By Blake Correll
The most popular options for obtaining music are Apple Music or Spotify. These streaming services offer an endless buffet of all your favorite music you currently or could potentially love for a monthly fee. But, is streaming the best way to support an artist?
I personally use Spotify.
Let’s start with the benefits, As for supporting your favorite band streaming allows you to intimately get to know their work. Instead of having to hunt down Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘We Have the Facts…’ released 20 years ago, I can have it right now along with every album up the present.
I love that I can explore an artist’s full catalogue with streaming. New releases have new meaning in context with old records. DCFC’s Thanks You For Today, for example, changes meaning knowing that Chris Walla was on every major release up until 2018. The drama of listening to that record without him is titillating for me.
With Wikipedia and Spotify why would you ever need to get music another way?
It is no secret though that the artists who aren’t on popular music charts are getting the shaft majorly. Smaller artists are making money, but it is nowhere near the same as the direct sales of albums (Guard, 2016).
Why Buying Music Still Matters and What We Can Do About It: https://www.skylarkensemble.org/blog/why-buying-music-still-matters-and-what-we-can-do-about-it
In these pandemic days streaming does not pay the bills, and it did not pay the bills before either (Guard). Here I want to offer 4 simple ways to directly support to your favorite artists, all while keeping your favorite streaming service.
1. Buying The Album
If streaming is your preferred method of obtaining music then using it as a sample board for your music buying habits is an easy way to support artists. You don’t need to cancel your subscription or limit the amount of music you consume. You can become a more impactful fan if you have the means to buy the records you enjoy.
Think of Spotify as that little sample spoon from Baskin Robbins. You find the flavor you like, then you buy an ice cream cone. You don’t just try every flavor then walk out of the store.
Maybe you do, but I don’t want to be your friend.
Vinyl, CDs and tapes still exist and often offer audio quality that you cannot get from your streaming service. These physical forms also offer a greater profit margin for your favorite Artists (Guard).
Having a physical piece of music changes my music listening experience. Putting a record on a turntable and pressing play connects me to what I am hearing undoubtedly more than double clicking. There are records I’ve bought on impulse that I wouldn’t love as much if I heard them only online.
T-Shirts, Posters, Flags, Scarfs, Masks, etc… As the times and fashion changes, bands offer a great selection of merch. Some are better than others. A band’s merch that I love is Code Orange. Not only is their stuff super unique and relevant it is fully produced by the band.
Code Orange is a DIY Hardcore band of this new decade, whose members create the visuals for their live shows and music videos. The merch designs are produced with the same ethos. When you buy something from Code Orange you are getting a piece of the band that was made with the same grit as their music.
Its f*cking punk-rock.
And they are grammy-nominated to boot.
By the same token of buying a physical copy of the music, merch offers a margin that is far more beneficial to bands.
Stream an album, buy a shirt!
3. Attending the Livestream
If the times were different this section would be called Go to the Show and Get Wild, but unfortunately those aren’t the circumstances we live in.
The benefits of touring for a band are vast. The visibility for a new audience is important for the growth of a band. As bands become more successful the benefits of touring increase. Physical album sales, merch, and ticket sales are sources of revenue on the road. (Emily, 2018)
Why Touring Will Be Your Biggest Source of Revenue: https://medium.com/bandbasher/why-touring-will-be-your-biggest-source-of-revenue-2464fd47b655
This has been true for bands for almost a century. Now live flesh and blood entertainment is impossible. All the potential money from all the cancelled tours has disappeared. Through all the doom though, artists have persevered and self-produced concert experiences over the world wide web.
Live Streams or Live Sessions are the way that bands are giving fans the experience of hearing songs live. Something that used to be supplemental content has become a viable source of revenue.
Live Streams/Sessions I’ve enjoyed in 2020/21 include: Phoebe Bridgers, Touche Amore, Into it. Over it. Julien Baker, Bright Eyes, Code Orange, Foo Fighters, and more.
Artists are operating like small production companies to bring the concert to your living room. As somebody who likes to be in the pit – or at least shoulder to shoulder with other fans, this is not a fully satisfying substitute.
In the last couple months though there have been artists who are providing experiences that wouldn’t be possible on a touring scale. The most impressive of which is Jimmy Eat World’s Phoenix Sessions (Which at the time of this post are still upcoming)
Phoenix Sessions: https://www.jimmyeatworldlive.com/
The Jimmy crew are playing full records in a live session format. Usually a band will tour on an anniversary of a record and play it in full with subsequent hits peppered in. It’s wild that Jim Adkins and the boys are putting together 3 full record streams that are career spanning and can be experienced in the same lifetime.
To me this sheds a whole new light on the at-home concert experience. It doesn’t feel like enough just to see a band play their songs while I lounge on my couch, but if Jimmy Eat World is willing to put in the effort to relearn their catalogue and make it a full production, not once but thrice, I’m fully in.
What felt like an unsatisfying replacement for live music is settling into an exciting prospect for bands.
4. Be a Fan
The last thing I will offer as a proactive way to support bands is probably what you’re already doing.
You are a fan. I AM A FAN!
Let’s be there for them.
Follow their social pages, like/comment on posts. Engagement is an important social media metric and lets creators of all sorts know that what they are doing is working, or not working.
The pandemic has illuminated many inequities in our world. We’ve been tasked to analyze our values and commit to acting better, even at the level of supporting music. This is a difficult time for bands and fans. Together we can support each other around a common love of music.
I am by no means perfect on these fronts but in researching this post I know there is way more I can do. I hope you will join me in considering how to be a better fan. – Blake
(edited by Colin Niemer)