I’m going to do a mental dump of some thoughts on the disenchanting downfall of Bandcamp as it once was, some free open source replacements, and what it would take for me to switch.
Bandcamp was bought by Epic in 2022, around March. This has made a lot of people angry and was widely regarded as a bad mood. I’ve seen some theories that Epic was trying to do something with AI and the bandcamp catalogue, but when they realized they couldn’t a mere 18 months later, they offloaded it.
Epic should be mocked and treated poorly for their similar treatment of the Bandcamp United union, as well as just the failed acquisition. They decided to sell Bandcamp in 2023 to SongTradr, which promptly fired 50% of the staff (mostly the folks trying to unionize). This sucks.
What happens when things get enshittified? You seek out the alternatives. What if one doesn’t exist? You build it. That’s what Simon Repp and a dozen or more contributors did with Faircamp. It allows the technically savvy music creators to create a static website based on a specific folder structure and manifest file. It fills the gap that Bandcamp’s impending doom created.
Faircamp isn’t without it’s share of problems. Namely, you need to be pretty comfortable with getting hands on in the production of your server. This isn’t a tool you can deploy with a few clicks. It takes work, unlike Bandcamp, which guided you every step of the way.
I think a lot of this could be solved by a UI which creates the manifest file for you, as well as the folder structure you need which you can then deploy via the faircamp command line tool. But that is still a few steps too far for users, and they should not be excluded. What about a UI which can take your remote host credentials and do everything for you – folder structure, manifest, remote setup of your server?
There have been some Faircamp hosts springing up, but that doesn’t seem scalable to me. Bandcamp provided the ability for me to point my domain to my artist page which so far I haven’t seen anywhere else. Payments are not handled by Faircamp, instead going through third party services (which is fine, but a crappier step for the user) – so that’s not a concern.
Shareholders ruined another great service. I know Bandcamp isn’t technically dead, but I am having moral qualms supporting a service that fired half of it’s attempting-to-unionize staff. I don’t do a ton of sales at the moment so it’s not a huge concern, but I will be working to exit Bandcamp in the near term. I am hoping Faircamp, with the additional attention and urgency from artists, will mature to be a bit more user friendly.