There are a lot of ways to support the scene—even if you can’t shell out money.
It’s no secret that the music industry is hurting right now—including our favorite artists. COVID-19-related closures and public gathering restrictions have had a devastating impact on musicians, from canceled tours to delayed album releases.
As we self-isolate to keep ourselves and others safe, supporting our favorite artists has never been more important. In solidarity with the musicians whose livelihoods have been impacted by COVID-19, AdHoc has compiled a list of different ways you can support the arts from home.
Shell out for Music and Merch
One of the easiest ways to support artists right now is to buy their merchandise or music. Artists are putting their stock online for purchase in order to recoup losses from canceled live dates. By buying merchandise and music, you are putting more money into your favorite artists’ pockets than you would just by streaming their music.
Just last Friday, Bandcamp waived their share of revenue from digital sales, and fans bought nearly $4.3 million worth of music and merch in a single day. Spotify, by contrast, uses a pro-rata system that pays most artists fractions of a cent per stream, though the company recently announced plans to introduce a tool that would enable musicians to raise money from fans directly.
Consider a direct donation
If you love an artist but want to cut out the middleman and donate to them directly, try asking for their Venmo, Paypal, Cashapp, or Patreon. Tons of artists have come forward in recent weeks and made this information available, but if a band you love hasn’t, consider sending them a DM and asking for it yourself.
Donate to a fund
In addition to helping out your favorite artists, there are plenty of ways you can support people in your local scene. One of them is by supporting region-specific fundraisers: In New York City, you can donate to the NYC Low-Income Artist/Freelancer Relief Fund, which benefits low-income, BIPOC, trans/GNC/NB/queer artists and freelancers. In Austin, local businesses and individuals launched a GoFundMe campaign called #BandingTogetherATX. The fund provides financial support to artists and venues in the Red River Cultural District that have been impacted by the cancellation of this year’s SXSW Festival.
You could also donate to Local 802’s Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund—which provides union members with counseling and grant money—or the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which offers financial assistance to career musicians and industry workers who have been impacted due to sickness or loss of work.
Share the Love
Understandably, many of us are not in a position at this time to put money toward a good cause. If that’s you, just remember that word of mouth is free advertising. Sharing the music you love with your friends and followers is a great way to support artists—and it’s also a great way to socialize online. So give it a try! Share a live-stream you’re enjoying. Make a playlist. Upload a silly Tik-Tok video. Host a virtual album listening party.
If an artist you love has shared donation details, but you aren’t in the position to donate, post it to your story or share it so that others can. You could even kill two birds with one stone, by buying a digital album on Bandcamp and sending it to a friend as a gift. Also, don’t forget that smaller artists are the ones who are probably hurting the most right now; if you like what you’re hearing, spread the word!
Attend a Virtual Show
Now that artists are experimenting with different ways to connect with home-bound audiences, it has never been easier to catch a DJ set or live performance from the comfort of your own home. OhMyRockness has a constantly updating live-stream calendar. Publications like Pitchfork and DIY Magazine have taken to hosting shows on Instagram. The FADER , Girl Gang Leeds, Left Bank Magazine have planned online festivals. Even The Metropolitan Opera has gotten into streaming, with free streams of previously recorded performances every day.
If you are more of a dance music person, you can tune in to a digital DJ set. DJ D-Nice drew over 100,000 viewers during an Instagram Live performance on March 21, and others from all over the party music spectrum are following suit. Some venues are even going virtual: Ridgewood, NY venue Nowadays, for example, is live-streaming a stacked calendar of technical tutorials, DJ sets, and other cultural programming while their doors are closed. (They’ve also started a Patreon).
Beyond live music, musicians have already started exploring new avenues for engaging with fans outside the traditional show context. Hinds, Chicano Batman, and SadGirl have been posting tutorials for their songs. Porridge Radio has hosted “agony aunt” Q&A sessions and painted live for fans, eventually auctioning off the painting to benefit The Trussell Trust. Reddit forum Indie Heads has put out an open call inviting bands and artists to participate in an Ask Me Anything session. It’s clear that artists want to connect as much as everyone else during this period of self-isolation—and they’re finding innovative ways to do so.
Petition for Change
More than anything, the COVID-19 crisis is bringing to light how vulnerable musicians are—especially without a strong social safety net. Like many freelancers and hourly workers in America, they often lack basic labor protections, have to pay for their own health insurance, and are excluded from unemployment coverage, although the $2 trillion stimulus package has expanded unemployment insurance to cover self-employed and freelance workers.
While the bill was still being negotiated in Congress, Musicians United For Unemployment Benefits—a group that includes artists like Downtown Boys, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bikini Kill and more—started a petition to increase and expand benefits to all workers with 1099 income. Now that the bill has passed, one of the organizers behind the petition, Joey DeFrancesco of Downtown Boys and solo project La Neve, has stressed the importance of continued organizing as states determine how unemployment benefits for gig workers will be distributed.
To support musicians impacted by COVID-19, you can also petition your local representatives and ask what they are doing to support the arts. Countries like the United Kingdom and Germany are setting up grants to help the arts community during the crisis. Here in the United States, politicians like Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—who has said he would be an “arts president,” if elected—have already pledged support for the arts. Some city governments are also getting on board, with the City of Boston launching the Boston Artist Relief Fund to award grants of up to $1,000 to Boston-based artists who have been impacted by COVID-19.
As the elections draw closer, make sure to keep musicians and other impacted communities in mind—and ask your potential representatives to do the same. If they aren’t doing anything to support musicians whose livelihoods have been ruined by COVID-19, try convincing them to throw their weight behind the arts community—whether that be by supporting a rent suspension, an eviction moratorium, or an expansion of unemployment benefits. These are proportional responses to the challenging times we find ourselves in that would give artists the security of a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
Finally, now that touring is out of the picture as a reliable source of income, artists are turning to streaming services to demand a greater share of the revenue their music is generating.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began, numerous petitions have circulated asking Spotify to increase its royalty pay-out to artists and add a “tipping” feature to their service. Last week, the streaming service unveiled a COVID-19 Music Relief initiative, pledging to donate money to organizations like MusiCares, PRS Foundation, and Help Musicians, as well as match donations made through its relief page, for a total contribution of up to $10 million. They also announced that they would launch a feature that allows artists to direct fans to fundraising pages. Whether the project is a response to the petitions isn’t clear, but it never hurts to speak up for something you believe in.
Additional resources for artists and fans: