Supporting local music is as important as supporting local business
by Brontë Cook & Doug Turnbull
“Buy local.” This is likely a phrase you’ve heard before. You might have seen it promoted in the storefront windows of small, independent businesses or heard it in passing at your neighborhood farmers market. You might have even seen it on a bumper sticker or on the label of your favorite local beer.
Throughout the last decade, the global presence of large corporations like Amazon has made it difficult for independent businesses to get the financial support they need, as they are often unable to compete with the cheap prices and mass production. So, across the nation, initiatives like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and “Small Business Saturday” have gained significant momentum and spread the idea that it’s important to give back to the community.
Many studies show that shopping locally has a number of benefits, one being that it helps consumers build strong, positive connections with other people in their community. It’s also more eco-friendly than online or corporate retail shopping, as it limits the amount of waste produced and curbs carbon emissions from product transportation.
There are countless social and environmental benefits to local shopping. But most importantly, it’s proven to have profound impacts on the local economy.
According to a recent Civics Economics study, $68 of every $100 spent at a local business filter back into the community. This money goes to the business owners and employees, and contributes to the upkeep of the business. However, when you shop at chain or department stores, the amount of money given back to the community drops to $43. In these situations, the majority of the profit tends to circulate within upper-level employees and fund the company’s regional, national or global expansion.
People most frequently associate local spending with eating at local restaurants and shopping at small, locally-owned stores. What people don’t often think about, however, are the economic benefits of supporting local music.
Why buy into local music?
For centuries, music has played a crucial role in societies all over the world. Today, technology makes various musical styles and genres more accessible than ever before. As the entertainment industry continues to grow and expand, music and art scenes have become an extremely critical source of income for people and communities all over the country.
Financially supporting local artists, musicians, venues, and retailers is a crucial way people can give back to their communities. It not only benefits local artists and venues but consumers themselves and the community as a whole.
Take the idea of attending a local concert, for example. Throughout my time at Ithaca College, I’ve attended a number of concerts at The Haunt– a local venue that provides a space for local artists and musicians to share their craft with a local audience.
When I go to these concerts, I typically pay anywhere from $10–25 for a ticket to the show. I’ll buy a few bucks worth of appetizers or drinks, and usually end up spending $20–30 on the artist’s merchandise. (No, I probably didn’t need that new hoodie, but tell that to my shopping addiction — and at least I’m supporting a local band!) If you apply the aforementioned Civics Economics study results to my spending, approximately 70% of the money I’ve spent on this experience is directly recirculated into the community. By the end of the night, I’ve financially contributed to local artists, venues and retailers — and I didn’t have to spend more than $50 to do so.
This is vastly different than the experiences I’ve had attending concerts at bigger venues, like Madison Square Garden or, when I’m home in Minneapolis, the Xcel Energy Center. I’ve seen my fair share of big-name artists, including Taylor Swift (a big night for 14-year-old me), Ariana Grande, Louis the Child and Chance the Rapper.
In my experience, tickets to see big-name performers like these ones cost well over $100, a price that many seem to be willing to pay to see someone who is featured on that month’s most popular Spotify playlist. On top of this already-inflated ticket price, attendees often also end up paying for artist merchandise (usually overpriced), drinks (definitely overpriced) and transportation which, for those located in Ithaca, can include a 5-hour bus to New York City. With all of these costs, the individual price of attending mainstream artist performances in well known venues like MSG can exceed $200 — approximately $175 more than I typically spend at The Haunt.
For many, an experience like this can seem worth it, especially if the performer is one of their favorite artists — but the public’s dedication to big-name artists and large venues is also a direct result of the brand-name consumerism that dominates today’s popular culture. This type of consumer culture is obvious in places like the fashion industry, demonstrated by the popularity and success of brands like Calvin Klein, Supreme and Gucci. But, in the music industry, its impact is often overlooked.
When attending concerts of this nature, consumers are financially contributing to venues, artists and labels that already make a significant profit off of the artist’s music and image.
Local concerts: your support goes a long way
But local concerts are different, and your financial contributions can go a long way. Just as buying locally can help restaurants and businesses withstand potentially financial difficulties, contributing money to local musicians can help them make a living off of their craft — something they often strive for but have difficulty achieving. Plus, an increased audience sizes can increase the artist’s fan base, giving them the confidence and assurance they might need to pursue a career in music.
If venues know that they have consistent financial support from those in the community, they will also be able to comfortably expand staff, hours and performances, helping them to grow and gain influence in the area. This will then allow them to showcase more local artists and ultimately draw in a wider audience, perpetuating a cycle of giving back to community-centered art and music.
Great musicians are all around us
Next time you think of purchasing a ticket to a concert, consider looking up local performances in lieu of a weekend trip to New York City. If nothing else, it can be a fun way to spend an otherwise boring evening at a limited cost. Who knows — you might discover your new favorite artist who you just might even run into at a local coffee shop.
This is exactly why we built Localify.org: to show folks that there are great musicians all around us. In reality, most artists do not have recording contracts with big-name labels or play in giant stadiums. They live, work and play in our communities. They’re playing at places like The Haunt, local auditoriums or bars, and coffee shops.
By playing these local artists’ songs alongside tracks made by your favorite artists on Localify’s personalized Spotify playlists, we hope that people will recognize that you don’t have to travel far to find great music.