At the end of April, Bandcamp announced that it would waive its revenue share on the first Fridays in May, June, and July to help support the independent labels and artists who use the platform to sell their work. Bandcamp had already done this on March 20, just as COVID-19 cancellations began to disrupt the live-music ecosystem upon which so many artists rely; that day, Bandcamp sales totaled $4.3 million. When “Bandcamp day” returned on Friday, May 1, total sales increased to $7.1 million.
The third Bandcamp day is this Friday, June 5. But since the start of protests decrying the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, many musicians and labels who sell their music through Bandcamp have made pledges to donate this Friday’s Bandcamp earnings to Black and Brown community organizations—and Bandcamp’s own list of special releases includes dozens of examples.
Similar donations began even before the latest mass uprising against anti-Black policing and white supremacy. A couple weeks ago, for example, local hip-hop label and collective Why? Records released a pay-what-you-want Bandcamp compilation called Art Is Love Vol. 1 to benefit the Chicago Community Bond Fund.
Over the weekend, two Black female music executives, Jamila Thomas (a senior director of marketing for Atlantic) and Brianna Agyemang (a senior campaign manager for A&R company Platoon), launched a campaign called #TheShowMustBePaused to encourage “gatekeepers of the culture” to “disconnect from work and reconnect with the community.” The campaign included “Blackout Tuesday” on June 2, which asked industry professionals to refrain from self-promotion and take a stand.
Thomas and Agyemang wanted to start a conversation about how an industry built on exploiting Black labor and creativity could be held accountable for supporting and protecting Black people.
But those good intentions were quickly obscured as major labels and music-centric technology companies rolled out confusing and largely toothless messages of support in an attempt to rally around Blackout Tuesday. As the campaign spread beyond the music business, it became a hollow branding exercise on social media—even the San Francisco 49ers, who infamously cut quarterback Colin Kaepernick after he began protesting racial injustice in 2016, tweeted a black square.
On Monday, Bandcamp announced that it would donate 100 percent of its cut on Friday, June 19, to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The site promised to repeat the donation every subsequent Juneteenth, and pledged to spend an additional $30,000 annually to work with racial-justice organizations.
The work of fighting racial inequality will continue long after protesters leave the streets, and Bandcamp’s willingness to make an ongoing commitment to marginalized communities is one of many reasons I support the site. As I did last month, I’ve listed all recent Reader reviews of albums available on Bandcamp. I encourage you not only to find music that’s new to you but also to search out artists using their platforms to help community organizations—on Friday and on every day to come.
Big Silky, Big Silky Vol. 1
Black Dahlia Murder, Verminous
Cafe Racer, Shadow Talk
Damacy, Sun Spot EP
Danzig, Danzig Sings Elvis
Dark Fog, Escape Into This and Escape Into This 2
DJ Taye, Pyrot3k
Tashi Dorji & Tyler Damon, To Catch a Bird in a Net of Wind
Steve Earle & the Dukes, Ghosts of West Virginia
Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn, Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn
Kassel Jaeger & Jim O’Rourke, In Cobalt Aura Sleeps
Joshua Virtue, Jackie’s House
Gia Margaret, Mia Gargaret
Melenas, Dias Raros
Mother Nature, Portalz
Nation of Language, Introduction, Presence
No Age, Goons Be Gone
Okkultokrati, La Ilden Lyse
Options, Wind’s Gonna Blow
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Dave Rempis, Joe McPhee, Tomeka Reid, Paal Nilssen-Love, and Brandon Lopez, Of Things Beyond Thule Vol. 2
Retirement Party, Runaway Dog
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, The Mosaic of Transformation
The Soft Pink Truth, Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
Sonic Boom, All Things Being Equal
Sugar High, Love Addict
Pam Tillis, Looking for a Feeling
Umbra Vitae, Shadow of Life
Vandermark / Drake / Trovalusci / Ceccarelli, Open Border
Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin, They Call Me Disco
Xibalba, Años en Infierno
Zango the Third, Aunt Ida’s Asteroid Mixtape v