I’ve recently started buying music again.
Even with all the personal audio and video tools available these days, it’s still strangely easy to equate slick production and visuals with runaway success. That cool new album I just streamed a hundred times, and can’t get enough of? It may have been recorded in a makeshift blanket fort in the keyboard player’s rented flat because that’s all they can afford, and that’s who lives far enough away from trains and traffic to record in peace. That amazing music video I’m watching on repeat? It may have been recorded on the drummer’s iPhone because he had the most available space to store the footage, and the reason it looks so good is because another band member’s day job is editing video.
It’s been kind of sobering to discover how many of the bands that are giving me such great energy right now—keeping my head up and plowing forward into the mess of life—aren’t enjoying the kind of success I want for them. One band still lives at home with parents. There’s no shame in that, but I imagine that it would be nice to have the financial freedom to be able to make that a choice rather than a necessity. Yoga instructor, illustrator, session musician, boutique manager, and concert promoter are just a few more jobs that members of some of my favorite bands hold down when they’re not actively recording & touring. These are the jobs that largely fund new music when streams and music sales are lacking. Sadly, that happens too often.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard that it takes at least 2,500 song streams to measure up to the income of a single album download. That sucks. Having the means to afford music is definitely a privilege, and one that I feel obligated to exercise. I’ll buy directly from the artist’s store whenever possible. Bandcamp is my second choice, because they famously pass on the lion’s share of the income to the artist, and—because Bandcamp only sets a minimum purchase price—I’ll often bump that up and pay more. Beyond that, the distribution of income gets sketchy, but any album sale helps.
Sometimes I don’t even download the music. I’m still streaming music, after all, adding pennies to artists’ income all day long. I like to think of my purchases as receipts from my contribution to the artist’s tip jar. It’ll be there if I ever need it, but the important part is that I’ve supported someone who has given so much to me. In return, my purchase gives them the promise of continuing to do what we both love. 🖤💜