The world, you’ve concluded, would be a much better place if it were listening to the songs and attending the performances of your favorite lesser-known indie band.
Whether you found this favorite musical act on a curated Spotify playlist or got hooked when serendipity put you near their stage at a music festival, you want to share these golden hooks and sweet vocals with the whole world. These are your jams. You are a fan.
But with the music industry upended in the last few decades by the rise of MP3s and streaming, the pandemic shutdown of touring and live music, and now a future that could include AI-generated tunes, many musicians are struggling to make a living. The pennies they earn from streaming services combined with live-gig ticket revenue, merchandise sales, and possible promotional deals may barely cover expenses.
That’s where the fandom comes in. Those who truly want the acts they love to succeed have lots of ways to show support and make sure that the music continues and those creating it get paid. Here’s how you can be a better fan.
How to Support Musicians in Person
The most obvious way to help musicians is by buying their music, buying tickets to attend their shows, and paying for official merchandise.
But there’s some nuance to spending those dollars. For instance, if you want to buy posters, T-shirts, and vinyl albums for a musician, the best place to do that is directly, at a live show, where the artists may be able to pocket as much as 100 percent of merch table sales.
That’s preferable to buying from, say, Amazon, or even the band’s own website, where shipping and other fees might apply, or printing and production costs may take a bite out of the bottom line (for them and for you). The cost of buying at a show might be higher, but it’s much more likely those dollars will go to the musician, not the retailers and shipping companies.
And if you buy a T-shirt or hoodie, obviously, wearing it in public can raise awareness of the musician; it’s free advertising for the artist.
Artists make much less money from music sales than they used to, but buying vinyl albums or CDs at a show still makes a difference. You can stream your favorite artist all you want (we’ll talk about that in a bit), but purchasing physical media is a good way to put money in their pocket.
Some bands might also have a donation or tip jar on their website or may offer crowdfunding campaigns for new albums or tours.
How to Support Artists Online
David Lowe, who performs as LUCKYKAT, has a great list of ways fans can help musicians, some of them for free. Among his suggestions are following artists on social media, tuning in to livestreams they may be doing on Twitch or other video services, signing up for their mailing lists, fan clubs, or newsletters, and sharing and commenting on their songs and posts. The latter few of those can help boost the artist’s exposure and encourage increasingly algorithmic social networks to show their content to other users.
Streaming an act’s songs on services like Spotify and Apple Music may generate only a fraction of a fraction of a penny, but those streams do add up. It may only be a few hundred dollars for an act with an active fan base, but that’s not nothing. So even if you own their vinyl album and play it religiously, keep those digital streams going, especially when you’re on the go. Write reviews or post positive comments in places where that’s an option, such as on YouTube or SoundCloud.