Unless you're talking about the select few most popular musical artists in the world, making money as a musician isn't easy. Even for well-established acts, declining record sales combined with the low revenue generated by streaming meant that live performances were the most reliable way for artists to earn a living.
That all changed along with the rest of the world thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Entire tours were cancelled, and that seemed bad at the time, but it's just the start. Even once the virus is less of a threat, it will be a long time before we see large concerts happening again.
If you want to ensure that your favorite musical artists get to keep making the music you love, here are a few ways to support them.
1. Buy Your Favorite Artists' Albums
This may seem obvious, but it's something fewer and fewer people are doing every year. While vinyl sales are on the rise, sales of recorded music are dropping year after year. Even if you keep streaming them, buying the latest album or even the past few from an artist you love can help them out, whether you buy a physical copy or just a digital download.
Album sales help artists in a few ways. First, it provides them with a little extra revenue, even if it's not much. Second, if the artist is on a record label, increased sales give the label a reason to keep the artists around and give them the budget to record their next album.
2. Prefer Streaming? Buy Merch
Maybe you've never owned music in your life, in any form, and you're not about to start now. That's fine, as you can still help out an artist you love by picking up some merchandise, aka. merch. This can mean t-shirts, hats, posters, or even smaller items like keychains or stickers.
Like buying music, this can help an artist in more ways than one. In addition to the extra cash you're sending their way, wearing a t-shirt or rocking a sticker on your laptop can increase awareness of the artist in general. This may not matter much if your favorite artist is Taylor Swift, but if you love lesser-known artists, this can go a long way.
3. Buy at the Right Time
This is mostly a tip specific to Bandcamp, a site that lets independent artists sell and distribute their own music and merchandise. In light of the global pandemic, the site introduced Bandcamp Fridays, which currently happen on the first Friday of every month. On these days, the service waives its cut of any sales, meaning all of the money goes to the artist.
It's tough to tell how long this will go on, but it will likely go on as long as it needs to. Other sites may even take a similar approach.
4. Limited Runs and Collector's Editions
We've talked before about the benefits of having a physical music collection, but maybe you don't want to buy plain old CDs or vinyl records. Fortunately, there's never been a better time to buy physical music that's a little extra special.
If you love vinyl records, you probably already know just how awesome special edition colored vinyl records can be. Some artists go even further, with hand-numbered limited runs, bonus extras, and collectibles to make packages even better. This is a great way to help an artist and score something extra cool for your collection.
5. Patreon and Crowdfunding
This won't apply to every artist, but more and more musicians, producers, and bands are turning to sites like Patreon for support from fans. Supporting an artist on Patreon doesn't just give them a steady stream of revenue, it often gets fans extras they wouldn't see or hear otherwise. This can mean unreleased songs, demos, and other bonuses.
Similarly, without the budgets they may have otherwise, some artists are using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter to finance recording their music. If you absolutely need to hear the next release from your favorite artist, this is a way to make sure it happens.