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Best Ways to Support Independent Artists: Are You a Bad Friend?

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

After coming across a Stereogum Instagram Post, we began thinking. The band Oceanator stumbled across a sign at a venue they were playing that read, "ONE T-SHIRT IS THE EQUIVALENT TO 5000 STREAMS ON SPOTIFY. 76% OF ALL MUSIC IS STREAMED AND NOT BOUGHT PHYSICALLY OR DIGITALLY. BAND MERCHANDISE IS THE MOST DIRECT WAY OF SUPPORTING THE ARTIST." And then we thought, what are the best ways to support your favorite independent artists? So we asked you guys and posted a Question on our story. We had quite a few responses and some of our own thoughts, so we compiled a list.

First and foremost, if your friend is a musician, artist, or creative of any kind, and you're not supporting their art, you're a bad friend! Kidding! But also, not really. Support your friends.

  1. BUY THEIR MERCH: Given the intro, I'm sure you could have guessed this one, but it's so important! I don't care how many black T-shirts you already own; buy yourself another one. Because it has your friend's band logo on it. Now, of course, the sale is important. Any profits made on the purchase of that t-shirt will be given to that band or artist, and that's an incredible feat. If you purchase a band tee at $25, and the artist is getting $0.005 per stream ($0.003 on the low-end), you would need to stream their song 5,000 times for them to make approximately the same profit. Just buy the shirt. But this shouldn't be your pajama shirt. Wear it out and be proud! You can be a walking billboard or salesperson for this band. Even if nobody asks you 'what's on your shirt?' you're helping with brand awareness for that artist, and that's invaluable!

  • 2. BUY THEIR MUSIC: We get it. You're not dusting off your CD player or borrowing your grandma's cassette player to listen to a new record. But buying an indie artist's music and physical product directly benefits the artist. Any profits on the tape go directly to them! And if they're selling it on a third-party site, chances are they're only taking a minimal cut. If your friend is trendy and hip, selling their music on cassettes, buy it. Even if you do not listen that way, view it as a collectible! Put it on your shelf; now you're trendy and hip! PROTIP: Always buy directly from the artist if possible! Any hosting sites, e-commerce platforms, and even Bandcamp take small portions of each sale.

  • 3. BUY THEIR MUSIC, BANDCAMP FRIDAYS: Even if you're paying for a Spotify or Apple Music subscription, you should still purchase downloads of an artist's song or album. It's simple, cheap, and doesn't take up any physical space. What's even better is Bandcamp Fridays! Typically Bandcamp charge a 15% commission for digital items, 10% for merchandise or physical goods, and between 4-6% for processing fees. On Bandcamp Friday, which started during the pandemic, revenue share fees are waived during each fundraiser window. So that means all sales on an artist's Bandcamp go directly to them; processing fees still apply, but yay! You can check out when the next Bandcamp Friday is here!

  • 4. SHARE THEIR MUSIC: While I find this one obvious, I also find that it doesn't happen nearly enough as it should. If you really love independent artists, share their music! If your friend is an independent artist, share their music! Add it to your playlists, play it on the AUX, and tell your other friends! This is literally so simple to do, costs you no money, and people are always looking for new music. Do them a favor; play them an indie artist.

  • 5. GO TO THEIR SHOWS/WATCH THEIR LIVE STREAMS: If you got a Facebook invite to their show at a local bar, go! What else are you doing? Your couch can wait. Not only does it mean so much to the artist if you show up for them physically for one of their performances, but it also looks great for them at the venue that they can bring a crowd and have their own following. It can be a great night to relax, have a beer and enjoy the tunes! If your favorite indie artist is doing a live stream or even going on live, watch it! Nobody likes to play to an empty audience or see that only 3 people are in their live. And engage, send those hearts or comments, and if there's a virtual tip jar, even better!

  • 6. ENGAGE!: Nobody hates the algorithm more than independent musicians. You have to bend backward, use the right hashtags, and post at the right times and consistently to have the algorithm work in your favor. Otherwise, you'll be buried in feeds, not appear on the Explore pages and virtually disappear from your follower's universe. As a loyal supporter, you need to be engaging. Engage a lot on all apps and frequently! Like the post! Save the post! Saving posts are highly weighed in the algorithm. Comment! Thoughtful comments are always better than the standard "🔥🔥🔥," but I think we'll take whatever we can get here. Retweet! Subscribe on YouTube! Any way you can engage with content, do it. Artists are eternally grateful for this.

  • 7. SHARE THEIR CONTENT: Sharing is caring! If an artist just released an album, share it! Repost it on your story, add a clickable streaming link, or share it on your feed if you're feeling extra supportive. Did your friend just hit a career milestone in streams? Share it on your social media. Not only will they personally appreciate this, but it helps get the word out about their music! If they were a guest on a podcast, did an interview, or received a rave review, spread the word. Do they have a show coming up that they just posted a flyer for? Re-share, post, and tweet it!

  • 8. PRE-SAVE: I'm sure you've seen at least a handful of artists asking you to 'pre-save' their upcoming release. And I'm sure you thought that was pointless. Pre-saves are so astronomically important, especially to an indie artist! To get any industry attention or to be placed on a coveted playlist, there needs to be enough proven excitement generated for the upcoming release. If artists have enough pre-saves, this could give them the placements they want and need!

  • 9. FOLLOW THEM: Who cares how many followers you have or what your follower/following ratio is. Do you know who it does matter to? An independent musician! You think, "I already follow them on Instagram!" That's lovely, but are you following them on Spotify, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook? Get to it. Do you have multiple accounts? Do you still have your finsta? Follow them on those too!

  • 10. JOIN THEIR EMAIL OR NEWSLETTER: You know how you can be the best supporter? Being the first to know everything! Artists often have email lists for fans to stay updated on their show dates, new music releases, and merch launches. Be the first and subscribe to that email list! It's even more popular for musicians to have a monthly newsletter, giving you a more personal insight into that artist and their life. Subscribe to that too!

  • 11. WORD OF MOUTH: Shout it from the rooftops! Or just tell everyone you know. Again, everyone is looking for new music to listen to, tell them about your friend! Tell them about one of their shows you went to that rocked, tell them about their new album, tell them about the t-shirt you're wearing (assuming you're wearing their t-shirt in this scenario)!

  • 12. OFFER YOUR COUCH: Your couch is now their couch. If your friend is on tour in your city, offer them your couch. Extra points for a guest bedroom with a continental breakfast! Touring is expensive, especially when you're an independent artist. No label is funding their suite at the Plaza. A free place to stay is a huge help to an artist financially. In the future, you may be able to cash in this favor for backstage tickets to their headlining gig at Madison Square Garden!

  • 13. NETWORK WITH THEM: Your friend = their friend. Any of your connections could be helpful to them! You may have a corporate job and think none of your contacts could help. Next thing you know, you introduced them to your boss, and now they're playing your Christmas Party. Any connection could lead to something; every link is closer to the relationship you need.

  • 14. STREAM: Even if you've completed everything else, you bought the download, and you have their vinyl, cassette, and CD, you can still stream! While independent artists only make fractions of a penny on their streams, they're still important. They're essential for editorial playlists, industry attention, blog and interview attention, and the list goes on. Put them on your playlists. Stream it all day long, and put it on a loop. Stream it at the gym, stream it while you work, stream it while you sleep. Always be streaming!

LONG STORY SHORT: Don't be a bad friend; support independent artists!


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