BONUS TRACKS: Bandcamp Goes Epic, The Nudie Suit’s Ukrainian Roots, and More
Background photo by Jyliana via Canva
Music is our favorite art form around here, but for good or for ill, it’s also a business, and when music news is also business news, it’s hard not to feel a little worried that the “art” part might get lost. Bandcamp announced this week that it has been purchased by Epic Games, makers of Fortnite, Gears of War, and other major video games. The aim of the acquisition, according to Bandcamp co-founder and CEO Ethan Diamond, is to help Bandcamp expand internationally and add new technological features. And of course the aim of any business is to make as much money as possible. Epic knows that game — last year it was valued at nearly $30 billion. Will Bandcamp continue to prioritize artists in this new arrangement? There are promises to that effect (including the continuation of Bandcamp Fridays, at least through May, as promised), and Diamond will stay at the helm as Bandcamp becomes “a standalone marketplace” under Epic. So for now we’ll wait and see, and hope that this port in the storm for working musicians remains a safe and profitable place for them. Read this analysis in the Los Angeles Times for more about what the sale means for independent music. And don’t forget that today is Bandcamp Friday — you know what to do!
As we all watch in horror and worry as Russia invades Ukraine, Saving Country Music offers a reminder of possibly the most notable Ukrainian in country music, or at least in what it looks like: suitmaker Nudie Cohn. At age 11, Nuta Kotlyarenko, as he was known then, and his brother were sent to America to escape Russian empire pograms against Jews. As an adult, and after many colorful detours, he found his way to the clothing business, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Saving Country Music article outlines that history as well as pointing out that many of Cohn’s designs on his iconic suits carry echoes of traditional Ukrainian garments.
Every festival has its distinct vibe, but a new event in Texas offers something really special: a singular spotlight on Black performers in roots music. The first in-person Fort Worth African American Roots Festival (the inaugural version took place last year online) is slated for March 19 and will showcase Black performers of old-time, blues, jazz, and more. The festival —FWAAMFest for short — is produced by Decolonizing the Music Room, a nonprofit organization founded by Brandi Waller-Pace in 2019 that emphasizes the participation of people of color in music education. Headliners at this year’s FWAAMFest include Jake Blount, Kaia Kater, and Carolina Chocolate Drops alum Justin Robinson. Snag tickets and more information here.
Marcus King put on an elaborate show in Raleigh, North Carolina, this week — for an audience of one. Specifically, his girlfriend, for whom he planned a surprise proposal on the stage of Red Hat Amphitheater, where the couple met when he opened for Nathaniel Rateliff there last year. Under the pretense of an interview, King returned to the venue with his girlfriend, and local roots music radio station That Station 95.7 FM and a film crew were there to capture the happy moment. You can watch the video and hear the whole story here. Congratulations to the happy couple!
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Bonnie Raitt – “Made Up Mind,” from her new album, Just Like That …, coming in April
Morgan Toney – “Ko’jua,” from his debut album, First Flight, coming March 25
The Honey Dewdrops – “Holy Hymn,” from their new album, Light Behind Light, coming in April
Maggie Rose – “Two Arms to Hold On To”
Melanie – “Yankee Man”
Brontë Fall – Winter [EP]
Khruangbin and Leon Bridges – Texas Moon [EP]
Los Bitchos – Let the Festivities Begin!
Etran de L’aïr – Agadez
Charley Crockett – “I Feel for You,” from his new album, Lil’ G.L. Presents: Jukebox Charley, coming in April