Helping Artists When Money Is Scarce – Thoughts From Isolation

I’ve talked a lot on social media over the last few weeks about the ways in which music fans who have been fortunate enough to maintain some level of financial stability through the beginnings of the pandemic lock-down can help artists out. Primarily through buying music, and using this time to reconsider where our economic relationship with the people who make the music we love has ended up after a decade of the streaming economy dominating the conversation.

However, one thing that’s apparent in all this is that the economic impact of this upheaval is so spectacularly uneven, and not sliced anywhere near the usual economic faultlines. I have some relatively poor friends who have been able to shift their work online who are stable for now, and some others who were doing astonishingly well up til the cancellation of all their work who are facing financial ruin and some incredibly tough decisions.

The financial support that those of you who’ve been able to have already offered to musicians – particularly through the massive uptick in Bandcamp sales, as well as through the many GoFundMes that have been set up – has been SO helpful and so hugely appreciated, but I want to make it extra clear that no-one should feel bad about not being able to help anyone else financially at this time. The uncertainty is real and terrifying for so many, and in many instances it would be deeply unwise to be buying music when your own next paycheck could be months away…

Instead, here are a few simple things you can do if you want to give back to artists who are struggling right now, without spending any money:

  1. Send them a message. I’ve had a number of emails from people saying that specific bits of my music are helping them get through this, and honestly, that shit is worth its weight in gold. It’s an incredible feeling to know that you’re able to help in tangible ways just by doing your art as best you can.
  2. Make it public – reviews on Bandcamp are always an absolute treat to read, and really do help with sales etc. Now, they feel like the universe reaching out and affirming the reason we’ve all done this stuff for so long and allowed ourselves to live such economically precarious lives. Quite a few people I know have taken to Tweeting their quarantine soundtracks, either with or without tagging the artists in. I’ve both been deeply encouraged by the ones listening to me, and have discovered some great new music from the ones who are including links. If you’re able to shift the focus of your Facebook conversations about music away from yet more nostalgic promotion of 70s rock stars and instead give a shout to some struggling current artists, that would be hugely helpful.
  3. If the artists you care about are involved in any online activity to try and rebuild their creative identity without the clarity that gigs brought to that process, help them spread the word. I’ve watched some fabulous live streaming gigs, and have where possible been sharing links to the artists’ other work in the chat. Just give them a nudge – a surprising number of artists are playing catch-up with the potential of the internet to build actual audiences and communities beyond just Facebook event invites and instagram carpet bombing…

In short, encouragement can mean a whole lot to a musician sat at home wondering what the fuck they’re going to do for the next two months and how they’re going to last til this ridiculous government decide to finally give the self employed some help…

Go and declare your gratitude, and thanks again for all the music shopping. It’s been a lifeline for so many.