laid off half the staff, and they have a long history as a DRM proponent. We have no evidence that they will do anything good, and even if they make no changes in the short term, they can choose to enshittify the platform at any point, in the name of rent seeking.
I’ve long been an advocate of owning your own platform whenever possible, and this is no exception.
So what are we going to do?
I’m glad you asked (or, I want you to ask so I’m going to pretend you did!) As I mentioned in another recent post, I’m currently producing media and media tooling full time. The roadmap for our vision of the future of media has included a distribution platform that marries the social and curitorial aspects of bandcamp to the activity pub protocol from day one, and in light of the fact that Bandcamp is likely to be a ghost town within 18 months, and I will still need a platform through which to sell music, merch, and podcasts, we’re moving up the timetable on our federated, open source, AGPL licensed bandcamp alternative.
(Wait, who is “We”? Right now it is me and DJ Sundog, and some other folks from the loose collective calling itself Mountain Town Technology. We’re a group of computer professionals, developers, SREs, etc. who also produce and distribute media, and we’re hoping to reshape the way media is produced and distributed. We believe in it, we’re betting the farm on it, Let’s Go!)
We’re in the early stages of the project, but we’re dedicated to this as our full time gig. If you’re interested in helping, that’s great! There are instructions for contributing at the bottom of the front page of Mountain Town Technology.
If you’d like to support us, also great! We’ll be setting up an OpenCollective project shortly to ensure transparency and provide a way for us to pay contributors along the way.
Prior to that, feel free to back my Patreon if you’re insistent in getting financial support sent our way.
What about $ProjectName
Yes! There are lots of other projects in this space, and we could be contributing to one of them, but each of them that I’ve encountered so far has a limitation or concern that prevents me from embracing it wholeheartedly. If one of them makes it across the finish line before we do, great! Options are good, and if it’s built around the same open federated technology we’re working with, we can all work together to reach greater heights. (And if it isn’t built around the same open, federated technology we’re working with, it is fundamentally at odds with what we’re doing!)
From the readme:
Our overall goal is to provide a platform that musicians, record labels, curators, and fans can use to support themselves and others in the production of art. The world can always use more art.
We want to accomplish this through empowering the people that are creating the art and leaving control of their work in their hands rather than in the hands of rent-seeking corporate platforms.
We will use open source technologies and open standards.
We are not interested in integrations with corporate silos; however, we are pragmatic and understand that musicians need to eat regardless of where their grocery budget comes from, so we will add integrations to publish to silos from your Aural Isle, but you will remain in ultimate control of where your content is available.
We are not interested in blockchain integrations or NFTs and will not be implementing any support for anything of the sort. We’re not trying to bake the planet more or provide arbitrage opportunities.
This repo just has a readme and a license?
Maybe, yeah! When I made this blog post, that’s all that was there. I made the post to announce our intent to get started. If you’re reading this in the future, chances are pretty good that the repo is chockfull of a working implementation of the ideas described here. If you’re reading this closer to when I wrote it, give us a few days. We have a team of super talented and very fast devs working through our V1 implementation right now.
Why waste your time? I thought you were building tools for media creation?
We’re building this because we need it, and we’re building it the way that we’re building it so that it can become a part of the broader media production and distribution ecosystem we’re working towards. Our goal is to reshape media production and distribution in to something significantly more fair, diverse, and equitable (and, frankly, something more Community Oriented, and something much smaller.)
So, yeah, join in. Let’s make a more fair future.