These are potentially dismal times. With schools, churches, retail stores, bars, restaurants and offices closing their doors by the hundreds, and the rest of us stuck inside, separated from the outside world, all in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it can all feel a bit hopeless—not to mention lonely. Industries across the board are being affected by outbreak, but the independent music sector may feel the ripples in an especially painful way. Concerts, tours and festivals across the world have been canceled or postponed, and, for many independent artists, tour revenue is a crucial if not primary source of income. This means that now is a perfect time to support those artists in some other way, if you’re able. We’re all (hopefully) at home right now practicing social distancing, probably on or near the couch, our entertainment systems eager to supply some comfort. So why don’t you throw on an LP if you have a record player, stream a favorite new release on Bandcamp or just subscribe to your favorite musician’s YouTube page and float away with a tide of their posted videos? You may not be heading out to a concert these next few weeks, but there are still avenues for enjoying and supporting the music that matters to you. Here are a few ways you can help your favorite artists from home.
This one may seem obvious, but every dollar really does count. Visit your favorite artist’s website and purchase their latest album in the form of a physical LP, EP or CD directly from their merchandise store, and/or buy it digitally on Bandcamp. Fun fact: you can also send an album on Bandcamp as a gift! Plus, Bandcamp sells giftcards. So you have the option of supporting a release you love, and/or making someone’s day during these dark and wild times.
Snowballing off tip number one, you can tip an artist you love on Bandcamp while receiving their record, and you can even leave them a message in doing so. So you can impart a practical note like “Here’s $5 because I love your music. Now go wash your hands!” or something more personal. Bandcamp recently announced that, on Friday, March 20, they’re waiving their revenue share, and 100% of purchases made on the platform will go to the artist. You can also sign up and tip any registered artists (or Paste Studio and Daytrotter alumnae) on Paste’s sister site NoiseTrade, and 100% of what you give will go straight to the artists’ pockets, as well.
Many independent artists use the membership platform Patreon as a way to supplement their often unsteady incomes. For as little as a buck a month (in some cases), you can make a big difference in the life of a touring artist who’s just trying to get from city to city with clean laundry and enough cash for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In many instances, you also get access to bonus content (like demos, bonus tracks, etc.) with a subscription. Following a tour cancellation, the indie artist TORRES (aka Mackenzie Scott) pushed her Patreon page to Twitter in an attempt to raise funds to get her band home from Europe. Now, more than ever, a Patreon subscription (or a Venmo or PayPal donation, if available) could mean all the difference for an artist dealing with the repercussions of a terminated tour.
Also an extension of tip number one, buying merchandise of any kind is a simple and helpful way to support an artist you love. Buy a t-shirt (or keychain, coffee mug, socks, visor—whatever they’re selling!) and you get to help your favorite musician, sport some chic apparel and give them some free marketing in the process (once we’re all done social distancing, that is!). This could be an especially good idea if an artist you love was doubly affected by the recent tornados in Nashville. Many country artists and Nashville businesses are still reeling from the natural disaster, so I imagine they’d be mighty appreciative if you took the time to purchase a t-shirt or even a sticker or pin (The Highwomen even have an “Always Gets Better With Wine” wine glass! Get creative with your purchases).
Sometimes tapping into your favorite artists’ feeds directly can be a concise way to find out what their specific needs are. For some artists (like Tomberlin, whose tweet is embedded below), buying merchandise immediately might be most helpful, as the expected dollars from a scheduled tour won’t be coming in now. But other artists may share Venmo or PayPal pages, so if you were planning to see someone on the road this spring, it might be a good idea to check their Instagram or Twitter and find out the best way to help.
Some festivals and tours are being rescheduled rather than cancelled entirely. If you had tickets for an upcoming event, check festival and venue websites, as well as artists’ touring pages and/or social media, to find out if/when the show is getting a fresh date and time. Here’s our list of recently canceled events and festivals.
If you were refunded immediately for a ticket to a canceled event, consider using that money to buy a t-shirt or LP (I’m not hopping off the merchandise train!) from the artist you were planning to see, or donate the money to ongoing efforts to help those affected by the coronavirus: You can contribute to the World Health Organization’s mass solidarity fund, or, perhaps better yet, to a local cause like a food bank. Many children who rely on their schools for daily meals may be in a dire spot now.
Local businesses are also taking a hit right now. Last week, the annual nationwide Record Store Day event announced its postponement (The event, which was scheduled for April 18, will now tentatively take place June 20), which will likely have an effect on local record stores’ projected revenue in the coming months. But in addition to the RSD blow, record stores are—like nearly every strand of small businesses and non-essential retail stores across the country—being forced to close their doors, limit capacities or are just experiencing a significant drop in foot traffic. Lisa Foster, a record store owner in Kentucky, told Pitchfork that sales on March 12 were “down 90 percent” from an average Thursday. So consider ordering or pre-ordering an album from one of the 1400 independently-owned record stores in the U.S. (preferably the one in your community).
The publicity firm Terrorbird Media cut out the middle man and made a playlist of 100 of their artists who were affected by coronavirus in some way. If you were planning to attend a now-canceled festival or other music event, make a playlist of the artists on the lineup and bring the show to your home. And then don’t forget to support those artists more directly using one of the above methods. Or, for your own sanity, just create a long mixtape of soothing music (à la this NPR Music monstrosity) and play it loud and clear throughout your home or during an afternoon stroll.
You should still buy a t-shirt or LP if you’re able (online from your favorite local indie store or your favorite artist’s online store!), but everything helps. Follow a musician on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, then stream their tunes on Spotify, Apple Music or Bandcamp while you’re sitting at home with nothing better to do. Everything counts, and until we’re over this hump, we’ve got to help in any way we can.