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Most local musicians aren’t signed to any labels, and many of them don’t want to be. A lot of them are college students or parents, and they are just trying to do what they love, and maybe make a little money. Some of them are doing it for fun and some of them are doing it for a living, but all of them are doing it for the love of music. They know that it’s not going to be easy or entirely realistic to make a living as a local musician and to do anything like that it will take a lot of work to make it happen.
I live with a career musician and I know what kind of time he puts into being able to make a living doing his craft. I know how much it stresses him out and I know how happy it makes him. I am not just writing this from the perspective simply of someone that dates a musician though. I have been working in music in some capacity since the early 2000s. I started out as a band photographer, which led to my first gig as a band manager. I then took over as a music magazine editor and started booking local shows. The rest is kind of history, but I still support local music, and I think you should too!
Go To Their Shows
The first step in supporting local music is to go to local shows. Not only are you helping to keep local music around by doing this, but you’re also ensuring that the local bars you visit keep having local music (and stay open themselves). It can be hard for some local musicians to get gigs, and by showing up you are making them look good.
If you can, stick around and see more than just one band. You may have shown up to see a friend’s band but might discover a band you like even more if you stick around. Of course, the bands understand that people have work and kids and other priorities, so don’t worry if you have to show up late and leave early.
Buy Their Music
You don’t have to buy their music at their shows, and you don’t have to ask them for autographs, but if you like what you hear, consider getting on a site like Bandcamp and buying their music. Don’t just listen to it for free online. They need that money to feed their families and pay for college.
Many locally based bands will have various options when it comes to how you can get their music. You can definitely expect to find stuff on vinyl and cassette, and not just on CD or as a digital download. If you really like a band, buy more than one copy of their album and give them away as unique Christmas gifts.
Buy Some Merch
Bands often have more than just music available. If you like a band, buy some of their merch. Often you can get a patch or some buttons, or even a sticker, for less than $5. That means that even someone that doesn’t have a lot of money can still afford to help support local music with a small purchase. If they have free items you should still consider leaving a tip of some kind if you take one.
T-shirts and hoodies will usually cost a bit more. Just because a band is selling hoodies for $40 doesn’t mean they are trying to rip you off. Getting quality merch made isn’t always cheap and not all bands have the time or means to DIY their stuff either.
Tip Them When Appropriate
If you go to a restaurant or a brewery and there is a band or musician playing while you’re there enjoying yourself, go leave them a tip. While bands at normal music venues don’t normally ask for tips, some of them that play smaller venues (like standing in a corner in a winery with no stage) do. Glance up at where they are standing and see if they have a tip bucket/box/sign. If they do, go leave a tip. Even if you can only leave a couple bucks, you’ll be helping them out.
The same goes for people busking around town. Those are the men and women playing their instruments and singing on street corners and in front of small businesses. They aren’t always homeless people looking for a handout. Often they are simply musicians wanting to share their craft with you, and your donation shows them you heard them and liked what you heard.
Share Them With Others
Last, but not least, talk about the bands you like. Word of mouth is by far the best advertising for a local band or musician. If you are continually telling your friends how great a band is, they are going to be more likely to go check them out.
You can also follow your favorite local bands and musicians on social media. Share their events, share links to their music online, and even share their latest videos. Sometimes the thing a band appreciates the most is just knowing that someone, anyone, is listening.