Seven ways to support local musicians during the pandemic

Many artists across the UK haven’t performed live in over 12 months. It’s absolutely devastating that musicians’ incomes have been completely slashed in the pandemic, which has gone on longer than any of us thought it would. 

Venues have – for the most part – remained closed for nearly a year, with the exception of a few small seated, socially distanced shows. The Underground, in Hanley, were a brilliant example of how safely a show could be put on during Covid-19, with two-metre rules, masks, bar service and restricted numbers. 

The Music Venues Trust are doing some incredible work with their #SaveOurVenues campaign for the grassroots venues up and down the UK that are at risk of closure, and are relentless in raising awareness of the impact of the pandemic on the music industry.

Whilst we’re all itching to get to festivals, gigs and shows, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen overnight. But you can still support your favourite local artists online – sometimes without even spending a penny.

Here are eight ways you can support musicians in Staffordshire and Cheshire during the pandemic.

Tune in

Live streamed gigs have taken over our Facebook feeds, and I’m here for it. Megan Dixon Hood is a brilliant example of this, who has been going live for an hour almost every Friday since March 2020. Tune in when you see a local artist doing a live video, give the post a like and a share, and join in on the comments section. The engagement will help the artist grow organically and reach new audiences, and you can sit on your sofa with a beer and imagine you’re in The Sugarmill. 

Megan told The LeopHEARD Podcast: “Last year we did 38 live streams and it only came about because a venue asked me to to a stream and help uplift some spirits. It was really successful and fans asked me do another and they wouldn’t let me stop and I didn’t want to stop either. I’d never have met the community that are on there even if we carried on touring. Because it’s weekly, it’s really familiar to people and some have sent me emails and messages after them. They’ve kept me going and I’ve kept them going. It’s been amazing.”

Donate to charities supporting the industry

Since the start of the pandemic, Music Venues Trust has helped unlock over £80 million in funding from donations and government initiatives, which has seen over 400 venues secure their immediate furtures.

The charity works to highlight the role of grassroots venues to local communities and the economy, helping to preserve and improve venues so that they’re here for the future. Donating to charities such as this helps ensure your favourite Friday night venue will still be there in years to come, ready and waiting for local bands to take to the stage.

If you’d rather receive something in return for your donation, you can buy merch here to support venues at risk of closure.

Buy merchendise

Speaking of buying merch, see if your favourite local band or musician is selling any badges, stickers, t-shirts or tote bags. These have been paid for buy the band, and the only way for them to make a profit is to get them shifted out of boxes and onto backs. Typically, for a t-shirt, you’re looking at £15-£20, which you’d have easily spent at the bar on any given Saturday, or on your lockdown takeaway. Give the pizza a miss this weekend, and buy a tshirt from a local band.

Pre-order albums

When chatting to Black Coast on The LeopHEARD Podcast, the band were unsure about launching an IndieGoGo campaign to help cover the costs of recording their album. But when they came to terms with the fact that donations were essentially fans covering the cost of their pre-ordered copy, they felt a lot better. These types of fundraisers can give bands the push to get into the studio and record, knowing that they’ve got a bit of financial backing from people who want the finished product in their hands.

You’ll see a lot of local artists asking you to ‘pre-save’ and pre-order tracks and albums. This is because first week sales numbers are really important in telling labels how popular a band is and how successful the release is. Pre-ordering/saving stacks those numbers on the release day to give the artist a decent kickstart. Get in there early to show your support. 

Some bands will use Bandcamp for pre-orders, which is brilliant because the site gives 100% of sales to the creators.

Listen to their music

Discover new artists and stream there music wherever you can. Share it with friends, create playlists, post it on socials – spread the word. Even better, buy their music! An EP will likely set you back £3-5, and they’re brilliant for whacking in the car. 

Spotify has introduced a new feature allowing artists to receive ‘tips’ or donate money to charity. Musicians have set up a button at the top of their Spotify profile highlighting where donations can be sent.

A spokesperson for Spotify said: “First and foremost, this feature enables artists who are interested in raising money to support themselves, their bands, or their crews, to get the word out to their fans on their Spotify artist profiles. Given the urgency and impact of the Covid-19 crisis, we’re working as quickly as we can to develop this new product and get it out to as many artists as possible. However, we’ve never built a fundraising feature like this before. We consider this a first version that will evolve as we learn how to make it as helpful as possible for the music community.”

Buy tickets to their gigs

I know people are reluctant to buy tickets to shows during the Covid crisis, but it’s the most direct way to support venues and artists alike. If the show gets cancelled, you’ll get a refund, if it’s postponed, then you’ve got a great night out to look forward to. The Sugarmill and The Underground have been working overtime to get artist dates moved to later in 2021, and still booking shows to ensure we’ve all got a jam-packed gig schedule to attend when restrictions lift.

Engage on social media

Get on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and follow your favourite local artists. Like, comment, share and save their posts to help push their posts to the top of the feed for greater exposure. It take a few seconds and is absolutely free.

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