The sudden spread of COVID-19 has impacted nearly every industry, from retail to restaurants to entertainment. Although restrictions are necessary to save lives and curb the escalation of the pandemic, the hardships we’re all dealing with are very real, and very immediate. We here at Consequence of Sound are not immune, nor are we unmoved by the acute struggles facing the very lifeblood of our publication: independent music. Like all music fans, we are desperate to not only connect with our favorite artists during this coronavirus crisis, but find tips on how to support them.
That’s why we’ve put together this list for both artists and fans to help everyone get through these hardships together. How we interact with and consume art is different today than it was just a month ago, but through social media, unique livestreaming opportunities, and wise spending, we can help keep music alive.
While most of us already keep up with our favorite artists’ goings-on by following them online, social media is doubly invaluable now that the other word collocated with social is “distancing.” For one, it’s a strong source of entertainment, where artists like Hinds are giving tutorials on playing their songs, Dawes are having beard growing competitions, and recent This Must Be the Gig guest Jacob Collier is keeping his creative juices flowing. Perhaps more importantly, social media is the most direct way for musicians to let fans know how they can help during these thin times. If they’re planning on doing anything on this list below, you’ll hear about it first via a Tweet or Instagram post.
Instagram and Facebook are also two major resources allowing musicians and music lovers to battle self-quarantine in another way…
Concerts may be canceled for the next few weeks, but musicians are still playing for audiences thanks to Twitch, Instagram Live, YouTube, and other streamers. Acts like Neil Young and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard are streaming regular home performances, while Waxahatchee and Kevin Morby have teamed for what hopefully is becoming a weekly series. Even venues like Brooklyn’s Nowadays are getting in on the action, while institutions like The Metropolitan Opera are filling their feeds with archival footage. Video streaming can also be a revenue source for independent and smaller acts thanks to Venmo and PayPal, or simply by pointing viewers towards online merch and music shops. Other streamers are asking for donations to COVID-19 relief funds, as Lucius did when they put on a digital festival with Courtney Barnett, Sharon Van Etten, Sheryl Crow, Nathaniel Rateliff, and others.
As our friend Kyle Meredith says, it’s a matter of simple math: Add in transportation, drinks, maybe a dinner, and you would’ve easily spent $50 going to that concert that got postponed. If you’re fortunate enough to still have some disposable income, put that money towards a T-shirt, a poster, pins, badges, a shot glass — anything that will bring you joy well after this crisis is over and put money into artists’ hands right now.
How about a depressed stationary set from PUP to jot down all your COVID-19 thoughts? Or rock Caroline Rose’s “Superstar” necklace so you can floss in your isolation ‘gram? Maybe you were planning on picking up that vinyl record when you saw the band live; well, you might not be able to get it signed right away now, but why not package it with a sweater and some stickers?
Or you could spend that cash on something we rarely purchase anymore…
Update: fans have paid artists more than $3 million (!!!) today. 6 hours to go! pic.twitter.com/3ThKMb72Jr
— bandcamp (@Bandcamp) March 21, 2020
New reports indicate music streaming and sales are actually down during the pandemic, presenting a frightening reality for musicians. Although making a Spotify playlist or streaming the hell out of independent artists is a fair way to show your support, buying music is far more impactful.
Major retailers like Amazon may be cutting back on vinyl to make room for essential stock, but this is the whole entire purpose of record shops. Check if your local store is offering delivery, or place a pre-order for an anticipated future release. In addition to artists, you’ll be supporting the businesses that have serviced our communities for years.
Going direct to artists and labels is of course an option too. If physical copies aren’t your thing, look to Bandcamp, where artist payment shares are far greater than iTunes (and the website’s fees were waived on Friday, March 20th), and you can also find merch. For a more pay-what-you-want approach, check out NoiseTrade, where fans can tip musicians for their work.
Historically, crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and IndieGoGo have been used as launchpads for projects. Now, however, they can be a vital way for fans to promptly support artists in their time of need. As Zola Jesus pointed out in her recent discussion with host Lior Philips on TMBTG, some musicians are directly asking for help covering lost revenue from canceled gigs.
Similarly, venues like New York’s Rockwood Music Hall and The Capitol Theatre or Chicago’s Metro and Empty Bottle have launched fundraisers to help pay their furloughed staff members. (Spencer Tweedy’s Chicago Service Relief website has a great list of Chicago-area venues and bars in need of help right now.) Others are seeking to fund streaming experiences or support relief funds (more on this later).
Of course, there are always snakes looking to profit in a crisis, so do your research on any fundraiser you contribute to, and keep an eye on artists’ and venue’s socials for direct links.
Think of Patreon like a subscription-based Kickstarter with more immediate rewards. It’s a way to continually support artists by becoming a member of their page. In return, the artists provide exclusive access to content — B-sides, demos, livestreams, Q&As, photos, behind-the-scenes videos, and more — depending on the level of membership.
Recently, Torres turned heavily to Patreon when she found herself on tour in Berlin, Germany just as Trump’s initially confusing travel ban was announced. Unable to afford emergency flights home for her band, she reached out to fans on Twitter for help, pointing them towards her Patreon page. The outpouring of support enabled her to get her entire band home quickly and safely.
And that’s not the only website Torres uses…
Yes, the very core concept of Cameo — paying celebrities to send a video message to people — is sort of silly. But in the new context of our reality, it’s pretty neat. It’s a way to simultaneously help struggling artists and provide friends a fun bit of relief during these stressful times. In addition to Torres, indie acts like White Mystery, Tacocat, and The Messenger Birds will record visual notes for just a few bucks. Hell, even members of GWAR are on here.
Keep Your Tickets
If you’re bummed that concert you were planning to see this weekend was postponed, try to resist immediately seeking a refund. The intention is for a lot of these shows to be rescheduled, and your tickets will still be honored. Can’t make the new date? Give the tickets to a pal, or sell them on the secondary market. You might even consider purchasing tickets in advance for shows scheduled later in the year. Live performance is the primary source of income for such a large number of musicians and bands these days; those hurting from all the tour delays and cancelations are going to depend on fans coming out once the concerns subside.
That said, if you do decide to request a refund, consider…
Charities such as Sweet Relief and MusiCares have been there for musicians in hard times before, and they’re certainly not going anywhere now. Both organizations have launched their own COVID-19 relief funds — and they’re far from the only ones. United States Bartenders Guild, The Haven Foundation, Musicians Foundation, and so many more national charities are launching special assistance programs. Local nonprofits in Minnesota, Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and more across the country are doing the same.
There are dozens of such aid programs, and resources like The National Endowment for the Arts, She Shreds, Common Field, and COVID-19 & Freelance Artists have been doing a commendable job compiling the numerous relief efforts. It’s good to know that in such a dire situation, those in need of assistance and those wanting to help only need to look around.