16 ways to support the musicians, record stores, venues and music shops you love

Fans at a concert
(Image credit: Pixabay)

With the coronavirus pandemic causing chaos in the world of music, we’ve come up with the best ways you can help support your favourite musicians, record stores, live venues and shops during the current lockdown.

The world of music is struggling. Tours, shows and festivals have been cancelled, leaving musicians struggling financially. And while we worry about about our favourite artists, spare a thought for the empty music venues which also find themselves in dire straits. Bands can’t play, so music venues are closing their doors, leaving staff with an uncertain future.

There’s also the plight of independent record stores, who have also been forced to close their doors. Record Store Day - that magical annual gathering of music fans who queue year after year to get their hands on limited edition vinyl and help give indies a boost has been pushed back until June.

But given the current crisis, there’s always the possibility that could be pushed even further back, leaving the stores we love without a lifeline.

Here at Louder, we’ve come up with ways you can get involved and help. So please do what you can if you're able.

Buy merch
T-shirts, vinyl, CDs, jigsaws, that shiny water bottle you've had your eye on for a while but couldn't quite justify – if a band are not able to tour, their online store is a good place to show support. Rather than buying their CD or LP from a “tax-efficient” online retail behemoth, buying direct from the act means that more of the money actually goes to them. They still have fulfilment costs, but the margins in selling this way are much higher. Plus they generally have nice limited-edition items (e.g. signed or coloured vinyl) and offer good deals on bundles (e.g. album + T-shirt + ticket) that can keep the wolf from the door in the lean times.

Pre-order albums
If your favourite act has a new album coming out later this year, check if they have pre-orders open on their website, on iTunes or other online retailers. Buying it in advance not only means that some cash is coming in, it also sends a message to the retailers that there is growing anticipation for the release. Strong pre-order numbers can see the album pushed up the pre-order charts on download stores and online retailers, resulting in extra editorial support that it might not otherwise get.

Go shopping at independent stores online
Some music stores who've been forced to close their doors are still selling online. Below is an interactive map of all the music shops in the UK still open for business online – the same will be the case all over the world, so check your local store's site for updates.

If you want your store added to this map, please email louder@futurenet.com.

Buy a virtual pint and support your local music venues
The Virtual Pint campaign is looking to raise £5000. Half of the money raised will go to the Music Venue Trust, while the other half will go directly to help out smaller venues across the UK. So how does it work? Simply buy a virtual drink – from a cream soda at £2 right up to a bottle Dom Perignon at £200 – through the Virtual Pint Just Giving page and they’ll do the rest. You can also follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Keep buying tickets
For small acts, this is the most direct and immediate way they can make money and it is a critical part of their income. Buy tickets in advance (rather than walk up on the night) as the venue, promoter and act will be closely monitoring sales – and shows can get pulled if ticket sales are slow. Even if the worst comes to the worst and the show is cancelled, you will be refunded. Buying tickets now is a very public display of support, especially for a band that's rescheduled its tour for November. 

Participate in the Love Record Stores campaign
The Love Record Stores initiative is calling on fans to help promote their favourite stores on Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #LoveRecordStores and tell the world what your local store means to you and help give them a boost. Use photos or videos to get your message across. The drive is also backed by artists and the music industry so keep your eye on the hashtag to see what they're saying.

If the bands you love have a crowd-funding page, fund it
The ugly and painful collapse of PledgeMusic at the start of 2019 had catastrophic effects for a multitude of acts as projects they were trying to get off the ground either fell apart or their profits were wiped out. It exposed how important crowd-funding is for so many acts. 

Thankfully there are many other platforms – such as Patreon, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, ArtistShare and more – offering acts ways to get much-needed money to bankroll their next record or tour. They all have targets to hit otherwise the project gets cancelled or scaled back (depending on what platform they are using) so every pledge counts. Now, more than ever, it is critical to show your support, not just for what an act has done in the past, but also what they want to do in the future.

Buy from Bandcamp
While we encourage people to use record stores if they can, don't forget about Bandcamp. The website is a goldmine of fabulous music. And the best bit? They only take 15% of the profit from digital sales and 10% from merchandise, meaning artists get a larger chunk of your hard-earned cash. Bandcamp is also a great way of discovering new music and genres - and you can also follow your favourite artists, meaning you'll get updates when they drop new sounds or released new merch.

On top of this, Bandcamp has a subscription feature that means acts can make money from fans taking out a monthly or annual subscription in exchange for access to a wealth of things like live recordings, demos, interviews, early access to shows and more. It also means acts know what money they have coming in each month and can budget accordingly.

Stream more music
It's been reported this week that music streams are actually down, despite everyone being largely behind closed doors. Yes, there's some debate over whether streaming helps artists that much, but at this point every little does actually help. If you're not in a position to part with any cash at the moment, this could be a good way to do your bit. Why not try making a soundtrack to your day once a day – it will boost your mood and help musicians. But...

Treat streaming as “try before you buy”
The record business has been back in recovery position in recent years (after a decade and a half of steep decline) and streaming is a huge part of its financial renaissance, making up almost half of global revenues in 2018. But this digital windfall is not always making its way down to the smaller acts. The fractions of a penny per play paid by a service like Spotify or Apple Music add up if you’re doing hundreds of millions of streams but not if your average track does 40,000 streams. Treat these streaming services as a tasting menu and a way to discover a new act; but when you find that album you can’t stop streaming, instead of hitting repeat, go and buy it from their online store or Bandcamp page.

Donate to a hardship fund
A number of official bodies have set up funds to help them provide financial assistance to musicians and those working within the music industry. Help Musicians have established a Coronavirus Financial Hardship Fund to "alleviate some of the immediate financial pressures that many professional musicians may be facing" in the UK. The Sweet Relief Musicians Fund is providing a similar service in the US. The Recording Academy (the people responsible for the Grammys) and its charitable foundation MusiCares have set up the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help those in the music community affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and the MU Coronavirus Hardship Fund is providing grants of £200 each to musicians in immediate and real financial hardship. All of these organisations are accepting donations, all of which go towards keeping the music industry afloat.

Tune into livestreams
Musicians have been taking to platforms like Instagram and YouTube to perform live from home. We have a list of what some of the world's artists have planned, but all bands big or small are embracing these technological innovations, so be sure to check out your favourite bands' social media channels to keep up to date with what they're doing. You don't even have to watch alone – you can have watch parties with friends via apps like Zoom, or you can start one on Facebook with any video already uploaded there. 

Self Isolation is bring us closer to artists. Our site site GuitarWorld has a new series called Sick Riffs with guitarists showing you hwo to play like them. Learn how to play guitar from the stars and then support them by buying an album, t-shirt etc.

Subscribe to bands on YouTube
Accounts need 1000+ followers before they can broadcast live. So, go and subscribe to your favourite small bands to allow them to open up their platform and reach a wider audience.

Get political: campaign for better deals for acts
Musicians have to do much more these days just to keep their heads above water and sometimes they are fighting against unfair systems or seemingly insurmountable odds. There are, however, schemes and bodies out there that are trying to tilt the balance back in their favour. In light of this, lobbying from fans can genuinely change things. 

Take Sofar Sounds, for example, which allowed acts to play in a host’s home – a great way to get in front of new audiences. Except acts felt they were not getting paid properly. The company, seeing the groundswell in favour of the musicians and being dragged over the coals and fined by the New York Department of Labor over how it treated “ambassadors”, changed things and said it would move to give acts better payments

Meanwhile bodies like Music Venue Trust are fighting to keep grassroots venues open. Supporting these initiatives and signing petitions is not so much digital landfill: it really can change things for the better for acts at the sharp end. 

There is also a petition to get Spotify to increase the amount of money it pays its artists currently asking for signatures.

Sign up to mailing lists & subscribe to channels
This might sound a bit innocuous or even dull, but signing up to an act’s mailing list is one of the most supportive things you can do for them that doesn’t actually involve putting your hand in your pocket. The way social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter work is that “organic reach” (i.e. getting in front of people without actually paying) is pretty much non-existent today and bands have to shell out to promote their own posts on the platforms that stand between them and fans. 

A mailing list, however, is theirs and they own it, meaning they have a way to talk to fans that is virtually free. Also following their official profiles on Spotify and Apple Music as well as subscribing to their channel on YouTube lets the platforms know that not only are you a fan but that these acts have the kinds of fans who want to know everything about them as soon as they can. That all sends up positive messages to the algorithmic gods that decide what acts get pushed up their recommendations and when. It also means you get notified when they have new music so you won’t miss out.

Tell your friends about your new favourite music
That’s the joy and the power of being a fan – that compulsion to be a total evangelist for the new act you have just discovered and love. Talking about the new album on social media, posting YouTube links to the new video, telling everyone that you have bought tickets to the tour – the cumulative effect of that can be significant. 

Personal recommendations are always better than someone seeing an ad as it cuts through the noise and those who see your passion will often be intrigued and play the music. Word of mouth was always the best way for acts to build a following. Now you have a loudhailer and your advocacy can be the best weapon your new favourite band will ever have. May your enthusiasm be undimmed.

Also: share share share on social media. Watched a video? Tweet it. Bought an album? Share the Spotify link.

Want your initiative, shop or project on this page? Email louder@futurenet.com to be added.

Briony Edwards

Briony is the Editor in Chief of Louder and is in charge of sorting out who and what you see covered on the site. She started working with Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Prog magazines back in 2015 and has been writing about music and entertainment in many guises since 2009. She is a big fan of cats, Husker Du and pizza.