How to help your favourite independent artist when you have no money.


So I know it's been a while since I last posted here. It was in fact the day I reached £10,000 for my Abbey Road fund that prompted me to write... Well just before Christmas we reached £20,000 and as I sit and type we're at £22,920. I wasn’t expecting any kind of boost in January, and yet here we are, another 6% closer to the goal. 

As a result of this, I'm currently in e-mail chats with Abbey Road about getting the studio booked up for early next year. Having some dates in the diary would be a great focus point for me at this stage and make it all feel a little more real rather than just a monetary total. It will also help to focus the creative mind as I start to write the songs which will eventually be recorded there. I can also start approaching funding organisations with a clearer picture of what I need in the hope of being able to get some money without asking any more from you. The currently goal means I need to be earning roughly £75 a day between now and when I’m planning on being in the studio, so getting some funding is really going to help that. My fingers are crossed. 

With the beginning of touring still not being talked about for at least 6 or 7 months and with European touring pretty much out of the equation (lets not talk about that, I still can't process the news on this right now), I've obviously got to think outside the box to try and raise the next £25,000 to fulfil my full target. I'm aware that my audience is small and I've already asked so much of so few and people have certainly dug deep to support this project. I'm also aware that the economy is in a precarious state where a lot of people don't have much or any expendable cash right now (I put myself into this category, although I've received the SEISS grants and continue to drive for Amazon, it's nowhere near what i normally earn from doing my usual bill paying covers gigs and there's no time line for when they'll be back either). I know that people want to support musicians and artists even when they don't have much or any money, so I'm here to offer some ideas. 

  1. It's fairly obvious but listen to their music. If you use streaming platforms, then make playlists of your favourite independent artists and make sure you try and play them once a day. Please be careful with this. Some of the streaming sites will look for irregularities in streaming numbers. If they notice a ridiculous amount of streams for one track from one account or one IP address (I know some people have multiple accounts from different devices) then they can take down a track or album for fraudulent activity. From trying to help an artist, you might actually cause them some problems. Hence, why I suggest putting a large number of songs from a variety of artists into a playlist. It’s also more fun to listen to that way too and you get to help multiple artists. Independent artists can actually earn a decent amount from streaming. We’re not paying 80% of our royalties to record labels and if we don’t have management, we’re not losing a further 20% of our cut to those people. From just 600-1000 monthly listeners I’m getting between £150-£200 on Spotify. It’s not to be frowned at. When you see acts that have hundreds of thousands of listeners and songs with millions of streams, the revenue they must be generating is crazy! Anyway, the other reason why it’s helpful to make sure you’re playing your favourites on streaming sites is because they all use algorithms to help with discovery. I can get added to various playlists as my numbers go up because I start hitting various statistical goals within the platforms. If people have their auto-plays turned on, then it may be one of my songs which suddenly appears for them to listen to when they’re listening to similar artists. This can mean I can get a new audience that may then help to add to my Abbey Road funds. Basically, if you see that artists are moaning about Spotify or streaming sites, they’re probably signed to big labels and aren’t happy in retrospect to the contracts which they’ve signed, or they haven’t really studied the real world benefits of it for smaller acts. If you’re an artist reading this, I’m happy to have a chat with you if you’re unsure yourself. 

    Btw… you always hear people moan about Spotify but oddly not about YouTube or Facebook. To even qualify to earn the small amount per stream (or view of a video) on those platforms, you have to have hit a set of targets. On Facebook that’s 10,000 page likes and 30,000 1 minute views of videos which are over 3 minutes long in the last 60 days. On YouTube it’s 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the last 6 months. Out of those four goals, the only one I actually meet is the YouTube subscriber goal. So, please make sure you like your favourite artists page and subscribe to them on YouTube and watch at least 1 minute of their music vidoes on Facebook and as much as you can on YouTube, but this is as an extra, because those goals are really quite high so you need to have quite a few people doing that to get anywhere near just to start generating a small amount of income. 
  2. Sharing links to your friends and family. If there is a song or a music video by your favourite independent artist, don’t keep it to yourself! We all have plenty of ways we can share things. Either as a Facebook status or a Tweet, or perhaps even more helpful, in group chats on Whatsapp or in Discord servers or Facebook groups. There are plenty of places you probably exist where your opinion about music is higher appreciated, and everyone loves getting a tip off from a friend. If you have time, and you really want to get into this, sending an individual friend a link to a song you think they might like is so helpful. It might only result in one stream or play, but it might cause someone to dig deeper and really look into an artist and you may cause someone to become a supporter. Throughout my time of self promotion, I’ve always found that a direct approach with recommendations is more effective than Facebook status, but I do appreciate that this takes time. Also, while we’re still in lockdown, why not suggest to your family/friends that you have a music appreciation night on your Zoom calls/house parties. Something a little different from a quiz, everyone chooses a song and that they like which they think the others might not have heard about and shares it with the group. My family did a top 10 songs from the last decade over Christmas. We all presented our choices and made a playlist. From that I’ve discovered quite a few new people to listen to who I didn’t know about. Music consumption has changed so dramatically in the last 10 years that there were a lot less duplicate songs in our lists that when we did it in 2010. 
  3. Is your favourite artist on Twitch? I’ve recently discovered that this can be a great source of income for an artist and it doesn’t have to involve you spending money you don’t have. Of course the same with live streaming anywhere, you can always set up a donate link for those who want to, but Twitch has other monetization options. To be able to have monetization on your account you need to do three things. Get 50 followers and over the last 30 days have you need to have streamed on 7 different days for over 500 minutes and had an average of 3 people watching. All of which is fairly achievable. Once you’re at that point you can join the affiliate scheme where a number of things can happen. Firstly, adverts will appear on your streams when someone joins and you’ll earn a few pennies from each of these (so just joining a stream someone is putting on is useful). Secondly, people can subscribe to your page. This a monthly payment of £4.99 which the artists get a big cut of. The benefits of you doing this for the artist are that you don’t have to watch the adverts, you get access to some emotes (twitch term for emojis) to use in the chat and you’ll earn channel points quicker (channel points are things you can redeem in the chat to engage with the stream, for example I have them set up so you can make me use a different guitar for a song etc). But wait, I said this was about giving you ideas to help an artist without spending money. Sure, you don’t have to subscribe, but twitch also has an option to “gift” a subscription to other users. And those who have money often do this to people who get involved with the chat. So just by being there and participating, someone might gift you a sub which can earn the artist money. Also, if you already have an Amazon Prime account, you can link that account to your twitch account and you get one free subscription on twitch per month (there's a useful guide to how to do this right here). Free money for the artist you want to support! Basically, twitch is really great for artists. If you’re an artist, get set up and start streaming. If you’re a supporter, then sign up for an account and start watching and engaging. 
  4. Press and radio stuff… This one is something I’m not traditionally good at making happen, but I’m trying to change that. Even though most of us are streaming to find our music these days, radio does still exist, and even more amazing, local radio still exists. While it’s really hard to get songs played on the major radio stations, the smaller ones are quite useful. If you are in contact with an artist and you want to help them, ask if you can research some good local stations or independent shows which might feature there music. It will still have to be up to the artist to submit the songs etc, but one of the more time consuming jobs is to actually find out what shows there are. Same with finding out about blogs that do reviews etc. If the artist you like has this stuff already, and is getting played or reviewed, then there is another really important job you can do, it’s quite simple. Most of those reviewers, DJs or radio stations will be tweeting out the article, show or what they’re playing. If you’re favourite artist is featured, make sure you engage with that post. It shows those people that featuring your favourite artist is worthwhile. Ideally you’d actually read the review or listen to the show. If you really want to, make sure you then check out other shows on that station and send in requests every now and then for them to play your favourites. Particularly with good local radio, the DJs love having regular people message in. So maybe find one, maybe your local one, and really get to know it. Don’t always request the same artist or song, but do participate. 

I recently reached out to quite a few local radio stations and got a fairly good response and have had my songs played on a few shows. To my surprise in the week since I did that, I’ve seen my Spotify listeners double it’s daily amount. So, this radio and press thing is something I’m really going to try and maintain if possible. To help with this I’ve set up a new Facebook street team group, if you want to know more about how to join and what you can do to help, please just drop me an e-mail or a message. 

I have no idea if anyone will have read this far, but if you have, thank you, and I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how you can help support your favourite independent artists without actually spending any money. Don’t forget that the internet is pretty much all algorithms now, so don’t underestimate your value to a small artist. Simply liking their posts really helps them, as it means that more people might see it. 

Thank you to all who have helped me and continue to help me. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be in Abbey Road Studio 2. Isn’t that something?

Leave a comment