Oscar Keys Photography.
With the loss of in-person live shows due to the coronavirus pandemic, the music industry has been put in a troubling position, especially for independent bands and labels. As streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music dominate our access to music and give artists only a fraction of the money earned per one thousand streams, it seems that the only way for these artists to make a living is to continue releasing music is to get millions of streams.
Spotify has recently announced that labels and artists can pay to have higher odds to be featured in personalised playlists. Major labels can pay for the music they release, limiting the chances for listeners to discover bands that do not have major label backing.
Heavy Metal band While She Sleeps have recently introduced The Sleeps Society—a monthly membership medium, powered by Patreon. The Sleeps Society is a sustainable platform for bands such as While She Sleeps as they have bigger audiences than most musicians and can offer a lot more, including early ticket access, merchandise and exclusive web docuseries that delve into their creative processes. However, While She Sleeps want other artists to follow in their footsteps. The band’s Patreon tagline makes their intentions clear: “Sleeps Society is creating a sustainable future for WSS, supporters and other artists.”
Patreon is indeed popular with online content creators as it gives them an opportunity to get a stable income in exchange for exclusive content for their members. Though their commission fee is small (around 5%), it’s hard to maintain an account unless you can create new content monthly.
Merchandise is another popular way to reward fans for their membership. It also takes the pressure off the artists as it doesn’t require them to release new music constantly. Having said that, including merch in your Patreon package may not be viable for artists that are just getting started because of the upfront costs to create it.
As a listener, one of the best ways to support an artist is to buy their official merchandise. Many musicians have become much more inventive with their merch throughout the last year. Glass Animals are, in fact, one of the leading bands for interesting and unique items like DIY t-shirts that actively encourage their fans to get creative. Checking an artist’s website is the best way to be directed to their official merch store where you can find that perfect t-shirt or a hoodie to show your support.
A potentially more profitable avenue for up-and-coming artists would be using Bandcamp, where artists can sell their music and merchandise at the price that they decide. This is a good way to support bands and artists—though the platform takes approximately 10/15% out of each purchase to process the transaction, the rest of the money goes directly to the artist. Bandcamp does not require to have a massive fanbase or constantly produce content as opposed to Patreon.
Live streaming also became a commonplace in the music scene last year. None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive by English rap music project The Streets set an impressive standard that utilised the history of the band by moving through old music video sets while packing the stream with hit after hit. Most live streams cost between £5 to £10 which, for many artists, is a substitute for the touring they missed out on this year. If a band you love is putting on a live stream, it is safe to assume they will be putting an immense amount of effort into the show and it will be totally worth the ticket price.
With the world in its current state, many bands have lost a summer of gigs and festivals which would have allowed them to bring in the income necessary to continue to fund their next projects. If you truly enjoy an artist’s music, it’s worth checking out if there are any alternative ways to own their music instead of just relying on streaming.