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Maybe Donations to Bands Isn't Such a Shitty Idea

Posted by: Jason Tate (02/06/12)
Sometimes supporting a band financially is more difficult than it should be. There are three traditional ways I can think of supporting a band I love: buy their music, buy their merch, see their show. I listen to virtually all of my music in some digital form. I subscribe to Rdio and I buy quite a few digital releases as well (using a combination of Amazon and iTunes). Now, it's not really a secret that even this method of (legal) music consumption is not putting much money in the hands of the artists or labels I'm enjoying. When it comes to physical media - I've basically given up on CDs (also not a great way of getting money into the hands of the bands I love), but I just don't have the room to store them anymore. I spend quite a bit of money on vinyl each year; however, I'm usually only buying the albums I absolutely love, not everything I listen to. And even when I buy vinyl, I've got to make sure I get in on a purchase early so that the band gets the money. This isn't always possible. Either the official pre-order doesn't come with a "just vinyl option" - and I have to go through a different retailer (which I'm assuming takes a cut from the band) - or it sells out early and I end up paying a little more to get it from a re-seller (and the band sees nothing from me). So, while I feel I'm doing more than some (by actually paying for literally everything) when it comes to supporting the music I listen to - I know, deep down, I'm not really supporting my favorite bands and labels with my music listening habits in all that meaningful of a way.

Now we look at merch. I'm going to be honest: I don't need more band shirts. They're great for lounging around the house in, but I just don't need more t-shirts at this point in my life. I buy some merch, usually sweatshirts or something, every once in a while. And more often than not the merch I buy ends up being for gifts. In all honesty: I would rather just give a band I love $20 and they can keep the shirt. However, it seems that any kind of "online donation" system is shunned by most bands. We've seen the backlash that just starting a Kickstarter can cause, and I've seen even more outspoken criticism of any band that accepts "donations." The cries of "taking advantage of your fans" seem to get louder every time anyone tries anything like this. Fine, I guess I get some part of that argument - however, the more I think about it -- I wish there was an easier way to donate to a band I love. I wish there was a simple way to donate money to a band's tour/gas fund. Or to a "record tour EP" fund. Or a "buy some taco bell in some crappy city" fund.

And lastly, we have paying to go to a show. I love going to shows, and some of my best memories are sweaty and smelly in the middle of 50 kids screaming lyrics no one in a 20 block radius has ever heard. Yet, I'm getting older - no way to deny it - and I just can't make it out to as many shows as I would like. Life gets in the way. Work gets in the way. It's just not possible to go to every show I wish I could. And hey, usually if I do - I can drop some money into the tip jar by the merch table. But without every show coming near me, my own ridiculous schedule, and just the logistics in general --it's not very reasonable.

Well, this rant is getting a little long now - but my main point is this: everyone keeps saying "support the bands you love" -- and I support that sentiment completely. I'm trying. But it's not as easy as it should be ... and if I, someone actively involved in the music scene that pays for music, can't find a dead simple way to financially support a band I love, then we're all sort of fucked, right? I get why bands are struggling. I get why labels are struggling. The internet is doing a great job of making it easier to listen to music - and the internet is doing a great job of bringing us closer to the artists we love. We can get all kinds of information about them, follow them on social networks, all of that -- yet we're not quite there yet when it comes to putting our money where our mouths are. And at the end of all of this, if we want musicians to continue making music for a living ... we are going to have to figure out a better way for them to be financially supported.
  
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 114
02:13 PM on 02/06/12
#2
YoungHeartsBeFree
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truth on all accounts.
02:16 PM on 02/06/12
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FayeQC
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Someone needs to post that breakdown graph on how much % bands see from different kinds of sales.

edit: here it is

Also, personally I don't see anything wrong with online donations, no one's making you do it and if you're favourite band is small and struggling it's not wrong to want to help at all.
02:17 PM on 02/06/12
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Anton Djamoos
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Thus why I loved The Dear Hunter's Lifetime Fan Package -- http://puregrainaudio.com/news/the-d...starting-today

Also, I make it a practice to only stream bands' music when I can even if I own the CD just because they're not getting money from me playing the CD, but they are getting at least something from the stream.

Christian, get in here and start talking against Kickstarter!
02:21 PM on 02/06/12
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InfiniteArms
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I think it's like, for every 1000 dollars sold in music, the average musician only gets $23.40 or something. So yeah, If they made it easier to donate, then I would happily do it.
02:21 PM on 02/06/12
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fjiaewov
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It's also really great when the band eventually breaks up for financial reasons that the same people who were so against their kick starter/other forms of donation are the first ones playing the "this industry sucks, this is why people should buy music" card.

02:24 PM on 02/06/12
#7
esposimi
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No wonder so many less known artists are not on Spotify.
02:24 PM on 02/06/12
#8
Nowisnotthetime
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Really thought-provoking, my initial thought is that we need some kind of independent label Rdio/Spotify. It needs to be spearheaded by the big indies (Epitaph/Equal Vison, etc.) for the rest of them. It should basically be a non-profit on it's own in that just funnels subscription money right to the labels, only covering it's own costs to operate. Downloading another program would for sure be a pain in the ass but I think it might be great knowing that every listen is adding up to paying the labels and in turn bands we love something significant. Any band smaller than huge just isn't going to make money on a for-profit subscription service after they take a big cut before it even goes to labels. They need a lot of plays to make money.

This would also most likely require indies to break or change some existing contracts with the distribution they have now, but it may be the only way to save themselves from this move to subscription. It has to be a unification of a TON of the bigger indies.
02:24 PM on 02/06/12
#9
incognitojones
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That's why I love bandcamp, easy to give to the artists as much as you want them to have. Doesn't always work out, but a step in the right direction.
02:24 PM on 02/06/12
thechetearly
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I think people who are against bands opening themselves up to donations are just dumb as hell.

Countless times while at shows, I have dropped various amounts of money in a bands tip/donation jar. Some times it's the change I have from buying a CD and breaking a $20, some times I just drop a $10, maybe more. I know I'm not going to wear their shirts, because I just don't like graphic t's, and I already have all their CD's because they are my favorite band. So why NOT give them money. I would encourage all music fans to consider doing this.

And from the looks on bands faces, they appreciate it sooo much. And I love that feeling way more than getting some t-shirt or a sticker or whatever. I would rather know that now that they have a little more money for gas, or food, or to print more merch without having lost any.

Like you Jason, I am always trying to give the band as much/as direct of my money as possible. And it's super hard to do. Because I want my favorite bands, especially the ones who are always struggling, to be able to do what they love without putting a stress on their loved ones, and of course I want them to do what they love because I love what they do.
02:27 PM on 02/06/12
ElizabethKate
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I would definitely like for bands to have an online tip jar. I want to support my bands, but sometimes I just don't like the merch designs or can't make it out to the show.

I've started doing little things like making cookies for local bands when I see their shows, and I'm thinking about starting to give bands gift cards or just cash at the shows. It's a hard life on the road, and if I can help I'd like to.
02:27 PM on 02/06/12
Jason Tate
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Thus why I loved The Dear Hunter's Lifetime Fan Package -- http://puregrainaudio.com/news/the-d...starting-today

Also, I make it a practice to only stream bands' music when I can even if I own the CD just because they're not getting money from me playing the CD, but they are getting at least something from the stream.

Christian, get in here and start talking against Kickstarter!
Interesting thought, something I hadn't even thought about until right now. I usually listen that way because it shares through Facebook and whatnot and is giving some kind of press to the band. But the slight monetary thing is something that hadn't even registered.

And LOL at your last part.
02:28 PM on 02/06/12
billiejoeman12
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Amen brotha
02:29 PM on 02/06/12
sweethypocrisy
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for smaller bands, so few venues even pay anymore and its bullshit. for the bands ive been in and the one im managing now weve had deals like 2 dollars for every presale ticket sold, 5% of money made at the door, one venue in town pays 75-100 to every band that plays no matter what, and then most of the time, you get nothing and youll like it. if youre an aspiring musician you have to be certain this is what you want, and you have to go all in. friends/family may think youre a bum for dropping out of school and working a part time job and focusing the rest of your time on the music, but its the only way. its more than a full time job.
02:29 PM on 02/06/12
Jack Appleby
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Interesting. I feel it's actually the easiest it has ever been to give a band money.
BandCamp gives something like 85% of the total purchase price to bands. That's incredible.
And as long as they aren't on a 360 deal, buying merch is still a big source of income for the band.
I like your idea of buying merch and giving it as a gift.

Also, I will never understand the hatred of Kickstarter.
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