It’s probably safe to say that, if you clicked on this article, you like music. There are songs you know every word to, concert posters framed on your wall and maybe even a collection of vinyl records on your shelf. For many of us, music supported us through everything from bad breakups to memorable nights. And now more than ever, we need to support musicians back.
But these days, it can be hard to know if you’re doing enough to support musicians. Is streaming good enough, or should you also buy their records? Should you only buy physical copies of records, or is iTunes okay? In this blog, we highlight some of the best ways to support musicians, including a few options that don’t cost a dime.
Why You Should Support Musicians Directly
There’s no doubt about it—being a musician is difficult. Putting art into the world takes a lot of courage and devotion, not to mention all the hard work behind the scene. And, unfortunately, it isn’t always as lucrative as you might expect.
Being a musician is much more than a full-time job—it’s a way of life. When artists aren’t on stage or in the studio, they’re rehearsing or writing new material. Additionally, musicians spend countless months on tour, which takes a lot of time away from their families. Even now, as the live entertainment industry struggles, musicians still need support so they can continue doing what they love, and that’s where you come in.
When you support musicians directly, they reap more of the benefits of that support, faster. For example, buying music from iTunes is great, but it takes time for that money to reach musicians, and they may have to split funds with labels, agents and managers. But if you make that same purchase through their website or from their merch booth, they’ll get to keep a bigger percentage of the sales and can access that money right away.
The Best Ways to Support Musicians
As music lovers, it’s important to show appreciation for the talented musicians who put their heart and soul into writing, recording and performing. Here are some of the best, most impactful ways to support musicians that will help them live their dreams.
Attend Live Shows
As low-paying streaming platforms dominate and album sales fall, musicians are relying on live performances for a significant slice of income. Despite the uncertain landscape of the live entertainment industry in recent years during the pandemic, buying concert tickets is still a great way to support artists and the music industry as a whole.
Performing live to a sold-out crowd pays well and gives musicians exposure to new fans, whether they’re playing a local record shop or Madison Square Garden. Before you buy tickets, spread the love and invite your friends—the more the merrier.
Aside from attending shows, buying music is the best way to show appreciation for your favorite musicians. Whether you buy a digital single or a vinyl LP, purchasing music helps artists get attention from labels, land bigger tour slots and more.
When you fall in love with an album or single, consider buying it rather than streaming it. Though money from streaming does support artists (more on that later), the streaming rate per song can be as low as $0.003 per stream! At that rate, you’d need roughly 3,333 streams just to make $10—your cost of buying that album on iTunes. Buying albums guarantees your favorite artists bigger payouts than streaming on average.
Buying a vinyl record or CD is awesome if you’re a fan of physical media, but digital sales are also a great way to support musicians. Pay a visit to Bandcamp (where artists keep most of their revenue, minus a small fee), the iTunes Store (which keeps a larger portion of a band’s sales) or your favorite online shop.
Patreon is a special platform where creators give fans access to a variety of different content through a monthly membership. Essentially, it’s a subscription to your favorite creators, including podcasters, YouTubers and artists. By becoming a patron of your favorite musicians, you contribute directly to an income stream controlled by the artist rather than a company—and you usually get some sweet perks.
With a Patreon membership, you receive exclusive content and gain a deeper look into the creative process of your favorite artists. Depending on the membership options offered by the artist, patrons may be rewarded with exclusive access to the musician and other fans, rare merch, raw recordings and streams of private performances.
If you’re looking for a way to support and feel closer to your favorite artists, Patreon gives you a front-row seat on the edge of their world.
Selling music and concert tickets aren’t the only ways musicians earn a living. From posters to patches, selling merchandise is another major revenue source for musicians. Selling merch is a great way for artists to make money and promote themselves.
Merch offerings extend far beyond T-shirts and stickers. Today, artists are getting more creative with merch, slinging everything from tote bags and jigsaw puzzles to limited-release guitar pedals. If you want to get creative, you can transform your home into a shrine full of merch from your favorite artists!
Wearing or displaying merch serves as a conversation piece that will attract like-minded fans and help you make connections with people. Promoting a band with merch is as simple as throwing on a band T-shirt or slapping a sticker on your laptop. To stock up on merch, shop the artist’s website or visit the merch booth after a show.
Join the Street Team
If you’re looking for a fun, proactive way to support musicians, join a street team to build hype for an artist. Street teams are devoted groups of fans who promote an artist. These hip grassroots promotional teams were huge in the ‘90s, but they still exist—and if your favorite band doesn’t have one, you can start one from scratch.
Music artists rely on street teams to spread the word among music lovers. As a street team member, you’ll spend time visiting campuses, bars, venues, clubs and record stores to establish relationships and build awareness for the artist. On social media, you post news about the artist and direct followers to their channels. In return, artists reward street team members with swag, tickets or exclusive content.
Choose the Right Streaming Service
Along with selling physical and digital albums, earning royalties from streaming is another revenue stream musicians depend on, and you can help them boost their payout by using a streaming service that has a higher royalty rate.
With features like Spotify’s Discover Weekly, streaming gives musicians a way to reach new listeners, but some services pay artists more per stream. Although streaming platforms provide a seamless way to listen to music, their payout rates remain controversial in the industry.
Though streaming services don’t publish their exact payout figures, saying it varies, artists who use Tidal have reported payout rates as high as $0.012 per stream. This artist-focused platform is constantly improving its payout structure to benefit artists in the best way possible. For example, subscribing to Tidal HiFi Plus will distribute a monthly premium to your most-played artist.
Use Virtual Tip Jars
When you’re attending a show, dropping a few dollars in the hat is a well-established way to support musicians. Today, some musicians place virtual tip jars on their websites or social media pages to give fans a cashless way to contribute. While most musicians aren’t paying their mortgages with their virtual tip jar money, it’s supplemental, passive income that’s hugely appreciated by creators.
Keep an eye out for a QR code or Venmo handle the next time you grab tickets or tune in for a live stream. You can even ask artists directly if there’s an easy way to send them a little extra cash for a coffee or nice meal.
Take Music Lessons
Learning an instrument is even better when your heroes show you the ropes. Taking lessons from musicians is mutually beneficial because it supports their careers and gives you a chance to learn from the pros. If you’ve been dreaming of mastering an instrument, this is a great opportunity.
When touring season comes to a close, teaching is one of the ways musicians supplement their income. For a reasonable price, you can get valuable guidance on songwriting, production, performance or any musical skill you want to develop.
Best of all, you don’t need to live in the same city to get private music lessons. There are more ways than ever to connect and learn from musicians, including through Zoom and special masterclass programs that connect you with the most seasoned musicians on the scene. If your favorite musician isn’t advertising lessons, just reach out and ask nicely. You might get the opportunity of a lifetime!
Donate To Causes They Support
Everyone has causes that are meaningful to them, including your favorite musicians. Making donations to non-profit organizations that they care about or attending charity events they’re a part of in their honor is a great way to show them support by supporting the things that matter most to them.
Finding out what your favorite artists support just takes a little bit of research, but looking on their website and social media profiles is a good start. Even if they don’t actively support any causes, you can still donate to a charitable organization, like MusiCares, that aids performers and music industry professionals.
Follow and Subscribe
Staying in touch with the latest news, tour dates and upcoming projects is easier than ever—just follow and subscribe to receive your daily dose of updates.
For musicians, social media engagement is critical to building and maintaining a strong online presence, but managing a social account takes a lot of effort. Following their social media accounts and sharing content is a helpful way to spread the word, whether it's an album release or small gig. To maximize your impact, try to stay engaged with the artist by commenting and liking their posts.
If you really want to stay in the loop, sign up for their email list. Musicians use email lists to send information about tour dates, giveaways, special releases and more. As an email subscriber, you’ll get juicy news delivered to your inbox regularly—and you don’t have to worry about the algorithm cutting you out of the loop.
Share the Music
Sharing music is the purest way to support the musicians you admire. Whenever you share a Tidal track link with a buddy or host a vinyl listening party, you’re helping musicians thrive. Word of mouth is the most organic way for music to catch on, and you can make a difference by sharing it with like-minded fans.
Sharing music with major brands can help musicians land a sponsorship. Brands compensate musicians in exchange for building awareness around products or services. The specifics of these agreements vary depending on the sponsorship, but they can lend credibility, recognition and income for the artist.
Play it Loud
Supporting musicians helps keep the art of music alive. With a list of creative ways to show support, you can give back to the hardworking talent on stage, in the studio and behind the scenes. To get even closer to the music you love, grab some House of Marley Bluetooth speakers for an immersive listening experience.