Because Getting Stuff is Sweet
This is a brief post on a subject that both interests and annoys me. In the age of the internet it’s relatively easy to come across small, new bands from all over the world making amazing music exactly suited to your taste. And with Youtube, Spotify, I-Tunes and the hundreds of other streaming services, it’s easier for them to get their music out there to you! Wonderful! It also means, however, going to see your favorite small bands live may not be possible. An ocean, continent, or boarder may stand in your way.
This is sad, because (per supporting small bands) gigs are one of the ways bands grow their fan base AND make a bit of money. Those streaming services don’t pay much, after all. So let’s talk about another way you can support amazing musicians: buy their stuff. Yep, those stickers, signed CDs and T-shirts you see on the band website are helpful to the band for a number of reasons! Beyond simply making them a small profit for their next album, that is.
Show them you’re interested enough to throw down real money.
Because streaming services don’t pay much per listen, buying merchandise directly is a good way to get the artists a larger portion of their sales, especially if they’re not on a label. Buying the digital album off their personal website gets them a much bigger slice of the pie as far as money for music goes. Buy it AND listen via streaming to double-up their being able to eat while making more sweet, sweet music.
With smaller bands, they’re often willing to sign physical media, sometimes with no or very little difference in price. Get in on that signed CD/art card/t-shirt before they’re too busy or charge massive sums! And some sites will let you drop in extra $$$ when you buy an item, a great thing to do for those small bands. That $5 extra may not mean much to you, but it will mean a lot to them. If every fan chipped in extra, well, that’s a lot of extra money for the next album coming in. Maybe they can even afford to change guitar strings on occasion.
Wear it in public so the word spreads.
If you really enjoy the music, get a shirt, sweater, or something else you can wear. Put a sticker on your car, phone or another visible item you lug around. A pin is great; its cheap and easily ported between your fabulous ensembles. For a small band, getting the word out about their music is still difficult (they might pop up on a suggestions page here and there, or get streamed once by a curious listener). After all, they’re also competing with the whole of the internet now, as well as radio and major labels. So having people acting as walking advertisements (in the best way) gets them some free publicity they really need, and you get street cred for that super-cool underground band you discovered for your friends.
Wear your merch proudly in public, and see if it sparks any conversations (and gains them some new fans). This can be great for shows within the general genre, where you already know everyone has at least one thing in common. Plus, you’ll look cool as hell. Who doesn’t want that? Even if the item only comes out now and then, the band will have gained at least a little direct funding from that item itself. It can take several thousand listens on streaming
By helping fund your artist, you prove there’s genuine interest not only in the music they’ve already released, but in future projects too. And genuine interest (and available funds) make it much more likely a band will continue to produce music.
Anyone can stream an album a few times and move on (or make a post on Facebook). Those are great and helpful, but they’re not exactly proof of a real fan-base that a group needs to support itself making music. Music isn’t cheap or easy to make, shows have plenty of associated costs, and there are still all the regular bills a person has to pay. Starving for your art may sound romantic but most people don’t want to live that way for long. Help them out while enjoying cool merch for yourself. It can also make a great gift for friends and family with similar tastes.
Why would anyone care about the livelihood of some random strangers you may never even meet? It’s a little on the philosophical end here for me; every person on the planet is, you know, a real person. With deep thoughts and feelings and desires just like me and you. Every person wants to live a relatively happy life. Add to the fact that music I enjoy really adds joy to my life, and I have two good reasons to invest in small bands I love: I want them to succeed and be happy, and I will directly benefit by gaining even more amazing music to make my own day better. The dollar amounts are small enough that there’s barely a loss here. It’s a no-brainer for me.
What about you? Do you support local musicians and small bands via purchases, or stream 100% of your music?