Last month I sparked a lot of great conversations on my Facebook page when I shared this post I wrote about Spotify. Several of the bands I follow have been railing against it and other music streaming services lately – for good reason! They get paid next to nothing off things like Spotify, Pandora or Rdio. (Don’t believe me? Check out Quiet Company’s Facebook post from earlier this week where they shared how much they’ve made recently from Pandora.)
But as a music fan (and blogger) I find these sites, Spotify in particular, to be very useful tools. While I do pay my $9.99 to subscribe to Spotify every month, I don’t consider it my new personal music library but rather a great resource for sharing music, legally, with you here on the blog. It’s also a fairly universal place I can point a friend or reader to so they can listen to the bands I ramble on about – a great place to wet your whistle, if you will, for all the local music I share.
I say all this because this post is a follow-up to that ongoing conversation. Yeah, it’s all fine and well to discover new music through these services and even subscribe to them. But if you love a band – I mean really love a band – it’s not enough to obsess over that one heartbreakingly perfect lyric. You’ve got to get proactive and show the band that you love their music.
Sounds great! Let’s do it. But how? Here are my five very simple (and effective) ways you, as an ever-lovin’ music fan just like me, can help support the bands you love:
1. Buy their album
And do so as directly as possible. iTunes, Amazon and your big box store are great outlets for quick music purchases. But what you may not realize is if you go see the band and buy their new album directly from them…they’ll get to keep a little more money from the sale. More money off a sale means gas in the van, food in their stomachs and likely, another show in your hometown. Win-win!
What about that Icelandic punk band you love that is never coming to your tiny little town because no one here has heard of them? Buy their album online through their website. If a band is savvy, in my opinion, they’ll have a Bandcamp page. I’m not a huge fan of buying my music digitally – I’m materialistic and want liner notes in my hands – but when I do, I always check first for a Bandcamp account before resorting to iTunes or Amazon. By buying online as directly as possible, you’re ensuring a little more of your money goes directly to the band as well. (Not sure the best place to buy? Find them on social media and ask – I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to answer that question.)
My one caveat to this: consider buying the album from your local, independent record store. Not only are you supporting the band and potentially helping them get booked for an in-store; you’re also supporting local business which is always a plus.
2. See them live
At this point, it should be no secret to you that bands make most of their money from touring, not from selling records. So when that band you love comes to your city, by all means…GO SEE THEM! Buying a ticket to their show lets them know you like them (and, y’know, gets them paid for the night). It also lets the promoter and venue know, “Hey, people are into this band. We should probably invite them back in a few months.” And from there, it turns into a whole cycle. By showing up, you’re effectively saying to everyone involved, “I like this! Do it again so I can give you more money.” And if you show up regularly and bring a few friends with you each time you go, you’re also helping that band gain notoriety in your town so maybe the next time they’re invited back, they get bumped up to higher profile shows – maybe even a festival or two. (And trust me – it’s a lot of fun as a fan to watch your fave bands grow this way.)
3. Buy some merch
Aside from buying the band’s album in person or going to see them live, you can also support them by buying their merch. I have the usual collection of local band T-shirts, stickers, posters and albums – but sometimes the merch is just so random, I can’t help myself. My favorite $3 I spent the entire month of May this year was on a pair of nerd glasses from Scientist out of College Station.
Much like buying an album as directly as possible, the band makes a decent amount of money off their merch as well (relatively speaking). So if you’re over at their table eyeing that T-shirt or limited edition silk-screened poster and have the money to spare…buy it. Not only are you getting something cool for yourself, you’re also helping give that band a little extra cash to get to their next show or save up to record their next album.
4. Join a fan club/pledge project/etc.
I’ve been a member of many a fan club over the years, and I have always been glad I made that decision. Waaay back in the day, I used to get hand-packaged goodies from Phantom Planet’s fan club. The guys of Steel Train did an awesome “7-inch of the month” club where they sent us specially recorded songs of these gorgeous vinyl records. My boys in Quiet Company use a site called Patronism where you can choose to pay a certain amount per month, and that gains you access to exclusive content. (Music from Taylor’s old band, the “Quiet Company font” Matt created, blogs written by the guys…) My favorite, though, would have to be Hanson’s fan club – we get access to early tickets, meet & greets every tour (with the chance to interview them for the fan club site) and every May these guys put on not just a day, but a weekend-long event just for fan club members that includes a private, intimate show. That alone is worth my $40.
Pledge projects are another great way to support the bands you love. Whether they’re trying to pay for a tour or wanting to record a new record, it’s amazing how $10 from you and $20 from another person over and over can really add up to a staggering amount of cash. While I’m still not sure if bands can get away with repeatedly using this model (ie asking fans to crowdfund every album they record from here on out), it’s still very cool to see how it’s being used and know that you helped make someone’s dream happen. Plus, you get a few one-of-a-king incentives out of it. (I have a piece of paper with handwritten lyrics from Rachael Yamagata off a pledge project she ran in 2012. I still have to pinch myself to believe I actually own something like that.)
5. Tell all your friends!
(Sorry, couldn’t resist the TBS reference there.) Gosh darn it, if you love a band…don’t be afraid to tell the whole freakin’ world! Or at least your friends. Because think about it – whose opinion are you going to trust more than your best friend? Tell your friends or better yet – bring them to a show with you! At this point, I think everyone I know right down to my mother has gone to see Quiet Company with me. And it stands to reason, the more people you get interested in a band, the more likely they are to go to a show, buy the album, buy some merch and ultimately keep this beautiful musical cycle going.
But if I may be so bold, a simple tip to make this point more effective: don’t stop at just saying “Hey, this band is great! Check ’em out!” Give you friends a reason to listen or go to a show with you. Don’t just say a band is good – tell them why they’re good or even tell a specific friend why you think he/she would get into the music. I’ve had so many new friends in the past year recommend bands to me because they know I love The Beach Boys – and it 1. always charms me that they remember and 2. usually ends with me falling in love with that band because they’re right. Giving that incentive will help make a more lasting impression.
But enough from me…
What do you think is the best way to support a band?
Leave a comment, find me on Twitter or jump over to my Facebook page and let’s strike up a conversation not limited to 140 characters. I’m just one girl – I’d love to hear what you think about this topic.
See you at the merch table,