Notes From Nashville #17: 10 Ways To Help Independent Artists

So far, most of my column has focused on the industry ins and outs from an artist’s perspective.  But in case you’re reading this as a music fan (aren’t all of us, really?), I decided to make a Top 10 list of Ways to Help Independent Artists as a reminder of how important fans are to an artist’s motivation, sense of purpose, and ultimate success.  Fans literally make or break us!

Talking with some friends and fans who have slid into my DMs, a common question I get is: “What can I do to support?”  Thus, prayers have been answered, hallelujah, and I have made an internet list. Let me know in the comments if you think I’ve missed anything!  Here goes:

10 Ways To Help Independent Artists

#1: Share

Not all of us have extra money we’re able to spend on a whim, so luckily, this first one won’t cost you anything!  Anytime an artist posts a song, a YouTube video, a picture marketing their shows, etc, share! The age of social media is upon us, and it is easier than ever to create virality through grassroots (meaning you guys!) marketing.  Chances are if you like it, your friends may too. And if nothing else, they’ll see the name which gives independent artists like us brand exposure! Sharing isn’t just limited to the internet though. Word of mouth is also important and easy.  Tell your family, your yoga class, your hairdresser, your dentist, the lady in the checkout line!  While it may not seem like a big deal, it creates a buzz that is authentic and generates interest because it comes from you- you’re obviously a pretty cool person.  If you like this artist, that must make them cool too 😉 … maybe I’ll go look them up.

#2: Follow/Subscribe/Join A Mailing List

This one is pretty obvious, but make sure you’re following your favorite artist on all of their accounts and subscribe to their mailing list.  Oftentimes, an artist will be well represented on one account, but have a big discrepancy in numbers on another. For example, there are even signed artists out there with over 50K followers on Facebook and Instagram, and less than 1000 on YouTube or Twitter.  Unfortunately for independent artists hoping to capture the attention of a major label, numbers and interactions do matter. Write a quick comment. Like a photo. It’s free for you, and because we live in a day and age where fanbases can be quantified through superficial social media platforms, your artist will appreciate you making them look appealing to industry execs!  

#3: Request Them on Radio

If your independent artist has announced a radio release, call your local station and request!  Even though streaming has become huge lately, radio is still king where the music industry is concerned.  Most industry is old school and take chart positions very seriously. Radio play is an indication of how well an area or certain audience receives the music.  The more airplay the song gets, the more people hear it, and the higher the chart position! And while you shouldn’t badger your local station incessantly, make regular requests (once or twice a week) and ask your friends to do the same.  It does make a difference!

#4: Buy Music/ Spin Music/ Add Music

Pretty self-explanatory right?  If you’ve ever read articles on the payouts from spins versus purchases of a song, you know that buying a song puts money in the artist’s pocket much better than simply spinning it (and maybe I’m old school, but I love physical cds when they’re available).  But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t spin it on your favorite streaming platform also! Spins are quantified by industry much in the same way that social media presence is. If your song has millions of spins, it is going to capture attention! Songs with high spin numbers also do better with large playlist placements.  On Spotify, “favoriting” or “adding” the artist profile gives their music the impression of a retentive or active audience (that’s that little heart button in the corner).  

Whatever you do, don’t illegally pirate your music.  Music is made through hours of songwriting, days and nights in the studio, a painstaking amount of time perfecting it, and money spent to promote and release it.  Show your appreciation for the art and the artist by paying the tiny amount it costs to enjoy it.

#5: Buy Merch!

Not only is it going to get you a cool koozie, a swag t-shirt, a signed poster, or a dope new hat, it provides us artists with brand exposure and money to fund our next project or tour!  While booking agents, venues, managers, labels, etc. have dipped their hands into a lot of income streams, the largest direct revenue for artists comes from merchandise sales. Go get you a cute accessory!  And knock out some early Christmas shopping for your friends while you’re at it!

#6: Go To Shows/ Buy Tickets

Nobody likes to play to an empty room.  Support an independent artist by making them feel heard.  We pour our hearts into our music. Bonus points if we can get you to dance as well!  Concerts are the perfect way to get together for a good time, so bring a friend! Ticket sales affect artist payout as well as the venue’s likelihood to book us in the future.  If you’re one of those loyal fans who has been there since the beginning, you’ve upped your chances for those complementary backstage passes when we’re selling out stadiums!

#7: Scout Venues

This isn’t really your job, right?  Technically that’s true. But if you’re interested in having an artist come to your area to play a show, you will increase the likelihood of them coming if they know what venues are around (bonus points if you know the contact info for who they should talk to).  A lot of us independent artists do not have somebody who books for us, meaning we have to do it ourselves. If somebody says “come to Cincinnati”, I’m like “oh, that’d be cool, I’ll have to look into it when I get a chance.” If somebody says, “talk to Dave who is the booking manager over at Saddle Ranch on Main Street”, I pick up the phone.  

#8: Become An Investor

If you do have money to spend, and are passionate about your artist’s music, investing is a great way to fuel success!  This could be donating to a crowdfunding campaign, putting money towards an album, giving the band dinner or a place to crash while they’re on the road, etc.  As independent artists, we don’t have a major label to sponsor us and funnel recording, travel, and promotion money into our careers. If it seems like artists with financial backing get ahead much quicker than those without it, it’s not a coincidence.  Like in any industry, you need money to make money. If I had a billion dollars to place a billboard in Times Square and get Taylor Swift to tweet my music, I bet reaching my goals would be just a tad easier. Or at least I wouldn’t have to eat ramen again tonight.

#9: Moral Support & Positivity

Being an independent artist is stressful!  We’re worried about songwriting, recording, finances, promotion, marketing, management, booking and a million other things.  While this life is incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, the lows hit me even harder than the highs sometimes, and leave me wondering why I even tried to do something so ridiculous in the first place.  I question my accomplishments, my skills, my progress. Sometimes the greatest gift I can receive on some random day is a random message from somebody that tells me to keep going, that I touched their lives through music, that I’m doing great.  We make music to connect with the people around us. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that what we’re doing matters. One person, one positive message, can turn around an entire day for me and help press the reset button. Ok. Somebody cares.  It’s going to be alright.

#10: Ask!

The final Way to Help Independent Artists is simply to ask the artist!  At different points in our careers, we may need different things. Some of them may be simple like a vote in a contest or a view and comment on a music video.  Some of them may ask you to go above and beyond as a fan to help us meet a monetary goal or help us finish a project. Your power lies in the fact that you get to decide how involved you are, and as a result, how successful we are.  We couldn’t do what we do without your love, support, and positivity, so THANK YOU if you’ve ever done any of these ten things. It means more than you know.

2 thoughts on “Notes From Nashville #17: 10 Ways To Help Independent Artists

  • June 30, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Melanie, first it was nice to meet you at CMA fest, earlier this month. Really wish I had thought to get a selfie with you. So silly of me. It was at the WCW show, at, I think Tin Roof, Demonbraun. I know it was Demonbraun. I was the guy who asked if I could sit in your seat during Maggie’s set, so I could stream it on her FB fan account. Anyway, I think you hit the nail on the head with this article. I fo most of these things already, wishing I could do more, for several independent artists, including you. I didn’t realize how much the little things mattered. Spins, shares, likes, etc. Thank you for letting me know that what I’m doing means something. You just gave me that little nudge of motivation to keep going.
    Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep supporting you, and all the other artists I like. 💖

  • June 30, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    This is all so true I do what I can on this list

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