I love live music.
This past school year, I went to seven concerts before I had to move back home due to COVID-19, and I had tickets to three others that were postponed. Concerts always make me happy because not only do I get to experience the thrill and energy of seeing my favorite musicians in person but I also get to feel good for supporting them.
It’s no surprise that streaming services currently dominate the music industry. I haven’t bought a song off iTunes in years; Spotify has been my sole source of music. Even though I know how little the streaming services actually give back to artists — as exemplified in Taylor Swift’s 2014 Spotify boycott — I choose to put that in the back of my mind in favor of the convenience Spotify brings me.
When my dad started bringing me along to concerts and introducing me to the live music scene of our favorite independent Americana artists, I felt like my actions were more compatible with my feelings. I was giving back to these artists by going to their shows and buying their shirts, so I didn’t feel so bad using Spotify to listen to their music.
But now, more than ever, it’s crucial for fans to buy music and merchandise directly from artists.
Streaming services have reduced the incentive for listeners to purchase songs or albums. Song sales fell 28.8% in 2018, while song streams went up 35.4%. Without their actual music selling, musicians make the majority of their revenue from concerts — concerts that have now been canceled or postponed due to the global pandemic. Every musician, from The Rolling Stones to my favorite independent singer-songwriter Jamie Lin Wilson, is losing out on revenue. For independent artists, their potential musical career is threatened.
So what can we do? There’s no way to know when it will be safe to host concerts again, so some artists have turned to livestream performances, with a “virtual tip jar” through a mobile payment service. This is the easiest way to put money directly into artists’ pockets.
But if you don’t want to digitally pay artists for an Instagram Live show, there are other ways to support them. Purchasing physical copies of an album directly from the artist is a great way to help out an artist while getting something out of it for yourself.
If you don’t have a record player to buy vinyls for, consider buying a shirt or investing in a CD from one of your favorite artists to play during long road trips. Even the smallest purchase can make a difference in an independent artist’s career.
This isn’t meant to shame you into spending money if you don’t have disposable income. Just as this pandemic is taking work away from musicians, a lot of people are struggling. If you aren’t able to support musicians financially, you can give them a shoutout on social media, or play their music on streaming services.
There are so many unforeseen consequences of this pandemic, and hanging on to the things we love is more important now than ever. Music is one of those things for so many people, and if we want artists to make music throughout and beyond this pandemic, we need to support them in any way we can.
Sydney Miller is a junior psychology major. Reach them at email@example.com.