Artists are feeling the pinch right now. Possibly more than any other sector of society. The entertainment and events industry basically shut down and there’s no end in sight. There’s literally no way for performing artists to earn a living at the moment.
Building a sustainable career as a musician or other artist is tough, even at the best of times. Imagine having your only source of income dry up before your very eyes… despite years and years of investment of time and money to find your feet and build an audience. It’s brutally devastating.
And just on the Gold Coast there are hundreds and hundreds of artists being impacted.
But music fans can help right now. Here are some practical tactics for helping artists through this tough patch.
Buy physical merch
Bands live on merchandise sales. And even more so right now. T-shirts, stickers, stubbie coolers, posters, records, CDs and a heap of other random products are available right now with most of the proceeds going to your favourite band. Bandcamp is suspending all of its commission for merch sales on Friday 20 March for 24 hours (Pacific Time), so there’s no better time to jump on board. Locally, that translates to 24 hours from 5.00pm on Friday 20 March. In the last 30 days, nearly $10 million has gone directly from fans into the hands of artists via Bandcamp merch alone.
Need inspiration? Try these Bandcamp bargains:
Tokyo Beef have three punk releases available (and they’re dirt cheap). Nowhere else have a bunch of fabulous merch including stickers, patches, truckers caps, hoodies and tees. Charlie Rebel have physical and digital copies of their releases available. Neo-soul outfit IVORI have the most amazing limited edition coloured vinyl for latest single ‘Dirty Money’ (well, they have three less after I researched this article), you can name your price for a digital copy of Leopold’s Treat’s gorgeous song ‘Gracie’, you could support Hussy Hicks by picking up a tonne of digital and physical copies of their music, including signed vinyl and ZZZ Hot 100 winners Goatzilla have glow-in-the-dark t-shirts available amongst digital and CD copies of their fabulous album ‘Muthafukasaurus’.
Order music online from indie brick and mortar retailers
If your favourite band doesn’t have its own merch site, get onto a local record store that sells physical records and CDs and order up some local gold that way. Our favourite purveyors of shiny black disks, #beatniks, located in Broadbeach have a huge range of stock – both local and otherwise – and will ship records to you in no time at all. What better way to spend an enforced lockdown than listening to new vinyl?
Well, one better way might be to learn a new instrument. Especially now there’s a whole new market for online courses. Our friends at Gold Coast Music have you covered for, well, everything. From maracas to washboards, guitars, strings, flutes, kazoos and mics.
Order a bespoke performance
Artists are thinking outside the square right now but you might have to use your best social media detective skills to find them. Ella Fence is leading by example (and nobody’s really surprised), offering an amazing bespoke service for her fans. For $60 you get a recorded cover song of your choice as well as a t-shirt, signed CD and poster AND a video version of the cover song you’ve chosen. Of course, you can choose to contribute more than that. You can order your favourite song direct with Ella at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pre-order (and pay for) a live performance for later in the year
If you’ve got a wedding, party, small show, networking event or corporate conference happening later in the year, show some cultural leadership and book and pay for your entertainment right now. This creates some cash flow for artists and it also creates some certainty and positivity around when this all mind end. Things are going to be tough for a long time, so the more economic activity we can create as fans, the more certain things will be for the music we love so much.
Watch and share (and pay for) live streams
We all love being at a concert. It’s a multi-dimensional experience and it’s about heaps more than just the music. It’s the lighting and venue aesthetic, being part of a crowd all experiencing the same sounds in different ways, the movement, the spectacle, the taste and the smell. But right now, those opportunities aren’t available – for artists or for fans. And many musicians are moving into the digital streaming space (albeit reluctantly). So, if your favourite artists are live streaming a performance, please watch. Then share. And then if the opportunity exists, please pay.
Honour any financial commitments to artists
If you’ve booked an artist for an event that’s now being postponed, how about you honour that payment (if you’re able to, financially) and chalk it up as credit for a later date. That’s a win-win.
Keep your ticket
If you’re a fan who’s missed out on a show that’s been cancelled, #keepyourticket. Chances are the show will be rescheduled. But if it’s not, most of that money flows directly to the artist (especially for small shows and festivals… cough cough Mojo Burning, anyone).
Remember this runs much deeper than just the musicians
The music industry is often referred to as an ‘ecosystem’ because there are many separate parts relying on each other to function. Musicians can’t get gigs without venues and venues in turn pay for sound and lighting technicians. Musicians don’t get people to gigs without publicists and music media and then they can’t build a fan base without music writers and photographers. Ticketing agents help keep the commerce running tightly and merch makers create the branded goods we all wear so proudly. How good are music videos? They require stylists and producers and directors and film crew and colourists (whatever they are).
There are graphic designers who create tour posters, distribution companies who put them up on the streets and screen printers who make it all happen. The companies who are pressing vinyl ready to sell at shows and the music stores who sell those records afterwards. Not to mention the instrument stores who are selling guitar strings and cables and amps and guitars and washboards and the like. There are festival bookers / event managers who’ve been creating partnerships with alcohol and other beverage companies, security firms and food trucks. And then there’s the whole bureaucracy around licensing and regulation that sits on top of all of this. And that’s just for small independent artists without labels and publishers backing them.
Feature photo: Gold Coast Music Awards 2018, by Shots Fired by James Wills.