Friday, June 22, 2012

A Few Ideas for How to Support Musical Artists


This cute fella has a better chance of survival than your local record store...

With all of the discussion about artists being deprived of income, the obvious question is, "OK, so HOW can I get music in a fashion that will maximally benefit the artists I care about?" Glad you asked. Here follow a few ideas:

Buy directly from the artist. They almost certainly have a website. Use The Google to navigate through the Web of Intertubes and check them out. If they have a means of purchase through their website, that will almost certainly benefit them the most directly. If not, they will probably tell you where to go. If they are on Bandcamp, buy through there. Anyone selling on Bandcamp will get a higher percentage of your purchase price than anywhere else. Bandcamp is the most positive development in the music world to come along in a long time. Explore it. You'll discover an ocean of great stuff.

Buy from an artist-friendly distributor. There are many, depending on what kind of stuff you're into. Tons of indie artists of all genres are at CD Baby. They are good people; order from them with confidence. Like European prog or obscure rock? Check out Artist Shop. Or Burning Shed. More into the avant garde? Try Forced Exposure. Share your own favorites in the comments section.

Support an independent record store. These are becoming extinct so, you might not even be able to find one locally. But hey, you care about pandas and hedgehogs and baby harp seals, right? Well, independent record stores are even more endangered. I personally owe an incalculable debt to The Bop Shop, which IS still in business. I live a long way from there now, but I try to call in a couple orders a year. Their owner, Tom Kohn, is a great guy who has done more for music in his town than nearly anyone else. If you're in Rochester NY, you should stop by. [Update] I just got back from a trip to Boston and lo and behold while walking down Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge, I strode by Weirdo Records. I was compelled to enter and upon doing so found the most wonderful trove of electronic and avant garde wonderment. A joyous discovery, and I know I shall return there one day... (In the meantime, they will have a steady stream of web orders coming from from my direction.)

Support their [your artists'] Kickstarter campaign. Lots of projects are being funded this way nowadays, and we may jump in on this bandwagon as well at some point. I contributed to a documentary for Pinball Films a while back, got some spiffy swag, a dvd of the doc and the deep satisfaction of helping make a worthy project happen. Think of yourself as a "co-executive producer."

Buy from iTunes. iTunes isn't perfect, but they're ubiquitous and a substantial percentage of your purchase WILL make its way to the artist. We make more from a download from iTunes than a physical sale on Amazon. Your favorite artists probably will too. [Update: this will depend a bit on whther or not they have their own label. If so, you iTunes dollars go a lot farther towards the artist.]

Things that should be great but aren't:

Spotify. Spotify is a fantastic streaming service that originated in Europe. Their library is vast and the interface works very well. Initially I thought they'd be an awesome force for good. But they pay independents a laughable pittance. Our Spotify revenue after almost two years? Eight cents. Even if you subscribe to Spotify (as opposed to using its free version), the artists you love are getting squat.

Amazon. I have a serious love-hate relationship with Amazon and use them for some purchases. My big complaint is they've become a Leviathan that has destroyed about as many independent businesses as Walmart. If I can get it somewhere else, I do...

And then...

This kind of consumer activity creates a healthier symbiotic situation, sort of like lichens... All of the above has focused on the "helping the artist" perspective, but you the listener benefit as well. How? Well, for starters, this will set you on a much more individual path in your musical consumption. You'll become a more discerning listener. You'll be more sensitive to the ups and downs of an artist's career. You'll feel a lot more connected to the artists you care about. And in a couple of years, your music library will be a whole lot more funky and personal than it is when you just vacuum up (or download) the same stuff as everyone else. Sure, you can download the complete catalog of anyone from Pirate Bay in minutes, but that doesn't help you or them. Like I said in my previous post, "If you truly respect their work, the highest compliment that you can pay them is to spend your own money on their efforts."

1 comment:

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