(Cover Photo by Tim Mossholder)
I want to make a new rule.
If you get chills from a new song you found on Spotify, you have to go find that artist and buy something from them. If you listen to an album and you feel nourished and inspired, you have to go find that artist and download their full album. If you’ve listened to a song more than once because you enjoy it, you have to share their website to your social media platforms. If you hear a band that makes you want to keep making music, you have to let them know that you appreciate what they do.
An article by BBC News just came out this week with the headline ‘Right Now, Top Songwriters Are Driving Ubers’ (Link). We’re talking songwriters for bands like One Direction, The B52’s and Songs in the Top Ten Charts. Imagine that. You finally ‘make it’ as a songwriter and you compose a piece of music that people listen to thousands or millions of times per day and you get a royalty check for $100. There are stories of artists getting hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify and seeing checks for $3. Spotify pays its artists an average of $.003 per stream, which, until you start getting millions of streams, is nothing. PLUS: believe it or not but Spotify is still not really profiting the way it should with a revenue of about $9 Billion in 2020. In fact, next year it will be looking to the Podcast industry to make its money starting with an acquisition of Joe Rogan’s podcast this year. (We wrote an article on how Spotify Profits. Read it HERE).
Obviously something needs to change here, but complaining about it isn’t going to do much for the time being. Until artists start getting paid for their streams on Spotify and other services, it’s our duty as listeners to find other ways to directly support the bands we love and listen to on a regular basis.
HERE ARE 6 WAYS we can directly support a band we love.
(Artists, take notes and make sure your fans have access to these platforms.)
#1 Download on BandCamp
BandCamp, to me, is like the one cool teacher you have in High School. Everyone else is making you do loads of homework and grading you strictly and making you wash the desks after school, and then there’s BandCamp, the dude that’s like 30 years old and skateboards to school. He’s a great teacher, doesn’t get the credit he deserves, cares about his students and allows fans to pay what they want for your album.
Er… yeah. Close enough.
BandCamp is a free service (they take a tiny fee from the sales of your album) that allows artists to upload their music for fans to stream, download, and purchase. They believe in a ‘fair trade music policy’ (it makes me tear up a little bit just to hear that phrase) and their mission is to let listeners discover new bands while supporting the artists directly. So, if you find an album you LOVE on Spotify or YouTube, consider searching to see if that band has a BandCamp account where you can download the album in FULL LOSSLESS QUALITY BY THE WAY and pay the artists for your entertainment (what a crazy concept)
#2 Pledge on Patreon
Patreon was started by multi-instrumentalist Jack Conte as a way to directly support creatives. If you browse the people who are creating content on Patreon, you’ll find a healthy mix of artists, writers, musicians, craft smiths, photographers, and more. It’s a very cool community. Patreon allows fans to pledge an either monthly or per project amount depending on how the creator has set up their page. Jack Conte’s band is on Patreon and they bring in a whopping $14,000 every month contributed by a total 2,900 fans. They release a new cover song EVERY WEEK. Now if you’re an artist, don’t be intimidated by the commitment to make something every week. Your fans will support you if they love your music and that’s that. You can post behind the scenes content, lessons, song covers, unreleased music, playlists, and anything else you can think of. Patreon does take an amount of 5% from the artist earnings (and there’s tax involved) but it’s such a great platform for creators to earn a decent living that I think the fee is totally acceptable.
#3 Find Their Website
This one is simple enough. If you really dig a new artist, find their website. Artists, if you don’t have a website, you really should get one set up. This allows fans to download your music, buy merchandise, get tickets to shows, and sign up to an email list. Artists can tell their story on their website and include links to the above services. Fans, if you really really dig an artist, don’t share their Spotify link, share their website link so your friends can learn more about the artist and support them directly.
#4 Subscribe On YouTube
Once a Channel owner has 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours watched over the previous 12 months, the channel owner can apply for monetization on their videos. Ads will play on the videos and the channel owner will earn revenue on the videos depending on watch time. (Another little trick, if you’re watching the channel of your favorite artist, don’t skip the ads and watch the whole video. Like the video and comment. All these things help with the Adsense algorithm and ultimately will earn the artist more revenue.) Another great thing about YouTube is the artist can post links to other platforms in their description, and keep you up to date with news and upcoming releases. Add ‘Subscribe to Channel’ to your list of things to do when you discover a new artist. It will help them out a lot.
#5 Promote Their Music
If you find a new artist, don’t keep them to yourself. Promote them on social media and tell your audience what you love about their music. I see posts all the time of people linking an album on Spotify with absolutely zero context. It’s good to share music like that, but it would be even better to supply a link to their Website or YouTube or Patreon or BandCamp page and talk a little bit about why you dig the artist so much, and why you want people to support them. Even something like ‘I just downloaded this full album because I love it so much. If you dig (whatever specific style of music) then you should definitely check this band out.” When an artist uploads something to Spotify, they’re banking on their music being shared and heard by a lot of people, and support coming from avenues other than Spotify. If we can take the middle-man out we can provide artists with direct support just by posting on our Facebook or Instagram.
#6 Tip on Venmo or PayPal
Why the hell not? It’s basically like tipping a bucket drummer who’s busking on the mall. If a band has a Venmo or a PayPal that you can find, throw them some dough! Obviously make sure it’s the right account and be sure to choose the friends and family option on PayPal so they don’t have to pay a fee. Any other way you can find to directly contribute to a band will be warmly welcomed. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this for some reason, buy a T-Shirt from the band’s website store instead. It’ll basically be the same thing but you’ll get something in return for it as well.
Music is Worth Something
Artists, if you feel self-conscious about asking for tips or support ask yourself ‘why?’ and keep in mind that your music is worth something. Think about the bands you listened to growing up who shaped your musicality, your career, and ultimately changed your life. If those bands hadn’t been supported financially maybe they never would have made the music we listen to. Imagine if Elton John never wrote Rocket Man. What if there was no Bohemian Rhapsody or Stairway To Heaven?
If artists can’t survive making music, they are going to have to do something else to stay afloat and that ultimately means less music in the world. It’s so important that we, as listeners, dedicate ourselves to improving the livelihood of our favorite artists for the well-being of society and the future of music. Next time you listen to an album and you’re disappointed because the production is bad, or the recording is less than great, or they used MIDI strings instead of real strings, consider why they were forced to make those choices. Send them some money, buy a T-shirt, download the album instead of mooching off of Spotify. Let an artist know that you value them and their music. They will appreciate it more than you could ever know.