How to stream music (with less guilt) while supporting the artists who make it

Thanks to the glorious advent of streaming, it couldn’t be a more convenient time to discover and enjoy music. Through services like Apple Music and Spotify unlimited music is available virtually anywhere for a fraction of what it would cost to buy a new album in 1997.

While streaming is undeniably convenient, it comes at a price. As of January 2018, Spotify reported that it paid $0.0038 per stream. U.S. Digital Music News reported that Spotify executives earn seven-figure salaries while the artists that put their music on the streaming service would have to reach billions of streams just make a living wage.

While some people may turn a cold shoulder to the other side of the industry, it is negligent of music lovers not to do their best to support the songwriters and artists who create the soundtrack to their lives.

In his 2011 TED Talk, music promoter Eddie Owen described music as “a collaborative relationship between performer and community.” So, here are five ways that you can better support your favorite artists while still reaping the benefits of streaming:

1. Choose the right streaming service.

The convenience and affordability of streaming makes music more accessible and more mobile than ever. It is up to the consumers, however, to be rational and informed consumers. This means monitoring the rates that services pay their artists. As of September 2018, Spotify held 36 percent of the global streaming market share according to Midia’s mid-year market share report published in March 2018.

Spotify is especially appealing because of its uber-affordable discounts, starting at $5 for students. What makes the service even more attractive is its playlist algorithms and social features, which allow listeners to discover new music and share it with friends.

However, many independent and mainstream artists have expressed their disdain for Spotify’s inability to pay their artists fairly, some even choosing to withhold their catalogs from the service. Even mega stars like Taylor Swift have ridiculed streaming services on Twitter for low payouts. Songwriters and artists receive only a small fraction of the streaming rates after it is split with the producers, promoters, record companies (if applicable)-and publisher, according to the SONA Organization, which analyzes trends in industry payouts.

Listeners still must find a service that pays our artists fairly. Since the rates constantly fluctuate, choosing a service should be based around payout rates. Steve Bogard, a spokesman for the Nashville Songwriters Association International that a decent payout rate fluctuates based on the royalty payouts each artist receives after the revenue is split with the parties involved in producing, writing and publication. A good resource to monitor streaming rates is Digital Music News or The Trichordist.

2. Broaden the Medium

Vinyl provides a tangible element to listening to your favorite music.

Growing up in the digital age doesn’t limit options to only streaming. Even digitally, there are multiple options for purchasing music online like iTunes and endless free music available on SoundCloud.

However, the crackle of vinyl, the scratching of tape- and the chronological high fidelity of a CD deliver music in different attitudes. The chronological story that an LP tells make vinyl a rewarding experience for consumers and artists. Furthermore, the resurgence of vinyl markets make finding records from your favorite artists simple.

Artists who may not have the resources to publish digital music or press vinyl often make their music available via CD. If bought directly from the artist, the money is going directly to the artist. Broadening the formats in which you consume music generates an artists’ income in multiple areas.

3. Turn to Bandcamp, Noisetrade- and other donation-based services

In 2007, Radiohead executed one of the most extraordinary experiments in music history. Free from its record contract, the band released its seventh studio album, “In Rainbows,” on its website to fans through a pay-what-you-want format.

Industry leaders chastised the model at first, calling it an abomination to the industry, and a failure. Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien later silenced the criticisms claiming, “We sold less records, but made more money.”

In fact, Radiohead’s experiment reestablished the intimate connection between artist and audience without a record label acting as the middleman. Today, the group’s daring experiment is the business model behind music website Bandcamp.

Bandcamp allows users to connect with artists through region, genre and playlists. When downloading music, the site allows artists to set their own donation prices while giving users the ability to choose how much they donate, if anything at all.

Bandcamp and other sites allow users to discover another universe of artists who have new freedoms to publish their music directly to their fans without the interference of record companies or streaming publishers.

4. See a live show

Not only is seeing a live show a rewarding experience, but it is widely considered one of the most lucrative spaces for artists to connect with their audiences.

Consider catching your favorite artists when they come to town. The ticket sales are usually split between the venue, ticket provider and the performer. The more ticket sales, the more money the artist makes.

In addition to ticket sales, performers are also able to sell their merchandise and music directly to their fans. This allows you to give money directly to your artist while receiving a memorable souvenir.

According to Ticketmaster’s website, which price the ticket costs for a myriad of commercial and mainstream acts at stadiums, festivals and smaller venues, prices vary based on the artists’ management and their negotiations with the provider.

If you’re curious about how much your favorite venues pay performers, contact the business or contact the artist. Choosing where you spend your money gives power to the venues that pay performers fairly.

5. Socially connect with artists

The internet has proven itself the music industry’s double-edged sword. Where it brought instant downloads, it also brought piracy. However, social media has helped remove the divide between audience and artists. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook allow for more streamlined communication.

Now, artists have a platform to directly communicate with fans. Follow their pages to discover upcoming shows, and find their new music online. It is important to listen to the artists when they are discussing how to best support them (social media activity can yield some extra income for these artists).

Also, social media can yield some extra income for these artists by allowing independent artists to provide links to Kickstarter campaigns, Bandcamp links and GoFundMe campaigns that allow their fans to directly support them while bypassing the middlemen.

Artists may receive income in various different ways based on their business structure. Monitoring and following their social media, or even asking them, will provide further insight into how fans can best support their favorite artists.

Whether you love jazz, DIY punk, SoundCloud rap or classical ensembles, do your part in supporting the music, and the musicians you love.