I love the arts, but I often find myself with not nearly enough money to make a real difference. Buying a CD is great, but to me it just doesn't seem like enough support for really talented artists. Here's some ways that you can help without opening up your wallet:
1. Open Your Home
Most independent touring musicians have a difficult time surviving on the meager stipends that venues can offer them. They rarely have enough for a decent meal, even less for a place to stay. Consider cooking/buying dinner for the band and offering them a place to stay the evening. Even a padded concrete floor is more comfortable then the back of a van.
2. Fix Something
My friend Don came to me when I was in a touring band a few years back, and offered to help repair our equipment when it broke down. Since then he successfully fixed dozen of cords, pedals, and even keyboards for me, saving me hundreds of dollars in repair and replacement costs. If you can fix something, you can make a big difference in a musician's life.
3. Connect People
The most valuable asset any musician can have is connections to people he/she can help, and can help him/her. If you know someone that might be able to help or benefit from knowing a musician, make sure they make a connection.
A few years ago my wife was waitressing, and struck up a conversation with a family who's cousin, David, was a music teacher at a local college. Sarah got his info, and I followed up with David the next day. We came to his show a few weeks later and really hit it off- David had the same love of keyboards, rootsy rock music, and good coffee. We exchanged contact info and promised to hang out soon.
A few weeks later I got a call from David. He was taking a teaching position in Chicago- did I want to take some of his students and gigs? In the end I got 3 students and a standing gig with a roots rock band from him. Last I checked, Sarah gave me almost 17,000 dollars in show and teaching opportunities from that chance contact.
If you take the time to look, there are thousands of easy ways you can support musicians. Be creative, listen to what they need, and you can build a meaningful two-way relationship with your local music genius.