Contributed by Brandon Miles (label co-founder and frontman for All Around the Dinner Table). His new LP, From the Mouths of Shepherds, is now available on iTunes, or get a free four-song sampler from Noistrade! Brandon also hosts our free weekly podcast.
Being an artist is strange. It’s difficult to explain or talk about. Especially for the local, struggling artist. Not all struggling artists are depressed or even upset by the way. I’d say something cliche like, “We knew what we were signing up for,” except for the fact we never really signed up for anything. It’s just who we are.
If you put it down on paper, it wouldn’t make sense. Like being a farmer, if anyone knew how much work it took for so little payoff, they would immediately scrutinize (or even criticize) with the all-too-familiar, “Why do you do this again?” In fact, we have these conversations with our families and friends all the time. And sure, sometimes it’s a downer, but only if we let it be. Usually, we’re pretty excited about our ideas and plans, even if they don’t seem to make sense to most of the people around us.
But it does make sense to us. Deep inside. We can’t stop. We don’t want to stop. We’re addicts chasing the high of that first time we saw our art make a connection or impact with another person. Unfortunately, all too often, we see amazing artists lose sight of this and give up.
On the first episode of The Bad Apple Records Podcast, Andy from Why They Came and I discussed Rob Crow from Pinback’s decision to give up on music. When on tour with Stellar Kin over a decade ago, we encountered unbelievable bands that we never heard from again. We saw Anathallo eat food from a dumpster years before finally calling it a day. Even indie-rock pioneers and heroes like Slint and Mineral found their audience long after originally disbanding.
It happens. And that’s ok. However, I’m often asked, “Why?”
Usually, it’s because the artist couldn’t find a way to make a living producing their art. There is no blanket answer that covers the many variations of that statement, but it’s true nonetheless. And it’s about much more than money. Sometimes it just feels like no one is listening, and that can be discouraging.
Bad Apple Records is home to many bi-vocational artists who are not trying to make a living with their music. However, an artist still needs to know that what they are doing matters to someone. We live in a day and age when it is very easy to just listen to music on Spotify or BandCamp (which is fine by the way) making it more difficult for the bands or songwriters you love to cover even the basic costs of producing new music on an ongoing basis. If you love the music you are listening to, it is very important that you show your support and engage with the artist in some way. Sure, buying an album helps, but there is a lot you can do that actually goes a lot further and doesn’t cost you a dime!
3 Ways to Support the Artists You Love For Free
1.) Share: Forget Metallica’s fight against Napster (most of you are too young to remember it anyway). Sharing is good! If you are listening to a CD you bought at a concert, let your friends hear it. If you’re listening on a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music, share a link on Facebook or Twitter and say something about why you love it. If you see a post from the artist, share that too. That helps the artist’s reach by increasing engagement.
2.) Comment: Speaking of that post on social media… leave a comment while you’re at it. Do it right away while it’s right in front of you. That also helps with reach, but it is also a direct line of communication with the artist! It will let them know what you think and allow them to communicate back (which can be fun for both of you). It helps the artist make better decisions based on the feedback you give them, but it is also just encouraging to hear from someone and know they are listening. This is also important on blog posts (hint, hint), YouTube videos, etc…
3.) Review: Whether you bought the album or heard it on a streaming site, leave a short review! Even just a sentence or two that just sums up why you like listening to the album. You can do this on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and more. This helps so much more than you realize. It helps the artist get more press by adding an element of excitement and legitimacy to their work. If an artist can’t motivate even their closest, local fanbase… why would a magazine or blog consider giving it any attention? This is another reason comments on social media and videos on YouTube are so important.
3 Ways to Support the Artists You Love For Cheap
1.) Go to Shows and Have Fun: We’re all busy. We get it. You won’t be able to go to every single thing. But if you enjoy listening to an album, chances are you will have a really good time hearing the songs live and hanging out with the band in person. There is nothing like it. Most of the musicians you know live for this! Attend. Stand up front and be seen singing along. Hang out at the merch table after the set. Don’t RSVP with a maybe. Say yes or no. Never ask, “What time do you go on exactly.”
2) Buy Merch: Don’t feel bad if you genuinely can’t afford anything. No one is judging and no one is counting. But really consider how helpful this is when you’re buying drinks or considering hitting up a Denny’s after the show. The difference between zero dollars in merch sales and even $50 in merch sales is huge when it comes to gas money and band morale. It also shows a venue that this act is worth booking. If you can draw a crowd who will spend money on albums and t-shirts, then you can draw a crowd who might spend money on food and drinks.
3.) Participate in Crowd-Funding Efforts: When that Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign comes around, really consider on what level you might be able to contribute. Don’t wait until the last day and leave the artist stressed out or worried it won’t hit the goal. Even $1 helps when you have a lot of fans. Bad Apple Records offers new music every Friday for only $1 per month on Patreon. We offer our entire catalog for only $3 per month. Some of you spend more than that on coffee without blinking an eye. Consider what it might do for the artists you love.