Necessity of patronizing the arts
I was 16 years old when my dad bought me my first record.
It was “Torches” by Foster the People, my favorite album of all time, purchased from Amoeba Music in Los Angeles.
At the time, I hadn’t even owned a record player yet, nor did I have my own money to buy these kinds of things for myself. I just took such immense joy in owning an album that was so significant to me. Giving that little bit of my (dad’s) money to a band that I loved felt, in a way, like a display of my loyalty.
This isn’t to say that not buying music makes listeners any less of a fan.
I firmly believe, however, that the public has a shared responsibility to support the artists they like in all capacities, including financially.
If we say we love music or care about the arts, we must help them flourish by financially patronizing them. Musicians make most of their money from the music they sell and cannot continue without the support of the public.
Years of CD buying and iTunes downloads on my iPod Nano heightened my interest in supporting the artists I love. I felt, and still to this day feel, a sense of pride in owning a tangible product containing all of their hard work and devotion to their craft.
In the words of my grandmother, we wouldn’t ask a carpenter to make a house for free.
So, why should we ask the same of musicians?
In an era in which streaming services are constantly at our disposal for little to no charge, we must remember all the work, on top of the massive amounts of investment, that the goes into the production of the music we love.
According to CNBC, streaming services like Spotify only pay the holder of the rights to a song or album anywhere from $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream. The holder of the rights varies from anyone to the actual artist themselves, to their producers, songwriters, session musicians or others who contribute to a track.
If musicians aren’t signed to a label, they often hire these types of people to assist in the production of their music out of pocket.
So, according to simple math, there is not a lot of money to go around compared to the work that goes into making music.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Spotify. I use it every single day.
I pay $5 a month for my subscription. But I understand that in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not contributing much to support the artists I love.
However, I try as hard as I can to use it to sample or test out albums before I actually go out and buy them.
I firmly believe in the longevity of physical music and I don’t believe it’s going anywhere.
Even as Apple Music, Tidal and now even YouTube market themselves as the future of music consumption, I believe that physical music will last longer, simply because it’s physical.
When true listener engagement is lost in the rubble of newer and newer services constantly being sold to us, a CD or LP will be there to help us trace back the roots of music’s simplicity.
For anywhere from $10 to $25, we can own something that will last a lifetime.
While I understand it’s not financially feasible for most to buy every single piece of music we love, myself included, we must make a more conscious effort to reflect on the ways in which the arts help society advance and flourish.
Then, we must think about what we’re doing to promote this universal advancement.
When we listen to music, we are quite literally listening to the brainchild of our artist’s ideas and experience, as well as their painstaking devotion to give it to us.
In the words of Foster the People singer Mark Foster, on a track from “Torches” called “I Would Do Anything For You:” “I’ll be a listening ear to everything you say, I won’t turn away.”