Written by Kate Malanaphy
My mind is always on my music.
As an independent musician working outside of a record label, I am responsible for all aspects of my musical career; writing, practicing, performing, booking, promoting, scheduling, and everything in between. As one could guess, all these things take up a significant amount of my headspace.
This is the case for many independent musicians today. With more competition, less artists are picked up by labels, and therefore have to take on all the tasks that accompany a music career.
Many people do not realize the sheer amount of energy and time that go into keeping a musical project active and engaging to its followers. The artist always has to be outputting content, whether that’s new music, new music videos, or in today’s age, social media posts.
Social media, as it happens, has become a significant part of the average musician’s career. Speaking from experience, social media is by far the most effective way to promote shows and gain listeners. Without a record label to facilitate promotional content creation and distribution for an artist, the artist must take the entire process of promotion on in their own time.
This means that independent artists with less time or less drive to self-promote may not be as musically successful simply because they cannot keep up with other artists on social media.
This is not the only way that independent musicians are shortchanged by modern media services.
Streaming services such as Spotify, which I will use as my case in point, make lots of music widely accessible to people, which I believe is very important. However, they are not conducive to the financial stability of independent musicians.
It used to be that, in order to listen to music, you had to pay for it up-front. This meant that the artist would get a tangible and fair payment with each sale of their music. Now, it has almost become the opposite; in order for an artist to make their music available, they have to spend money to get it on streaming services, and streaming does not turn a significant profit. According to Quora, a stream on Spotify earns an artist about 0.007 cents. This means that 142 listens will earn a person just under a dollar.
What’s more, this money often isn’t available until a few months after it is earned; on the site I use to get my music on Spotify, I can’t see or obtain my earnings until three months after they come in.
It is clear that the media services that are most common in today’s society do not do right by independent musicians. Social media and streaming services both influence artists’ visibility through algorithms, and the effort that goes into maintaining them is often not worth the profit.
This can be discouraging to independent musicians, especially considering the amount of time and energy that goes into maintaining their artistic career, both on and offline.
Fortunately, though, there are ways to support independent artists that are just as convenient and fun as the ways in which most people already consume media.
First, instead of streaming only on Spotify, I recommend trying to use Bandcamp whenever possible. This app enables you to find new, independent artists. If you like them, Bandcamp makes it easy to directly support them through buying their music and merch off of their Bandcamp page.
Second, try listening to local radio. Many independent artists get radio time solely on local stations, so this is a good way to find local, independent artists that deserve your support.
Lastly, try going to a show if you’re able. Artists put a lot of effort into booking shows and practice hard for live performances. At a show, you’re able to experience the same music you love in a new and unique way; no two performances are ever quite the same. Going to a live show is also a great opportunity to support artists financially and emotionally.
Taking simple steps to encourage independent artists is essential in helping them continue to make music. Despite being independent of a label, they are dependent upon their audience for support, and listeners’ efforts to uplift them can make a world of difference.