What's the most effective way to support independent artists without buying stuff? I asked a few!
|Dec 9|| 1|
Since I was a teenager, I’ve enjoyed being surrounded by my stuff. Books, records, DVDs—these are the things that comprise my earthly possessions, and it’s oddly comforting having them around. I like the idea of kicking my feet up on a coffee table littered with small piles of zines, LPs, and other things that I can point to and say, “That right there is my stuff.”
You could argue that my pride in my meticulously curated collection of stuff is a stand-in for having an actual personality, and sure, I will give you that. But it makes me happy and according to The Rule of Sheryl Crow, it, therefore, can’t be that bad. But lately I’ve been feeling bad about my stuff.
For starters, I’ve been traveling a lot this year and my record/book/movie collections are packed up in boxes that are sitting on the other side of the country. That’ll really put your relationship with your stuff into perspective. Seeing your beloved stuff reduced to dead weight makes you question how much you actually needed it in the first place. Then I start to think about everyone’s stuff and how much space it collectively takes up in the world and how many old P.O.D. CDs are sitting in landfills right now. Truly, our beloved stuff is fucking the planet.
So I’ve been weaning off of acquiring new stuff lately, which leads me to a conundrum: I still want to financially support the people making said stuff. What is the most effective way to do that nowadays?
The most passive way seems to be streaming music, but as last week’s #SpotifyWrapped showed, many indie artists are unhappy with the raw deal they’re getting in the streaming business. You may have seen your favorite artist tweet something to the effect of “thanks to our fans who streamed our songs five million times, we made a grand total of negative ten dollars haha cool.” Though I can’t vouch for the accuracy, I saw someone post this streaming royalty calculator which is pretty sobering. Type in your number of streams and it’ll tell you how much money you netted the artist. Apparently I’d have to stream PUP’s Morbid Stuff 1,250 times on Spotify to earn them five bucks. I went ahead and did that, but still.
Fortunately, I’m in a unique position where I have some semblance of credibility among a niche music-buying audience. A mere mention of an album by myself (very famous) in this prestigious newsletter or on my VERIFIED Twitter account has been known to sell upwards of two (2) copies. So I sleep at night knowing I can support artists by advising listeners on how to act with their money. But what is the best way to spend that money that will most directly benefit the artist?
I reached out to a few indie artists and posed the following question:
For a fan like me, who doesn't want to BUY STUFF but still wants to financially support artists, what is the best and most effective way to do that?
Here’s what I got back from people. I highlighted a few key sections in bold because I know you ain’t got all day to be reading emails. I also added their links so you can check them out and support them:
“If you don't want to buy physical things, the best thing you can do is find the next best venue to financially support a band that goes directly to them. Things like their Patreon or newsletter, buying tickets to their shows (in advance!), or paying to download their music on things like Bandcamp. Sometimes Bandcamp payments go to their label, but that's still incredibly helpful and a show of support. I obviously really appreciate how many people stream our records, because it means they're listening, but if everyone who streamed our records a few times paid $10 to download one from Bandcamp, or always bought tickets, my day to day life would look incredibly different. If they always did those things I probably wouldn't care so much about making tshirts or buttons or patches. That fact makes looking at good streaming numbers a bit depressing, even though it could hypothetically be a source of pride.”
—Lauren Denitzio, Worriers
“It’s all quite complicated, isn’t it? Even buying stuff (albums, shirts, sweatpants, etc.) might not be the best way to support artists; as a label, manager or any number of middlemen may be keeping the lion’s share of the money. Buying tickets to shows is a more direct way to support artists. More and more though two huge corporations, Livenation and AEG, are buying up venues across the country. They are also profiting off of those tickets. Look up the CEO of AEG, Philip Anschutz. He’s a pretty problematic dude. Also, some artists are not able to tour. That being said, don’t feel too guilty about using Spotify. It is ecological compared to the alternative and those pennies add up. If you’d like to go further, you can offer to just give artists money. People are pretty easy reach these days.”
—Ben Gallaty, AJJ
“I still think Bandcamp is great. There were a few messy months in my life where I didn’t have money to do a run of merch, I didn’t have money for rent even, but I was able to record some EPs in my bedroom and put them on bandcamp. People bought them (not many; but still) and I was able to keep afloat. Some labels may own your record on bandcamp tho, so it’s hard to know if that money is going to the band or not. I’m seeing more and more artists do monthly subscription services like Patreon etc. where you can subscribe and they provide a stream of content. That’s a road I’ve considered. A lot of us don’t want to have to make merch and records. Sometimes I look at the boxes of shirts we have to haul around the country in our van and get bummed pondering who I am, a writer/musician or a shirt company?
Last night in Philly we ended our set with the song ‘Money.’ I jokingly said, ‘This song is called ‘Money,’ we’ve got merch up there at the back or you can throw money up here at me if you want.’ And someone chucked a buck at me from the audience - might have been the most honest buck I’ve ever earned.”
“i’d say, if your goal is financial support with no exchange of goods necessary - find your favorite artists’ venmo, paypal, patreon etc and drop them a couple bucks! it feels a little weird to straight up ask for money direct, but i’ve seen a lot of artists posting their venmo handles or directing fans towards ways to engage with them online that sidesteps the streaming machine (like patreon or indiegogo). never hurts to have cash on hand to put gas in the van, get a meal, pay your internet bill etc. other than that: going to shows, spreading the word about bands with ppl who do want to buy records or shirts, sending a nice message, or researching ways to figure out how to topple this precedent that streaming has set in place are all helpful!!”
—Sarah Tudzin, Illuminati Hotties
“I feel like the best way to financially support an artist without taking something physical would be to donate directly if the option were available. You’d have to stream an album hundreds of thousands of times daily for the artist to see a dime and I don’t think anyone truly has the patience to do that. I can’t speak for everyone there. I’m sure some people do. There are other great ways to support artists that don’t cost money such as sharing posts, spreading the word about tours, shows, etc. Those things are also incredibly important.”
—Matt King, Portrayal of Guilt
“My first thought is to buy the album digitally (Bandcamp). I’m personally all about the elimination of physical music. No need to keep fuckin up the environment with more garbage. People, including me, love having all the music they like at their fingertips, so like. It would be cool if everyone paid the artists for that.”
—Jess Abbott, Tancred
“Buying digital albums is helpful (Bandcamp or through the record label). It all adds up, even the streaming stuff. It’s not a perfect system obviously but I don’t want to discourage people from using those things. Being a vocal supporter of an artist and going to their shows, I’d say those are the two most valuable things. That’s not necessarily always a concrete surefire financial return for me but it all adds up to a higher position of opportunity for an artist.”
“Direct exchange of digital or analog cash for digital music is the righteous path. I think individual labels, Bandcamp, and Patreon offer the best forms of this at the moment, but the internet changes so quickly and without notice that it's better to have guiding principles than relying on a brand name. Going to shows is also crucial. Take chance on local artists. Experiences aren't stuff and can't be replicated in the digital realm.”
—Rodrigo Palma, Saves The Day
So there you have it. Paying to download albums seems to be the most popular solution. Plus, then you are free of the whims of big streaming services. (Spotify changed the way they organize music libraries a while back and I lost track of the thousands of albums I had saved haha whoopsie!)
If any other artists want to chime in on how they’d like to be supported, feel free to share this post online and be sure to encourage your many fans to subscribe to REPLY ALT, music’s only email newsletter. The best way to support me is to opt for a paid subscription. (I just mailed my paying subscribers postcards of original photos I took this year, so there are benefits sometimes!)
Ice T Is For The Goths
Also. I asked Ice T a fairly straightforward question on Twitter last week and his response went extremely viral for some reason:
If this is my sole contribution to the internet, I’m cool with it! This interaction reminded me that I interviewed Ice five years ago and didn’t end up using the majority of it. So I dug it up and would like to present to you a few choice selections:
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Ice T: Nah. I’m a manist, I’m on the man team.
And this is what he said after I told him that I was traveling with Off With Their Heads and we were all obsessed with his iconic “Talk Shit, Get Shot” video:
In rock, that’s how this whole thing moves. When we came out, we became friends with Rollins, Jello Biafra, we were getting calls from Slayer and all these people we admire. So now I know that Off With Their Heads is part of the clique. The fans kind of don’t know. They wait for a band to say something is cool. You’d be surprised how much the creation of these festivals and seeing different bands connecting helps sell records. They don’t know Ice-T’s cool with Cannibal Corpse.
And then this quote, of which I truly lost the point of what we were conversing about it or why he said it but out of context it’s just a great sentence:
I can say how much I hate racism, and in order to express how much I hate racism, I’m going to kill my mother.
Tonight I’m Someone Else
One last thing. I really wanted to buy a Contax camera a couple years ago. Then Kendall Jenner started using one and the rise in popularity sent the price of them through the roof. Fuck! Celebrities ruin everything cool! Kendall Jenner ruined Contax cameras. Aziz Ansari ruined Metallica shirts. OJ Simpson ruined double homicides. Ugh, celebs amirite?
But! Celeb power actually did some good this week. The aforementioned Jenner woman was recently spotted in a bikini, reading a marked up copy of my friend Chelsea Hodson’s book Tonight I’m Someone Else. It’s an essay collection and—I’m no Kardashian or nothin’ like that—but I’d also highly recommend it. One of my favorite things I read this year. Buy one before all the rabid Kardashian fans grab ‘em all.
Aaaaand finally, to bring this all back to where it started, I went to the aforementioned Single Mothers/Dirty Nil show in Philly that Drew Thomson was talking about above. Here’s a photo I took of Luke from the Nil shredding, which I’m sharing because wow what a fantastic photo great job Dan can I hire you to take photos for money but also because it made me realize that the reason I like watching this band so much is because Luke looks like Marty McFly covering “Johnny B. Goode” at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Blues riff in B, watch Luke for the changes, and try to keep up, ok?