How To Help Performing Musicians
Although music is a ubiquitous part of nearly every human’s experience, there is, perhaps, a subconscious expectation that it comes for free. In fact, it’s extremely expensive to produce and deliver good music (both live and recorded).
The independent musician needs an average of 200 streams to earn $1 on the major streaming services, and eighty percent of all industry revenue is earned by three major labels.
Venues that still host live music (and they are diminishing) must take into consideration a variety of costs, including copyright licensing, sound system, staffing, and musicians’ pay. So it’s helpful to thank those businesses who still believe in live music and hire (meaning, literally, they pay) musicians to offer entertainment.
From 2012 to 2016, the median annual compensation for American musicians was less than $25,000 (American Community Survey, 2016). Most of us who choose music as a career do so with the expectation that supplementary work will be necessary to make ends meet.
But you rarely hear musicians complain about pay, because in the long run, we’re going to do this as long as we’re still breathing, and nobody likes a whiner. In fact, there are other forms of “compensation” that can make up for -- sometimes even transcend -- traditional pay.
So, if you’re interested in helping performing musicians, here are some creative ways:
Wait! Don’t tune out! We all “know” social media is important, but there are some tricks to help an artist increase her/his visibility.
Your “likes” of a band’s page, posts, tweets, photos, videos and music are more valuable than you may realize- they’re actually worth money. There are venues and booking personnel who won’t give a band a second look without 500+ likes on Facebook.
Like their page. Like their posts. Comment if you have something nice to say.
Indicate you’re “going” or “interested” on their events. Even if you can’t make the show, the more interest in the post, the higher its visibility in feeds.
Post photos from shows you attend. If you get some good video (they’re actually hard to come by due to background noise) edit a favorable clip or two and post.
Repost/retweet events in your feed to increase awareness of an upcoming show.
Invite friends to like a band/musician’s page/profile. But do so with purpose- we don’t want to bother people who, say, think roots music is dorky. What we want is to let the gal or guy who really digs this genre know we’re out here doing it and doing it well.
It sounds fairly basic, but even popping in to attend a portion of a show is extremely helpful to a performing musician. Your smiling face is valuable, reminding us we have friends who believe in what we’re doing.
While attending, if you listen or dance, you’re helping to set the experience for the other members of the audience. We deeply appreciate when people take the time to acknowledge we’re playing for them and try to listen, applaud, smile, and interact with us, etc. Obviously, many venues are bars and we’re completely cognizant of the fact that folks are there to socialize and have a good time. We get it. But it’s still really helpful to know you know we’re there.
Tell the manager and staff that you liked the music and you hope they’ll have us back.
Buy Merch/Grab a Card/TIP
Many performing musicians rely on merch and music sales to supplement their pay. Moreover, your tips add up and can totally round out our pay. (By the way, if you leave a large bill in the jar, it’s 100% acceptable to hold it up so a member of the band knows it was you who left it.)
Grab a few of the band’s cards! You can give one to another venue if you think our music is a good fit. We can’t say enough how beneficial it can be for our fans to recommend us to a potential employer.
Gifting music is a fabulous way to spread the word about a musician you enjoy.
To repeat, your word of mouth to potential venues is one of the best ways for us to get hired. If you’re in a venue you think would be a good fit, please let the manager know. Then, contact us so we can follow up with them and send an info kit.
Wineries and corporate events, along with weddings and celebratory events, provide excellent opportunities for a good band to deliver a win-win for themselves and the hosts.
Host an Event
You can host an event -- say, a birthday gathering or retirement party -- in a venue that normally has live music. Simply contact us and we can help make arrangements with the venue.
You can host a house concert in your own home for relatively no cost (other than helping to ensure enough people are there to cover the band’s fee). Many people hold intimate gatherings with musicians performing in their living room or back yard, and often will ask for potluck dishes and BYOB. A suggested donation is collected at the door to pay the musicians.
You can suggest musicians for your corporate holiday or summer parties.
In a Nutshell
Thank you. Thanks for your love. It’s an absolutely beautiful world we’ve got -- music can be such a grand demonstration of heart and community.
And it really works when we work together.
Our friend Charlie, an artist living on the Tillamook coast, says, “If everyone is giving -- both the musicians and the audience -- the energy becomes circular and we all walk away feeling renewed.”
Thanks for reading this. -- Missi & John