There is good news, and there is bad news.
The bad news
Making music is no longer sustainable. And there is little we as artists can do about it. Here is the hard truth as we see it: in 2023, computers and cars are shipping without a CD player. iTunes has closed shop. Downloading music (paid for or otherwise) is no longer in vogue as most folks are enjoying the convenience of streaming services like Spotify that they can access from anywhere on any device. We stream too, so we get it. Sadly these streaming services pay so poorly that our revenues barely cover our own subscription. Terrestrial radio is mostly inaccessible to indie artists, and on the way out, while satellite radio pays less, if anything.
Due to a lack of recorded music income, all artists are encouraged to get out on the road and play more shows to make up for it. This has created a glut of artists on the market, and venues are overwhelmed with requests to play. At the same time, many venues are closing due to rising rents. Booking a tour with or without a booking agent has become increasingly difficult. Not to mention that touring is an unhealthy and often unsafe way to make a living, and unsuited to most women and many an introverted recording artist . And then came COVID-19 and the end of live music for a solid two years. It will take years for cancelled shows to be rescheduled. Meanwhile 90 per cent of small venues will close.
What about live streaming? Everybody’s doing it! And some do it really well. (Go Jill Barber! Danny Michel!) But after waiting a year until we had our tech up to speed, we found it to feel a lot like virtual panhandling, and it was hard to get inspired without the all-important audience ya know?
On the licensing in film and TV front, music supervisors are inundated with artists looking to find a place for their music and so can offer lower fees – if we could reach them in the first place. It’s very much a who you know biz, and we don’t know them (introduce us!). Slightly more accessible sync brokers require half of our licensing fees in exchange for being a conduit to the music supes (not the traditional agent fee of 15-20 per cent). And now there is a move by the streaming services like Netflix and Discovery to buy out the composers work and deny them any residual royalties moving forward – which they must accept if they want to work.
It is more challenging than ever to get press. Quality music journalists can no longer find work as papers go online and turn into glorified advertising mechanisms. Making music is no longer sustainable. And there is little we as artists can do about it, despite being represented by multiple organizations committed to supporting and protecting us.
The industry has failed artists.
A move towards more conservative governments means that grants and other funding for the arts is shrinking in most cases. That said, we are incredibly fortunate to live here in Canada where our music orgs like CreativeBC are stepping in and stepping up their support.
The good news
You can step up your support too. Despite all this grimness, it might still be worthwhile making music, if only we can be heard. It is heartbreaking to make your very best music only to have it heard by very few people. We are keen to continue making the very best music we can (it is what we do). But how to get folks to press play? YOU can help.
Your choices matter. As listeners, fans, supporters, you have never been more important to an artist’s ability to be heard and to continue making music. Please consider our Fanifesto below. Tag your posts and playlists with #fanifesto to keep the actionable goodwill movement going.
#FANIFESTO – How to be a super supporter in the streaming age
LISTEN to the music when you have a moment. Repeat for best effect.
SHARE what you love! Adding to playlists is huge. Post to pages, and send an email or video.
REVIEW on your chosen platform. You read reviews. So do others. (Editor’s note: Roots Music Canada will HAPPILY publish reviews sent to us by readers.)
REQUEST at your local station / festival. They will listen to you.
ATTEND concerts. Buy advance tickets. Let others know about gigs in their area.
CONNECT artist you love with folks you know in media, film & TV, radio, festivals and venues. It’s all about who you know. Introduce us.
LIKE, FOLLOW, COMMENT on social media. We are slaves to the algorithms. Help boost us. Liking is great. Commenting is a an even bigger help in getting our posts seen.
FEEDBACK and tell us your favourite tune, show, moment. We need to know someone is listening.
HOST a house concert. Do you throw a good party? Invite your favourite artist to entertain and become the star of your neighbourhood. By cutting out the middle man between artist and audience, we all win.
COMMISSION a recording. Have a big birthday, anniversary or memorial to celebrate? Hire your favourite artist to cover or create a song that will be enjoyed forever and is easy to share when you are miles apart.
JOIN the mailing list. This is the single most affordable and effective way for independent artists to reach their audiences. Most social media now charge us to promote posts. Include your location to cut down on emails. We will always keep your info safe and sound.
Sign up for Reid’s mailing list here.
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Want to host a house concert? Reid’s House Concert FAQ is here.
Become a Patron of Reid at https://www.patreon.com/reidjamieson
Make a one-time donation to support music making and more at https://www.paypal.me/reidjamiesonmusic or e-transfers to reidjamiesonband (at) gmail (dot) com.