With bars and other venues closed, here are some ways to support Columbus bands during the COVID-19 crisis

A quick primer on the music biz: In general, bands do not make the majority of their income through album sales. This is especially true in the age of streaming, which has further siphoned money from the hands of musicians and into the deep-and-getting-deeper pockets of Spotify and Apple.

That means bands rely more and more on touring for income. And for artists that don’t tour nationally or regionally, the occasional local show can (sometimes) provide a bit of cash to help fund the next recording session, vinyl pressing, etc.

The majority of local bands don’t make their living playing music, but it’s still a crucial part of their creative existence, and now, with the closure of bars, restaurants and other venues, even the meager amount of money earned from local shows and/or national tours has disappeared. In light of that, here are just a few ways to help out your favorite Columbus musicians during this indefinite period of isolation.

Buy physical music
If you’re like most music fans, you do most of your listening via streaming services these days. But the vast majority of bands still have a physical product to sell — CDs, vinyl, cassettes or all of the above — and those purchases put real cash in their pockets (not to mention provide a morale boost). If you’re a digital-only listener (I’ll try not to judge), most bands offer downloads on Bandcamp, and sometimes those downloads come with extras. But even if all you get are the mp3 files, the next time you play that album in your digital library, you can know you paid the artist directly for those songs.

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Buy merch
Bands don’t make money from shows solely because of ticket sales, door fees and/or a percentage of bar sales (though all of those are important). It’s the merchandise bands sell before and after the shows, which include CDs and LPs, but also T-shirts, posters, stickers, etc. Saintseneca has sold socks. Hello Emerson is currently selling mugs, pencils, journals and an apron.

Attend live-streamed concerts remotely
Several Columbus bands have already hosted live-streamed concerts, and more are coming. (We’ll have a weekly roundup for you tomorrow, in fact.) Log in, tune in and say hey. Some platforms, like Stageit and LiveConcerts.stream, also provide ways to contribute financially to the artist in the same way you would at a regular live show. Again, morale boosts are real, and when only three people tune in to a livestream, it can be super discouraging.

Hire musicians and other affected workers
Hello Emerson’s Sam Bodary has a project that needs to be mixed, and instead of going the usual route, he’s asking a friend who normally works as a live sound engineer to do the mixing, because that person is out of work for the foreseeable future. In this way, local musicians can help fellow musicians and others in the live music industry. So ask yourself: What are your upcoming needs, and how can musicians and people who usually work at music venues help fill those needs?

Tell people about your favorite bands
While streaming doesn’t provide much income for local bands, it is a great way to let people know about the artists you're crazy about. Sure, Spotify has algorithms, but word of mouth is still one of the best, most trusted ways to find out about music.

“People could spread the word about some of their favorite artists via Spotify mixtapes or word of mouth,” said Joe Camerlengo of Van Dale, Classical Baby and Blanket Boys, ”just to help the artists continue to expand their base in this time, rather than just selling to the only fans we have.”