The music industry today is tough. There are more artists than ever competing for our ears… and the Internet has essentially made buying music an “if you want to” sort of thing (If you haven’t read David Lowery’s diatribe on why we should be buying more music instead of downloading for free, you should).
So, outside of buying our copies of their albums, how do those of us who want to support artists do so? Yeah, social media. I get it. Beyond that. What can we do? I’m very lucky to have become part of an incredibly supportive community of music fans, and they’re always coming up with inventive new ways to help our favorite artists along. For those who want to do more but don’t know how, I thought I’d take some of the ideas I’ve used and seen over the years and compile a list of ways to be a better music fan.
What have you got to add?
1. Write an iTunes/Amazon review of an album. The algorithms that help an album chart and show up in Google searches are a closely held secret. However, reviews are a key part of the formula. Keep ’em short, sweet and punchy!
2. Make an iTunes Ping playlist/Spotify playlist/Mix CD with your favorite artists. Use social media to talk about your playlist or send copies of the CD out to your friends! For many people, playlists are a great way to find new music.
3. Your favorite artist is in town? Buy them dinner! Pick up the check if you see them at your favorite restaurant before the show.
4. Write a blog post about the artist. Subjective reviews are the easiest; if you’re going to write something newsy, make sure to double and triple check all your facts!
5. Fuel them up/buy an oil change with gift cards. A lot of artists wrack up 3,000 miles on their vehicle in a typical week. With gas still above $3 a gallon most everywhere, fuel bills and car repairs can add up quick. Gift cards for these things are gold! National chains are best (so they’ll work no matter where they are), but if your band is only touring regionally, local chains can work, too.
6. Make care packages for touring musicians! Care packages are a super fun way to let your favorite artists know how much you appreciate their music and their touring effort. Load up a bag or basket with goodies you know they’ll love – or be able to put to good use. Some things I’ve used before: card games, cookies, candy, music, Fix-a-Flat, Silly Putty, frisbees, fruit, restaurant gift cards, books and magazines, trial size toiletries, and bottled water.
7. Leave behind a CD in a rental car. I’ve left mix CDs behind and actual purchased CDs. Both can be effective. Caveat: Rental car companies do clean cars out between uses. Put a little sticky note on it asking the rental car cleaners to leave it there for the next renter. No one ever has good music when they need it.
8. Put those hotel rewards points to use and gift a night at a nice hotel. If you’re a frequent traveler (or an infrequent one) and have rewards points you can part with, saving the band a few bucks will earn you big gratitude.
9. Offer up your couch or guest room for the night. Imagine you’re a touring musician. Hotel rooms in not-so-scary parts of cities run $75 and up a night. You’re on tour for 5 weeks. The cost of rooms along could break the bank. A little hospitality goes a long way.
10. Send a random email to tell them what the music means to you. The little things matter.
11. Buy extra copies of an album and give it away to friends for no good reason. It puts money in your favorite artists’ pockets AND it makes other people feel good. Win-win.
12. Post on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest when a new album comes out…and include the link! Don’t make your friends and family work to find the music…make it easy for them to buy. I usually post both the Amazon and iTunes links (hint: to get an iTunes link for an album, click on the little arrow next to the album price and select “Copy Link.”)
13. Host a house party with your favorite musician as the musical entertainment. Lots of independent artists are more than happy to play at your home. Negotiate a price with the artists and then ask your friends and family to pitch in a “cover charge” to cover the cost.
14. The tried and true bumper sticker works better today than ever before. Everyone’s on the hunt to find the next new “it” band before their friends do. Help them out and promote your favorites on your car!
15. At a live show, thank them for coming to your city. Let them know you appreciate the effort they took to come see you. Bonus: artists remember this kind of thing and it might be the difference between them picking your city over another on their next tour.
16. Buy an extra ticket for a show and leave it at the door. Tell the door guy to give it to someone who doesn’t have a ticket or use social media to give it away to the first person to grab it (thanks for the idea, Riz!).
17. Clip restaurant coupons for their favorite places and give them to them when they play your city. Saving money is ALWAYS a good thing.
18. Get your friends together for pre-show drinks/dinner and invite the artist to stop by. It’s a great way for them to meet some of their fans (or soon to be fans) one-on-one!
19. Check-in at a live show using Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever your friends are using. Make them want to be at that show with you!
20. Use your birthday as a way to get your family and friends to contribute to a Kickstarter or PledgeMusic campaign. You really don’t need another pair of running socks, anyway.
21. Give the gift of Sharpies. Yes, it’s true, I’m a Sharpie fanatic. But for touring musicians, these perma-pens have a mysterious way of disappearing. They can never have enough! And…if you want to get really fancy, get them some customized ones.
22. Use lyrics to make artwork and graphics. You don’t have to be DaVinci to make cool artwork these days. All you need are some basic computer tools. Make customized Facebook cover photos with lyrics (make sure you put the band’s name in there). Take your digital photos and use Photoshop or Paint to add your favorite lyric to your favorite buddy photo. Print it out and frame it as a gift. You’re getting the word out there about the artist…and giving a unique, customized gift in the process.
23. Ask the street team or artist about helping out with selling merch at a show. Many artists tour without crew, so having an extra set of hands to help out is very appreciated (and many artists will offer you free entry into the show as thanks). Caveat: in some bigger venues, this could mean that you actually don’t get to see the show, so make sure to ask ahead of time if you have to staff the table during the show.
24. Randomly give away a copy of an album on social media. This is one of my favorites! On the day an album is released, tweet, Facebook or whatever that you’ll give away a copy of the album to the first person to message you. iTunes or Amazon gift the music to them. You’ll put a smile on someone’s face, I guarantee it!
25. Roadtrip for a show in another city. Keep an eye on your favorite musicians touring schedules. Know that a city won’t bring in a crowd for them? Never seen them in their hometown? Trust me, hometown shows are ALWAYS worth the trip. Show up unexpectedly. Get your friends together and make it a weekend adventure. New cities often bring new setlists and surprises!