Support Act: supporting the artists you love
A month ago, I released a little side project into the world: Support Act. It’s simple and focused, and I’m pretty thrilled to have launched it, so I just wanted to talk through the thoughts that prompted me to build it.
Every now and then, I come across statistics of how much musicians earn through streaming service commissions (such as Spotify, Apple Music, etc). And it’s always jarring, because the numbers are so low - and while I’m sure the more popular artists do okay from this due to the massive playcounts their songs receive, a lot of others aren’t quite so lucky.
This is not to say streaming services are inherently evil - having so much music available so easily is amazing. They are a great way to discover and embrace a wider array of music. And I don’t expect anyone to stop using these services - the convenience is just far too seductive.
The flip side of that, though, is that art - and especially music - means so much to me. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can financially support the artists I love more directly, but a reminder would help.
Thus, Support Act: once a month it tells me what I’ve been listening to lately, with the suggestion to maybe buy an album or two.
This isn’t instead of paying for streaming services - I’m paying for these albums on top of that monthly streaming fee (and yes, I’m well aware that not everyone’s in such a financially secure situation).
In the broader scheme of things, it is a small gesture. But for me, supporting artists is important - and it’s even more important in the chaos of this year, with COVID-19 halting so many concerts and events across the world, often paired with poor support from governments.
So that’s the why, but I want to delve slightly into the how as well.
If you’re using Last.fm to track your music listening habits already, then connecting this up to your Support Act account is easy and is the recommended approach. Suggestions will be based on your last month of listening.
But if you’re using Spotify, then you can also connect directly with Support Act. The statistics aren’t going to be quite as recent, but it should still be useful.
If you’re not using Last.fm or Spotify, then I would recommend signing up for Last.fm anyway (it’s free!), connecting it to your preferred streaming service or device so your listening habits flow through, and then use Last.fm with Support Act. (Or if your streaming service has an API, let me know and maybe I can connect it all up directly with Support Act.)
There are no fancy algorithms on the Support Act side of things - it’s just telling you the albums you’ve been listening to the most. I’m quite happy to let the streaming services find ways to suggest new music. And Support Act doesn’t cost anything to use - it’s thus far pretty cheap to run, and I’d rather people support artists anyway.
Most recently I’ve been focused on providing links to places where people can purchase albums - whether that be digital or physical copies. It remains a work in progress, as I’m sourcing this data from a couple of different places, and there’s a lot of missing information in both.
If you are a developer or designer, you may be interested to look through the open-sourced code. Suggestions and pull requests are definitely welcome.
And finally, a massive thank you to Laura and Zach from Superhero Studios who have been so generous with their time and put together the initial design, and to Lachlan, Elle and John, who’ve all provided great feedback and support.