Photo by It's The Little Things / Amanda Hodge

Ways to help local bands and musicians

By JP Carroll

Photo by Corinne Rutherford / Pixel Faerie

While it can seem like a long, tough and at times lonely road for an aspiring musician, there are people in our communities who see our toil, and want to help.

In recent months I’ve had a handful of individuals cut from this mould, reach out to me to see what they can do to help me to advance my music career. While it’s a wonderful question to be asked, It is often a hard one to answer effectively in a quick message or conversation, so I’ve compiled a few strategies that you could look at when supporting your favourite local artists.

Why does this matter? Surely the music industry will reward those who work hard, just like with other industries?

You might already know, there is a painful gap in the budget for independent musicians. The gap lies between funds invested by the artists, into recording and releasing music, and the money they get in return. Streaming platforms such as Spotify are a brilliant service for music listeners, who can stream limitless amounts of music for a low, or no cost. Sadly, the streaming economy does not reward the artists in kind. With often thousands of dollars invested into producing and promoting a song or album, an artist typically receives 0.00331 to 0.00437 cents per stream in return (if they’re lucky). In case you missed it, look again. Those aren’t dollars. They aren’t even cents. Artists receive a fraction of a cent per stream.
Live music is an inconsistent source of income in a small nation like New Zealand at the best of times (you can only really tour once every 6 months, and that doesn’t mean anyone is coming to your shows), let alone during a time in which most industries are facing huge challenges, under the ever-present shadow of a global pandemic. As such, personal music consumption on streaming platforms is an artist’s best bet for generating income – and the odds are not in our favour.

So, how can you help?

1. Stream our music

Most local bands and artists have their music available to stream on the major platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. The more you stream, the more coin you put in their hands!
Make a playlist of your favorite local musicians and stream it whenever you can. If you don’t know where to start, many local artists have playlists featuring local artists – here’s one I curate for Arrays. You might be surprised at just how strong the local scene is!  

2. Buy digital downloads

As well as streaming, you can also buy digital downloads from Bandcamp. Bandcamp rewards the artists much higher compared to other sites (iTunes comes to mind). If you use your hard earned money to support a local artist by buying their work, it will not go unnoticed! The trick is, to still use Spotify to stream the artist from time to time, as weird as that sounds. The industry loves the streaming metric! High stream numbers can lead to more opportunities for artists.

3. Share The Love

Share your favourite local artist’s posts when they have big news, or even when they don’t. Help spread the word – the social media platform algorithms are watching, and when an artist is getting good traction on a post, the platforms automatically send more attention the artist’s way. I know we don’t want to be seen as spammers in the eyes of our family, friends and work colleagues – but think of it as an act of goodwill towards an artist who, as yet, may not be getting the attention they deserve. 

4. Request Local Artists on Radio

Text, call and email in requests to commercial and independent radio stations, requesting the artists who you want to support. The stations may not even have the songs you are requesting on hand, but that doesn’t matter. If they can see enough demand, they’ll approach the artists themselves. Artists earn royalties from commercial radio play, as well as attention when their songs climb the radio charts, so this is a double whammy. 

5. Buy merchandise

Photo by Corinne Rutherford / Pixel Faerie

T-shirts, hoodies, trucker caps, cd’s. You’re going to wear clothes anyway, why not buy something from a local artist to support them financially, and then wear it in public to give them some free marketing.

You… were going to wear clothes today, right?

6. Donate directly to artists

This is a tricky one, because not a lot of artists are set up to take donations. I’ve tried to set this up but I struggled to find a financial service that operates in New Zealand to meet this need (if you know one, let us know in the comments). It might feel awkward to approach an artist and offer them $50.00 deposited into their bank account, but remember these artists are investing $1000’s of dollars into their work, and getting $100’s in return – if things are going well. If you’re the generous type, consider this option as you will make your favourite aspiring artist’s day.

Considering the state this world is in, us independent artists need support now more than ever. Your investment will likely be used just as that – an investment back into the production or promotion of the music that you’ve been enjoying. It may also go towards paying a power bill, replacing an appliance or buying a new tyre for their car. Either way, it’ll likely take the artist one step closer to achieving their career goals, which means more of the music you enjoy, and good vibes all round! 

JP Carroll is a musician/singer/songwriter whose projects include Armed In Advance, Swerve City, and Arrays. As well as being a compulsive producer of music, JP is fascinated with the workings of the music industry and a student of music marketing.