An independent musician’s perspective on what it means to love music and how we can support one another in its creation.
We’ve all struggled with emotional turmoil in our lives, whether it’s a tough breakup, the loss of a family member, or a stressful job that we just can’t seem to escape. Sometimes the weight of the world seems like an enigma that has tracked you down and cornered you in a dark room, forcing you to either fight or flight. Not all of us always have the courage to fight, and fleeing isn’t usually an option when you have responsibilities and people who depend on you. Instead of challenging new systems, we’ve used complacency as a shield and we take things for granted that we coveted when we were young. Things that we once had to work for are now given to us for free or cheap, and convenience has caused us to maybe become a bit, how do I say, ungrateful.
Streaming platforms like Spotify have effortlessly given us instant access to any song we desire for the low price of $9.99/month. At this point, we’ve almost all learned that the musicians supplying the music that make these platforms millions of dollars are only making approximately .004c per stream. This means that an artist needs to get one million streams to make $4000 – a number that most independent artists won’t reach.
While you may sympathize with these artists, I completely understand why at the same time it would be hard to give up something as convenient as Spotify. What if I told you that the digital world of free music has not only contributed to the increasingly challenging career path of a musician, but it is actually hurting YOU, The Listener, more than it’s helping you.
Ask anyone what their first album was, be it vinyl, cassette, or CD, and we ALL remember. Not only do we remember the title and artist, but we remember saving up our chore money for days if not weeks to buy it. We remember our friends who got the album first and listening to it at their house after school. When cassettes came around, we’d make a copy by recording it onto a blank cassette so that we could take it home.
Despite having the bootlegged version, we still eagerly awaited the day that we had enough money to hop on our bikes to go to the closest HMV or record store to buy our own copy. We’d study the cover art and the track listings on the back, memorizing every detail. We’d pour over the liner notes, learning every lyric to our favourite songs, and we’d lie on our beds for hours listening to the album in its entirety until our parents banged on our doors telling us to listen to something else.
As we grew older and moved into our teens, music was a common theme that brought us closer with our friends. I still remember when I got my drivers license and had a couple of CD’s in the car that played on repeat while my girlfriends and I drove around town looking for trouble.
When we experienced our first love, we’d make mixed tapes or CD’s with our favourite love songs that could express our emotions better than any words we could think of, none-the-less have the courage to actually say out loud, hoping that our lover would grasp how we felt about them. When we had our first, second, and third heartbreak, there was always that one song that truly spoke to exactly what we were going through. And even though we felt so alone at the time, that song helped us realize that we were not the only person in the world who has felt this way, and that maybe, we’d be able to get through it.
Perhaps we valued our music so much in our early years because it was easier to relate to as we were going through our hormonal upset. Maybe it’s because we simply had less “real-world” stressors at that time. But I also suspect that we place a higher value on things when we invest the time and energy into finding and acquiring it. With the introduction of digital music downloads and streaming, it’s become so easy to listen to anything we want that we’ve lost the hunter/gatherer instinct that brings the satisfaction that comes along with with the task. Instead, we’ve come to take for granted the music that we enjoy and we do so with little-to-no appreciation of how much blood, sweat and tears went into creating that music, not to mention the incredibly high cost. While this certainly has a negative impact on the artists that create the music, it also serves as a completely missed opportunity for you, The Listener.
By first seeking out the artists that both inspire and create music that speaks to you and then financially contributing to their craft, you become invested in musician’s career and can celebrate in their successes, knowing that you literally made an impact on their lives. If that artist goes on to win a Grammy, you can actually say, “I helped them make that album!” You have the power to bring more music into this world for new generations of music fans to fall in love to while listening to new genres of music – even if you don’t quite “get” that weird experimental, shoe-gaze, electronica music. Contributing to something bigger than all of us will cause a ripple effect that can span generations. It can help bring a different kind of meaning back into your life.
I’m an independent and emerging artist and I’ve thought about this for a long time. I believe I have a concept on how we can all support the musicians and music that we love with these 3 simple steps.
1) Find the music you love, and the musicians who make it and contact them
In a time when we are just a Facebook Page or an Instagram message away from our favourite artists, we have more access to one another than we ever had before. As an artist myself, I highly value the messages that I get from my fans, especially when it’s a story about their lives or obstacles that they’ve overcome. As a music lover, I encourage you to reach out to the artists you like and see if they respond and engage with you.
I believe this is incredibly important because an artist who cares about their fans is an artist who will always put them first and be continually driven to create music for the world to listen to. If an artist doesn’t respond, it tells me that they likely don’t value the concept of a two-way relationship and are therefore creating music for themselves and have visions of self-serving fame and glory. Basically, they’re “takers.”
However, let it be noted, that if you’re trying to reach out to a superstar, they may just literally have thousands upon thousands of messages in their inbox and unfortunately, your message may simply get buried. This is why it’s going to be much more rewarding to find an emerging artist who is at the beginning stages of building their fan base and career.
2) Decide what you’re able to give in return for the music they create and the relationship you’re participating in
Believe me, I get it. Life is pricey and there are times in my life when I’m very short on cash, and there are times when I am on top of my expenses. Only give what you can afford and when you can’t contribute financially, there are so many other ways you can contribute to the success of an artist.
- Follow them on their social accounts
- Engage in their posts
- Sign up and read their email newsletters
- Tell everyone how much you love them and recommend that your friends check them out – be an advocate!
- Share their posts, forward their emails, and listen to their music on those streaming platforms on repeat!
For those of us who do have a little extra pocket money, let’s think about how much we used to pay for an album… $20? $30? And how often did we use to buy ourselves new albums? Once a month? Every two months? Take the amount of how much you used to spend on an album, and multiply it by the frequency that you used to buy it.
Ex. $25 x 1 a month = $25 a month budget.
3) Contribute to their craft
Now you have a monthly budget, choose how you’d like to spend it. You can give it all to one musician, or you can spread it around from month to month. You can attend live shows, buy albums, subscribe to an Artist’s Patreon or Membership site if they have one, or simply make a donation to them or help them out when they ask for it.
Artists are notoriously bad at thinking of their music as a product that can be exchanged for money. I speak from experience when I say it feels “wrong” to ask people to pay me for the music that I make. So once you find an artist – or several artists – that you want to support, you may find there is no obvious way to actually financially support them. PLEASE help them by reaching out and telling them that you want to contribute to their career financially and do they have a virtual tip jar or some other alternative to help support them. They will be flustered and flabbergasted that someone actually cares enough to reach out to them and OFFER to contribute to their art.
As an independent and emerging artist myself, I can promise you that my personal mission is to bring authentic and raw music into your life that speaks from my soul to yours. The greatest gift I could ask for would be that my music would keep you company through times of grief or bliss and help give you the strength to pursue your passions and be confident being the beautiful person that I know you are.
Together we can bring value back to the music we listen to by allowing it to play a larger role in our lives. By contributing to the musicians who make it, they will be able to sustain a living while continuing to create the soundtrack to which we build our memories, our relationships, and our lives.
P.S. I am currently raising funds to record my next album. To donate or learn more about my fundraiser, please click this amazing, super button!