What We Talk About When We Talk About Music will be rants and different takes on the current music industry/scene. Look for them here at the PCC the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month. – We Listen For You
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve illegally downloaded an album at some point in your life. I’m not going to judge, I download records as well. I also spend too much of my income on vinyl, kickstarter projects, concerts, and bandcamp digital downloads. When I talk to people who haven’t spent money on music in years, it often comes to same statement: “I just don’t have the money to spend on something I can get for free.” The whole illegal downloading issue and how you should balance downloading vs. buying music is a different essay/rant altogether. Going under the assumption that you generally care about music but don’t have the money, here are five simple ways you can support bands/artists without spending any money.
Like On Facebook/Follow on Twitter
Oh, social media. To you, two simple clicks means a couple seconds goggling the name and tag to find the appropriate accounts and then adding them. To the band it means so much more. When a band contacts a venue to book a show or a label/pr firm/placement company is looking to sign a band, the amount of “likes” on Facebook and followers on twitter are analyzed. For a small up and coming band/artist, each like or follower takes them closer to a new level of being “web legitimate”. It’s ultimately about the quality of music, but an out of town talent booker at a venue is much more likely to give the band a spot if they have 2,000+ fans on Facebook. With bands being judged on their web presence, it’s important for them to have visible representations of their fanbase. Like it or not, Facebook and Twitter are often used as indications of a bands stature and you can immediately contribute to their visibility with two clicks. I’m not saying like/follow every band/artist you illegally download from, but if you get something out of the music and don’t have the money to support them monetarily, you can spare two clicks to up their Internet presence.
Leave A Blog Comment
You click on a free mp3 at any random music blog and you like what you hear. Instead of immediately running off to Rapidshare to get the full record, take a few seconds and write a comment telling the blogger that you like the recommendation. Once again, I’m not saying fake enthusiasm, but if the track peaked your interest enough to run off and seek the free download, tell the blogger you enjoyed the recommendation. Bloggers will take chances on smaller unknown bands/artists and comments are a great way of gauging the reader’s response. A blogger is much more likely to post more about the band/artist in the future if several comments are posted about how they like the track/video/etc. With bands/artists finding new fans and getting exposure on music blogs, a simple comment can help build a relationship between the blogger and the band.
Be A Smart Listener
You put the illegally downloaded record in your iTunes and loaded it on the iPod. If you stop there, you are literally doing nothing for the band/artist. If you’re on the computer and listening to the album, do so in a way that the band can account for your listen. There are several ways to do this. Go over to Last.fm and sign up for an account. This will allow each track you play to be scrobbled and counted. As I said before about visibility, bands can often benefit from the amount of their last.fm plays. If you don’t want Last.fm, search out a stream of the record. Be it Bandcamp or Soundcloud, by streaming the record instead of simply playing it on iTunes, your listen is being counted/documented. Remind yourself constantly that you’re dealing with a free product and these simple choices, while they seem small, contribute greater than nothing at all.
In the digital age, it’s easy to help a band that you want to support but can’t offer any cash. Just by posting about the band on your own facebook, twitter, or simply by telling friends in person (do people still talk to people in the real world?), word of mouth has and will always help bands/artists.
Every radio station has an interactive website now and most of them have a request submissions button or section. Spend a couple minutes while you listen to that free record and request their song at a couple of radio stations where their music should be played.
When you see a band post a message on Facebook/Twitter about playing a show in your city, reach out to them and ask if they need any help hanging posters or getting the word out. Often times the answer is yes, they need lots of help, and will usually give you a guest list spot in return for some hard work.
Contact The Band
We live in the best of times for the music fan and the worst of times for the music creator. Everyday the passes, it’s getting harder to not only make money selling albums, but with so many bands pumping out music, just getting attention is at a premium. If you ask a lot of bands/artists about why they make music, it’s usually out of love and they will often mention they just want their music heard. There are no delusions here; bands want money and more so the ability to exist as band and not work part time jobs to support their passion. But, if you truly can’t offer any money, e-mail the band and tell them what their music means to you. There are some dark days for lower exposed bands/artists and it always seems like there is a tipping point where the band asks themselves if the struggle is worth it. Your words might pick them up for a few weeks and remind them of their original intentions, to make the listener feel something through their art. The music doesn’t have to be life changing. If the band makes you want to dance, laugh, cry, anything, let them know you had an emotional reaction.
Like many of the unsolvable issues in the world, the woes of the music industry are not going to be answered with a single idea or approach. It’s my opinion that we as individuals need to recondition ourselves and how we consume/handle music. You might find these free suggestions obvious, but truthfully ask yourself how often, if ever, you do each one. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I’m sure when you put in the hours at work a paycheck is waiting on the other side. Bands/artists don’t have this luxury because most people with the choice between free or ten dollars will choose free. We’re all different and the same rings true for our individual relationships with music. I just want you to start asking yourself, no matter how small of a gesture it may be, what can I do to help?