Edmonton

As music brings joy to the isolated masses, fans urged to find a financial way to say thanks

Music has become a connecting force during these isolation days. But a U of A music expert hopes that those who are getting enjoyment are also finding a way give back to the creators.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on musician incomes but there are ways to give back

With concerts and tours being cancelled due to COVID-19, the income of many musicians has dropped dramatically, says a University of Alberta music expert. (Angelina King/CBC)

Music has become a strong force during these isolation days, providing people with a reason to connect and reminisce.

But a University of Alberta music expert hopes that those who are getting enjoyment are also finding a way give back to the creators.

"Music facilitates belonging, it's something that connects us emotionally in different ways," Brian Fauteux, an assistant professor of popular music and media studies, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

From almost the first days of the pandemic, musicians have been taking to the internet with performances staged in their living rooms or from the stages of empty venues. 

On social media, sharing favourite tunes and playlists has taken on the dynamic of a water-cooler conversation, connecting people with nostalgic feelings and memories of good times, Fauteux said.

But fans may be less tuned in to the financial realities of the artists, which may have worsened significantly in the wake of COVID-19.

"With a lot of artists having to cancel tours, or perhaps losing their secondary jobs — if maybe they work in the service industry while being a practising musician — this means that their income has taken a really big hit over the last little while," he said.

Meanwhile, services like Spotify generate barely any revenue for musicians, said Fauteux, who spoke about the topic in 2018 to a federal standing committee looking into artist remuneration and copyright issues. 

"The per-stream rate for artists … is usually pretty low. On average, it's about 0.0043 cents per stream," he told Edmonton AM. "A lot of artists who might be independent or mid-level career artists don't see a lot of money from a streaming service."

Fauteux urges music fans with financial means to look for ways to directly support artists.

Platforms like Bandcamp sell digital and physical music while offering a better deal to musicians, he said. Less than two weeks after the pandemic was declared, Bandcamp waived its revenue share for a single day. According to the organization's website, more than $4.3 million in music and merchandise was sold on that day.

Fauteux also talked about The Starlite Room, a popular downtown Edmonton live music venue which launched its live-streamed Starlite Sessions performances. Donations are encouraged.

"[The pandemic is] making people realize how important the arts might be to our overall sense of well-being," he said. 

"Hopefully, it will lead a lot of people to think about issues of sustainability in the arts … ways in which we might engage more directly in terms of how we pay for music.… Think about our purchasing habits and various ways we can support the arts and musicians today – beyond just the regular streaming services."

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