Despite the CD CLUB moniker and admiration of physical media; I'm not anti-streaming. Streaming is easy, fun, and convenient. And sure, there is a certain element of “exposure” that can be gained from getting included in certain popular playlists, or the algorithm putting an artist in front of a user who has never heard of them before. But as a culture, we simply can not be okay with streaming income replacing physical media sales income for artists, because it absolutely does not measure up.
There has to be another way for independent artists to make money from their fans who stream their music, now that it is so widespread. Personally, I think the answer is: if we stream music, we need to also be putting money directly into artists pockets. The impact of supporting an artist with cash up front is so much greater than a hope and a prayer that the number of times we stream their music is going to have any kind of ripple effect.
We are familiar with carbon offsets; actions intended to compensate for our carbon footprints. So, why not consider activating some streaming offsets?
The concept is simple: Giving an artist $20 directly is roughly the equivalent of what they would make (before expenses) from streaming royalties for 5,000 streams. It will take a very long time for you to rack up 5000 streams of their music, if that ever even happens at all. Instead, if we just go ahead and give artists that money directly, artists won't have to rely on streaming income as part of their livelihood. If multiple people did this for independent artists they admire, those artists would absolutely be buoyed by this support.
Here's what I propose to you right now, dear reader: if you look at your Spotify Wrapped (or Apple/Deezer/Tidal/whatever) and see an independent artist in there, go check their website. If they don't have a tip jar already in place where you can just drop some money in, consider making a purchase from their site, of a digital download or of some merch you want. Putting money directly in their pockets is the best way to support independent artists.
My wildly talented friend Shawn William Clarke is putting the Streaming Offset concept to the test in his Indiegogo campaign right now - I've purchased a vinyl as well as a streaming offset, personally, as I love to collect vinyl, but will probably stream the new album more often than not.
FAN TO-DO LIST
- Think of some independent artists whose music you streamed this year or who you'd like to support
- Go to their website, have a look around, maybe they are coming to your town soon and you can buy tickets to their show?
- See if they have merch or any physical media you're interested in, if so, purchase some!
Buying merch is a great way to support artists, they love that!
- If not; is there a digital product you can purchase? (Even if you don't really want it?)
Buying a digital product has a great impact - it doesn't cost the artist anything per copy, you get something in exchange, they feel happy that you have bought that item. Win-Win.
- If not, OR in addition to the above; is there a tip jar or a donate button on their site?
Many artists added something like this during the pandemic and it might still be there!
- If not; consider reaching out to them to ask how to best support them directly.
ARTIST TO-DO LIST
- Make sure your socials link to your own website where fans can make purchases
- Ensure that you have at least one digital product that they can purchase (like a digital download). Not everyone wants physical merch, as much as we'd like them to want it! Lean into it even further and consider making some interesting digital products that will not cost you anything to deliver.
- Set up a tip jar or even a ‘streaming offset’ merch item where they can select different amounts to contribute, or ‘PWYC’ amounts.
- Don't rely on e-transfers/Venmo etc. as they are not easy to send internationally - make sure it's super, super easy for your fans to get money to you.
- Talk to your fans about this! Make sure they know how little impact streaming has on your income as an artist, discuss the value of their money compared to streaming. Feel free to borrow from this post if you need a little help!
- Remember that you are a music fan, too - go to the top of the Fan To-Do List and take some action to support your favourite artists in turn :)