There is something to be said about how music fans in the Quad Cities come together to support their local music scene. Our community hosts so many events throughout the year, the fans share them in their circles and show up to support their favorite bands. With so many opportunities to show local bands love, how can you support them from home?
At the risk of sounding cliché, we’re living in a digital age. We’re constantly streaming – movies, television, gaming, and of course, music. In 2020, the Recording Industry Association of America found that streaming made up 83% of the total U.S. music revenue. Over 75.5 million Americans have paid music subscriptions. There are several popular music streaming platforms; however, not all of them produce income for smaller musicians.
Between producing 12 records, touring the country, and playing locally in three bands, Jeramie Anderson (Condor and Jaybird, Sunshrine, Dark Family) knows a thing or two about finding success in the local music scene.
“I think most of the people who listen to our music do so through vinyl or streaming, but rarely is there an in-between,” Anderson said. “We’ve done tapes and a vinyl release which is the most profitable, but I still don’t think vinyl gets as much playtime as something like Spotify. I think people will wait to purchase a record until they hear it on Spotify. I know that’s how I typically do things. Spotify barely pays artists – but artists frequently sacrifice that pay for accessibility.”
Spotify is arguably the most popular streaming platform; however, artists only make an average of $0.004 per stream. You read that right – artists earn less than a cent per individual stream. Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon, and Youtube pay out a similar rate, meaning artists would need several hundreds of thousands of monthly listens to make a profitable income.
“Spotify is good for accessibility – if you can get on a featured playlist, it broadens your audience by a surprising amount,” Anderson said. “However, getting your band on those playlists can be tedious and usually requires connections. You have to sort of have your foot in the door in that regard. The odds of someone new hearing your band if you’re on one of these playlists is very likely.”
If big streaming services don’t help support your favorite local bands, which ones will?
Bandcamp is the top contender in the indie music streaming space. Bandcamp is a free streaming website and mobile app. Bands can list their digital albums for sale, and Bandcamp only takes a 10-15% revenue share – making this a much more profitable model for music sales. Bandcamp also offers the ability for bands to sell their merchandise, post videos, and participate in a community tab on their page, allowing you to connect with artists you love. As a fan on Bandcamp, you can keep a running wish list, save music to your collection, create playlists, and discover new music. With the pandemic in mind, Bandcamp also hosts live streams for your couch concert sessions. On occasional Fridays, Bandcamp waives the revenue share it normally takes, meaning 100% of your music purchases go straight to the artist. Bandcamp promotes these days on social media to make the event accessible for fans.
Soundcloud is another platform to be considered.
“It(Soundcloud) seems to be really helpful for networking with other artists, building hubs of creativity, and finding different genres of discovery,” Anderson said. “If your goal is to find other music like you and share ideas, tour dates, and network – this is the move.”
Soundcloud has both free and paid streaming options for fans, and bands can monetize their songs by stream. However, the payout per stream is comparable to bigger streaming platforms, meaning bands make very little money per listen. On Soundcloud, it is easy to find similar artists to the ones you like, and bands have an option to engage with their fans. Both platforms offer similar user experiences, but Bandcamp’s payout is significantly higher for artists.
“I think that digital artforms costing money is something art culture is really new to. Music is especially confused by this thought – think Napster and Metallica.” Anderson said. “It’s not a physical object, so there is no product, but there is labor that costs money to create it.”
While artists certainly want you to hear their music and welcome streaming on Spotify or Apple Music, it is not monetarily valuable. If this is how you consume music, adding local bands to your playlists and sharing them is the most helpful way to support them. Alternatively, consider checking out a band’s Bandcamp profile. Purchasing music through their online store is a more profitable way to support them than streaming on a larger platform. Shopping from a band’s Bandcamp account is also an excellent opportunity to buy merch without attending a show.
Though the pandemic has undoubtedly made it challenging, getting out into the community is the best way to help if you want to support the artists you love. If you’re not able to attend a band’s show, consider sharing it on social media. If you can safely attend a show, bring a friend who is new to the music scene. Buy a t-shirt. Buy a cassette tape. Buy a record. These purchases go directly to the band, without a cut taken from a large corporation. Share the local bands you love with your friends. The eclectic collection of local bands in our community is really special, and we have tons of easy ways to support them going into the new year.
Tiffany Villalpando is a writer and graphic designer in Rock Island, Illinois. When she’s not working, she can be found collecting designer toys, listening to k-pop, and snuggling with her black cat, Nobu. Her favorite Whitey’s Ice Cream flavor is Graham Central Station.