Five ways to support your favourite musicians

As streaming service payment structures continue to let down the artists, here's how you can help them continue to make music.
Posted: 19 January 2021 Words: Tom Curtis-Horsfall

Today, after pleas from musicians across the country who had come to their wits end at continually being overlooked and underpaid by major global streaming services, UK parliament are discussing the current business models and payment structures of music streaming services to give the artists, whose music (or 'content') they require to even function, a fairer share of the pie. 

Music streaming in the UK brings in more than £1 billion in revenue with artists being paid as little as 13% of the income generated in some instances. It's estimated that the typical musician earns approximately £23,000 annually, and that's when live music and touring was even a thing. Their income has been decimated throughout the pandemic, and receiving 0.07p per stream an artist would have to achieve 5 million streams just to meet the national minimum wage of £15,269 annually. Per person in the band. And that's not for those artists living in London either. Grim figures.

Established and adored Mercury Prize Award nominee Nadine Shah (above) urged the UK parliamentary inquiry to evaluate the paltry amount that artists are being paid by streaming services, having seen her finances dwindle when the live music sector was shut down: "The situation was such that I temporarily had to move back in with my parents over the summer. Not the worst thing to happen, but still not a great look for a thirty-something pop star." Her refreshing and necessary honesty was a kick up the arse. 

Record label trade group BPI argue that the shift to streaming over the past decade has created more diversity within contemporary music, culturally and internationally, and the charts are less dominated by music superstars which can't be argued. But independent labels and artists are still missing out ultimately, with dominant global music forces Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music expected to take a similar stance. No surprises there. 

While there's no guarantee anything will change, we can help guarantee that our favourite artists continue to produce incredible music. Here's what you can do: 

1. Buy their music.

Fairly obvious start, but if we bought enough of the music that our beloved artists make then they wouldn't be in the predicament. Don't get me wrong, we're all guilty of relying on streaming services too much so there's no being high and mighty. But nowadays, especially with the virtual eradication of CDs and cassettes (except for die-hards, those with a desire for anything DIY, and niche musos), there's added value in purchasing a lovely lovely vinyl, complete with beautiful artwork and a tangible, huggable sleeve. That, or just buy the download.

2. Buy their merchandise too.

Tees are a given - we wear the logos of our newest underground discoveries, unearthed gems, and iconic headliners, emblazoned across our chests with tribal pride. But there's concert posters, limited to that specific gig or tour that make a great memento when framed on the wall. Christmas jumpers are an annual thing now. Caps, mugs, even stuff as odd as air fresheners or vagina rings. Anything to show your allegiance is a bonus, no matter how bizarre. 

3. Watch them perform live. 

Granted this avenue is ever so slightly more difficult given that live music has ground to halt since the pandemic began, but livestreaming in all their iterations ranging from the shambolic to the sublime are all we've got at present. If you can afford it, buy a ticket to the pre-recorded show. You know it's going to the right place, and it'll strengthen that bond even further.

4. Like, share, subscribe, even donate. 

Without wanting to reel off a YouTuber's 'how to' guide, this is a bonafide way to help artists without even spending any money. We often focus our attentions to social media when talking of shares and likes etc, but saving tracks directly or following artists on your chosen streaming platform can affect the algorithm and provide said artists with more visibility, as LA-based musician Gabe Goodman explained on Twitter back in October. If you have any spare cash you want to go to a good place, you can also directly donate via Patreons and Spotify artist pages. 

5. Tell your friends!

Word of mouth is still a powerful tool in getting others to engage in an artist you're passionate about, so shout it from the rooftops. Or just make playlists for pals, recommend stellar online sets, or try your hand at convincing the most stubborn of snobs that your music taste is second to none.

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