1. BUY DIRECT FROM THE ARTIST
There's a million places you can purhcase your music online, all for basically the same price. The difference in the outlets is that they all pay the artists very different percentages. So where to buy?
- The artist's own website will always steer you to the outlet where they benefit the most from your purchase.
- CDBaby is great. They were truly built around the principle of how best to benefit the artist.
BandCamp is great. Again, like CD Baby, this service was built with independent artists' best interest in mind. Plus, they serve their downloads in high quality lossless formats and DRM-free . . . so it works well for music consumers, as well.
- iTunes is OK. They do a pretty good job of paying the artists a reasonable amount, cause their business model isn't really to make money on music sales. Apple is trying to make buying music easy, so they can sell you nifty devices.
- Amazon & EBay both suck. Don't buy your music from them. Amazon's system requires so many middlemen that the artists generally get about a buck per album sale. And both Amazon and EBay allow the sale of used CDs and discounted new CDs. The majority of those items are promo CDs that some shifty writer or DJ has accepted, promotionally, and then turned around to sell at an undercut price.
1A. STREAMING SERVICES DON'T COUNT AS "BUYING" MUSIC!
Spotify and Pandora are awesome places to listen to music. I love them, myself. But just so you know, artists receive basically ZERO DOLLARS from them. You'd have to stream your favorite artist's album approximately 9000 times on Spotify for them to make the equivilent of 1 album sale. So, it's best to think of these services as great discovery engines. And then once you've discovered an artist you like, consider going and buying their album.
Here's a stunning visualization of how little money artists receive from the streaming services.
2. JOIN THE ARTIST'S EMAIL LIST & SOCIAL NETWORKS
The easier it is for your favorite artist to reach you directly with show information and new album releases, the less time, money, and energy they'll need to spend to promote those events through less efficient "broadcast" means, like press and radio. Plus, there's a huge side benefit . . .
3. SPREAD THE GOOD WORD
Joining the artist's email list allows you to easily become a more engaged and active participant in the promotional process. By fowarding announcements to friends and family on an artist's tour route, you become an invaluable assistant in the artist's ability to reach new listeners in new markets.
It used to be the role of the labels to make new artists blink onto everyone's radar. They don't have the money to do that for many artists any more. So now it's the role of the community to spread the good word, in a grassroots manner. The email lists and the social networks are great and efficient tools for spreading the word. And it's gratifying to feel invested in your artist's growth and development, from the ground up.
4. BURN SOME MUSIC
We love it when y'all turn on your friends to our music. But be mindful of the line between "sharing" the music, and "stealing" the music. Burning a mixed CD for your friends with a couple songs from each of your latest favorite artists helps us out a bunch. Burning entire albums for them deprives us of possible sales.
And either way . . . the best thing you can do is urge your friends, if they like what you've shared with them, to please please pretty please go to the artist's website and sign up on their email list. That way we can at least benefit in the way of concert attendance and future album sales, from the new fans you've won for us.
5. ATTEND SHOWS
This is where artists actually make their living. Simple as that. CDs and album sales tend to be a basically break-even venture. We make them cause they're artistically gratifying, and because they serve as our business cards. We make our living with the money you graciously contribute to us at the door at our concerts. Hopefully, the concerts are an enjoyable and fulfilling experience for you. But, also, consider your attendance to be a small bit of activism . . . your way of supporting the culture that's important to us all.
6. SUPPORT THEIR CROWD-FUNDING CAMPAIGNS
Kickstarter and IndieGogo are two of the many great resources out there now for artists to fund their projects. Think of it as pre-purchasing an album, while giving your favorite artist a big pat on the bag and letting them know you appreciate what they do. It really is a win-win situation.
I imagine that, if you've read this far, I've been preaching to the choir. I hope it wasn't all just a verbose statement of the obvious. Some things are obvious in their purpose, but not so obvious in their importance. I hope this maybe shed a little insight into how important some of these obvious measures are to the whole ecosystem of what we do, as indie artists.