It’s Hard Out Here For A Country Fan, But Even Harder For An Artist

It’s Friday – there’s new music out today, and there’s certainly more than enough to satiate any country fan’s appetite.

As everyone likely knows by now, however, the country music industry is hurting. From Nashville tornadoes to lawsuits negatively impacting songwriters and the recent worry of the Coronavirus, calling it a “scary” time would be the greatest understatement of the year.

I’m not here to offer an analysis of what it all means just yet; there’s plenty of professional and nonprofessional writers doing a better job of that than I ever could (Kyle of Kyle’s Korner, for instance), especially when I think we’re still too busy fighting through this storm to know what will happen in a day, week … even a moment. Plus, all of these recent ordeals affect country music at different levels; the tornadoes hit country music’s home directly, and the lawsuits affect every level of the music industry, but just about every facet of life has been effected by the virus by now.

As a (mostly country) music blogger, my main takeaway is that it’s a scary time to be a music fan, but an even scarier time to be anyone involved in the music industry. Tour cancellations and postponements suck, of course, but it’s for the best right now. As music fans, I believe it’s our job right now to support our favorite artists in whatever way we can. Now, this comes with the caveat of “if” you can; with how important is to stock up on necessities right now, there may not be enough money left to spend on a t-shirt, CD, digital download or whatever else.

But again, “if” you can, now is the time. Singer/songwriter Caleb Caudle explained, in Rolling Stone, how recent events have impacted him, especially as an independent artist (and, of course, that piece speaks for all independent artists who don’t have as big of a safety net as A-list radio acts, if any). The “how” to support an artist is a very convoluted subject, and is specific to each artist, but there are a few hard and fast ways that make for the “best” ways to purchase (or even stream) to make sure that support is put to good use.

The best option is to buy a physical copy (vinyl or CD) of music directly from an artist at a live show, though this, sadly, is the hardest way to support artists right now (OK, so it’s impossible). Usually, though, sales from shows are important for independent artists – if they’re completely independent, most, if not all, of the money will go directly back to their pocket; if they’re on most independent labels, they’ll make a fair percentage of the sale, either as part of their contract on a percentage basis or from buying merchandise stock from the record label at a discount, and then selling it to fans at a sticker price. And if physical copies aren’t your preferred method of listening, other items (t-shirts, hats, magnets … etc.) work just as well.

Again, though, that’s the optimal method, but not right now. The good news is there’s still healthy options: purchasing music (or other items) directly from an artist’s website (even if they just link to, say, Amazon, the artist, or anyone involved with them, may have set up an affiliate program that allows for a greater percentage of proceeds from sales, so clicking through is still optimal). If, for some reason, the artist doesn’t have a website, chances are their record label does, and by operating their own shipping departments and stock items for their artists, this cuts out the middle men to make sure both the label and artist is getting more of the money. And hey, streaming/third-party websites aren’t inherently bad. Some, like BandCamp or CD Baby, offer better margins for sales, digital or physical, that are much better than, say, iTunes or Google Play.

Again, the point isn’t to guilt or shame any music consumer into doing anything right now. The only “wrong” option right now (and any time, really) would be to illegally download music. Don’t forget, too, that “support” can carry other meanings: sharing a link to a song or album on social media, sharing stories relating to the news, offering shout-outs to artists … you get the point.

At any rate, stay safe; that’s all that’s left to say.

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