Support Musicians Too, If You Can

From the beginning of state shutdowns in the era of COVID-19, calls from communities to support local businesses have been loud, clear, and somewhat effective. Ideas like buying gift cards, ordering take-out food, curbside and online purchasing, and donating to GoFundMe efforts have kept a number of businesses afloat. These are by no means long-term solutions, however, as employers continue to shed workers and make other tough (but mostly necessary) financial decisions.

Even as economies begin to open back up (as they have in some states), we won’t be seeing a return to the proverbial “normal life” anytime soon. With so many people out of work and struggling to get by, consumers will be careful with their spending. Many will also continue to be cautious about the health risks they subject themselves to outside of their home, while lots of businesses operate at only partial capacity for the foreseeable future.

It will be a slog, but communities will eventually come back from this. And individuals who haven’t been hit as hard by the economic downturn (whether it’s due to the nature of their job or some other reason) will continue to have a key role in making that happen.

To those people, I’d like to throw out an additional consideration for your patronage. There’s a sector of the economy that could really use your help right now, and it’s related to the music industry. Specifically, I’m talking about the musicians (and their crews) who — in normal times — travel to your towns, perform for your communities, and have a knack for taking your mind off of life’s worries… at least for a little while.

Much like sports, music is a unifying force in societies. It brings people of all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs together. It provides an escape from the things that divide us.

These performers have not only been sidelined by COVID-19 like so many others, but the nature of their art and trade assures that they will be among the very last to return to their prior working capacity. Performing in front of live audiences is where many bands make the bulk of their revenue, and/or generate exposure to move onto bigger and better things. And because the premise of a live audience is particularly dangerous these days, and will be for some time, countless summer tours and music festivals have been postponed or cancelled.

Now, before I go on, I should make it clear that I’m not as concerned about major acts with enormous fan-bases who typically sell out arenas or even stadiums. Their work is no less meaningful, but those performers are in a far better financial position to weather this storm.

I’m talking about those who play relatively small auditoriums or night clubs — starving artists working toward their big break, and also once popular singers and bands who now play under dimmer spotlights for the remaining fans who still enjoy their music.

The fact of that matter is that you have to be particularly hot and current in the industry in order to make a decent amount of money from music royalties; the age of downloadable and streaming media has assured that. Most musicians are not wealthy people. A lot of acts survive on touring, and a good chunk of the money they make comes from the sale of merchandise at their shows.

Needless to say, being stuck at home for months and months (some aren’t seeing a path forward until next year) makes for some hard times.

So, what can music lovers — those who are living relatively comfortable right now — do to help out their favorite artists? Well, there are a few things.

Ordering their music (maybe some singles or albums you’d never picked up) from major online retailers like Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play certainly won’t hurt, but artists get a much larger cut of the sales when you order items directly from their official website. There, you’ll typically find shirts, hats, digital downloads, CDs, vinyl records, and other types of items that you’d normally be able to buy at their concerts. Some products are even autographed, which is an added bonus.

Also, seek them out on social media. A lot of musical artists have actually been doing online concerts from their homes, performing live, streaming sets on digital platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Stageit. In between songs, they answer questions from the chat room and even take requests. It’s pretty cool, and some platforms even let you tip the performers, which they certainly appreciate.

Personally, I’ve been enjoying regularly scheduled live shows from Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October and Vinnie Dombroski of Sponge:


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Absolutely loved the live #JustinFurstenfeld concert on @stageit. Perfect remedy for the #stayathome blues. #familynight @blueoctoberband #blueoctober

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The Rembrandts have been doing some cool things too, with the band’s members performing their music together from different locations. The socially distant results have been remarkably good:

Lastly, just share their music with others on social media. It takes minimum effort, and with most people still not venturing out much, it’s a great time to introduce your online friends to bands and songs they’ve never heard before. The performers may be sidelined, but the gift of their music doesn’t have to be. And who knows, maybe you’ll help them earn a few new fans — fans who will be awaiting their eventual return to the road.

As a frequent concert-goer, I can’t wait to get back to the energy of concerts — the real, in-person ones. One good thing about the hiatus is that, when shows do start happening again, it will mean that we as a society will have effectively marginalized COVID-19 (at least to an acceptable measure). And that will be a cause to celebrate.

In the meantime, let’s help out those who will lead the celebration.