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Epic Warns Judge That Google Is Threatening to Delete Bandcamp

A forced switch from its own billing system to Google's would delay payouts and "undermine Bandcamp's ability to serve fans and artists," the company says.

Epic Games is asking a federal judge to block Google from pulling Bandcamp from the Android app store, warning that the tech giant is threatening to do so unless the music platform adopts a new payment system that would cause weeks-long delays in payouts to artists.

Epic, which bought Bandcamp in March, says the music service has long used its own billing system to process payments from users to artists, but in a motion filed Thursday in California federal court, it said Google is now demanding that the company switch to using Google’s system – or be booted from the app store in June.

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In its filing, Epic asked for a so-called preliminary injunction blocking Google’s demands. It said switching to Google’s system will both cost more money and, more importantly, “would undermine Bandcamp’s ability to serve fans and artists.”

Using Google’s billing system could “require Bandcamp to switch from paying out artists within 24 to 48 hours of a sale (an essential feature of Bandcamp’s offering) to paying out artists 15 to 45 days after a sale – a significant blow to the artists who rely on Bandcamp to make a living and continue making music,” Epic wrote.

Google’s payment system is “not equipped to accommodate” the complexity of Bandcamp’s business, the company wrote, saying that artists and labels “add and edit thousands of digital and physical items each day” and currently “have full control over pricing.”

“If Epic were forced to turn off digital sales in the app in lieu of integrating GPB, fans and artists would become less engaged with Bandcamp, and Epic would lose mobile users and artists at a time when building momentum is essential for Epic to grow the Bandcamp app into a global platform that connects musicians and creators,” Epic said.

In a statement to Billboard on Friday, Google sharply refuted Epic’s allegations. The company noted that Bandcamp was eligible for a payment service fee of 10%, which it said was “far less than the fees they charge on their own platforms.”

“This is yet another meritless claim by Epic, which is now using its newly acquired app Bandcamp to continue its effort to avoid paying for the value that Google Play provides,” Google wrote in the statement.

The filing came amid a broader lawsuit against Google, filed by Epic and a number of other app developers, that accuses the tech giant of violating federal antitrust laws by abusing its dominant position over the app marketplace.

The lawsuits claims Google has exploited that market power to force apps to use its own payment systems, taking a roughly 30 percent cut in the process. Google has denied those allegations, saying Google Play is far less restrictive than Apple’s App Store and that it passes along “minimal cost to developers in the vast majority of cases.” The case is set for trial in April 2023.

In Thursday’s filings, Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond argued at length how the company – and artists – would be impacted by the changes Google wants to impose. He said the fees charged by Google would destroy the “artists-first” business model that sets the platform apart, in which he claimed more than 80 percent of revenue is passed along to indie labels and small bands.

“Google’s policy change does not work for our community or our business,” Diamond wrote. “Even at a revenue share rate of 10%, we would have to either pass those fees on to consumers (making Android a less attractive platform for music fans), pass those fees on to artists, or run our Android business at a long-term loss.”

He cited real-world examples, like a band that released an album on Bandcamp and within two days had generated “more than it made from services like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube over the last six years.”

“For some independent artists, Bandcamp is the only platform available on which they are able to make money off of their music at all,” Diamond wrote.

Epic is also currently fighting a similar case with Apple, resulting in a high-profile split ruling last year. In that decision, a federal judge said Apple was entitled to force apps to use its payment system, but that apps could also direct users to outside payment options. The ruling is currently on appeal.

Read the full legal filing from Bandcamp’s CEO here: