It’s never been a better time to be a musician: thanks to technology, making and sharing music has become much easier and much more fun. It’s never been a worse time to be a musician if you are trying to make a living at it: technology makes sharing music so easy that it’s hard to sell it.
Musicians make a lot of their money from the merch they sell at concerts. According to a rumor that I heard, Arcade Fire makes $20,000 a night from it. Now Arcade Fire is not likely one of those bands that really needs your support, but this shows that the income derived from those merch table sales can be significant. So it seems to me that one concrete step that we can make in the direction of supporting the music we love so much, and the musicians we admire, is to go out and see them and buy their merch.
As I understand it, even the revenue from touring itself is important, so just buying that concert ticket could help to keep musicians in business. We also need to support club owners who book live music, since that’s obviously another business that’s getting harder to make a living in. And it’s not just the relative popularity of recorded music (I realize that the line between dj and musician is a fine one), but there’s also a problem of clubs being under attack by their neighbors, who file noise complaints. Here in France it’s become such a problem that it gets talked about in the news, but unfortunately, it seems like it’s the neighbors that always win the battle. I’m getting old enough now to really feel the pain of a bad night’s sleep, so I appreciate the neighbors’ issues, but we as a society have to figure out how to balance them with the need to preserve live music.
And of course, you are doing yourself a favor by going out and appreciating the thrill that only live music can deliver to both you and the people on stage.
I’d welcome comments from people with thoughts about things that both musicians and their audiences could be doing to make it easier for people to be working musicians. For instance, is there a need for a non-profit website devoted to on-line merch sales that support musicians?