In March last year, Epic Games, maker of hit video game Fortnite and Unreal Engine acquired online music store and direct-to-fan platform Bandcamp.
In a statement published by Epic at the time, the company said that Bandcamp will play an “important role” in its “vision to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more”.
Since then, Epic Games has been fairly quiet about its plans for Bandcamp, but on Friday (February 17), its flagship game Fortnite revealed that the music platform is curating its ‘Radio Underground’ radio station until Wednesday, March 8, 2023 (for the rest of its Battle Royale Chapter 4 Season 1).
The curated station includes music from 11 acts, including New Zealand rock band The Beths, Californian noise pop band Starflyer 59, and pop punk band Gladie.
It also includes, amongst many others, ‘Post disco’ duo De Lux, producer Ronnie Martin, and New York disco, rock and soul act, POW WOW!
Although this curated station is just the first BandCamp and Fortnite tie-up post-acquisition, the integration is a bigger deal than you might think, and possibly a sign of things to come.
Activeplayer.io estimates that Fortnite had approximately 390 million registered users in Q1 of 2021 and that there were an average of 229 million average monthly players over the last 30 days.
Using the music of those independent acts to soundtrack gameplay for a highly engaged audience serves as a valuable promotional tool for those artists.
That’s because those artists’ music will be heard by potentially millions of Fortnite players, some of whom might then visit those artists’ Bandcamp pages, where they sell merch and music.
Plus, for Epic Games, as noted by The Verge, its acquisition of Bandcamp has given it ‘easy, ethical access to licensed music’.
The Verge reports, citing an Epic spokesperson, that all of the music featured in the curated station is also ‘suitable to be streamed on platforms like Twitch’.
Announcing its acquisition in March last year, Epic said that it and Bandcamp “share a mission of building the most artist-friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money”.
For Bandcamp, the latter part of that vision has materialized in initiatives like Bandcamp Fridays, which originally launched in early 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when lockdowns impacted the earnings of indie artists from tours and shows.
In response, the company waived its share of revenue and donated all sales to artists for 24 hours on March 20, 2022.
The Bandcamp community spent $4.3 million on music and merch on that day, around 15 times more than the amount they spend on a normal Friday. The proceeds were all directed to artists. Bandcamp continued the initiative in the following first Fridays of every month after that.
In the 21 Bandcamp Fridays that followed, more than $78 million was paid to artists and labels, “helping cover rents, mortgages, groceries, medications, and much more,” according to a statement from Bandcamp co-founder Ethan Diamond published on August 22. Nearly 800,000 fans have participated in the Bandcamp Fridays program.
The acquisition of Bandcamp by Epic Games, which is backed by Sony Corp and valued at about $32 billion, marked a deeper expansion into the music business for the company, after acquiring Harmonix, creator of the popular Rock Band and Dance Central franchises for an undisclosed sum in November 2021.
When Epic bought Harmonix, – hinted at ambitious plans in music, stating that it would collaborate closely with Harmonix “to develop musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite” and that Harmonix will continue to support existing titles including Rock Band 4.
The firm’s flagship game Fortnite has also served as a well-attended virtual performance and video premiere space for a number of major stars, while its Unreal Engine is used as the foundation for 3D music videos created by Sony Music‘s Immersive Music Studios.Music Business Worldwide