2023 Musical Gift & ‘Giving’ Guide

How to Best Support Regional Artists This Holiday Season

    Additional Reporting by
    icon Nov 22, 2023
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To the disbelief of just about everyone, we are in the countdown to another Holiday Season as another calendar year comes to an end. 

Over the years we have used this space to highlight musical gift ideas, as the season is typically associated with giving, even if this really means shopping in a lot of instances.

In many parts of the world, especially the British Commonwealth, it is common to celebrate Boxing Day.  The idea, memorialized in a classic Elvis Costello track, was to acknowledge “the help” with a small token on the day after Christmas.  It’s a quaint tradition that lives on in the way of Christmas tips for service providers.

If you are reading this article, it is a good chance that you enjoy music and have friends or family that perform or record.  What we’d like to offer up this year are some ways to channel the Boxing Day ethic and give back to music and to the musicians in your life.

The world of musical releases has changed in the last few years.  I found out with my own album, “SO*P” (Soup Without U) that many people simply don’t own a CD player anymore.

Just the same, several artists did release physical copies of their latest albums.  Picking up one of these for their asking price is probably the pinnacle of the merchandise pyramid, as far as an artist is concerned.

Several stalwarts of the local scene weighed in over the last year with new material in physical form. 

Michelle O’Neil’s Happiness Is Real” and Scott Baker’s “Purpose” memorialized material familiar to fans of their popular live shows.  Rick Gellise’sCovers, Collabs and 12 Strings” is a gas.

Plus, Benjamin Champagne released new music this year under the moniker Pesky Kid, which mixed the  genre-bending brilliance of Beck and the smooth off-kilter pop of Still Woozy together in a unique & lovely fashion through Champagne’s own meta-modernist filter of underground indie electro pop, which in actuality is a sound fit for the 2020s - much like a summer beach awash with different sounds from various eras, next to a parking lot full of old cassettes & forgotten records melting in the sun. 

You can also find new collections for artists like the eponymous album from Twenty Dollar Dog, Mike Ward’s Pyschosongs and The JR Band’s Heart Street. Plus, artists such as See You Next Tuesday released their first new album in years titled Relapse.  It got national airplay and reviews.

If you like more variety to your “merch” you may want to look into Mystic Pouch, REVIEW Music Award winner Amelia Jo’s Renn Faire outfit.  She not only offers up CD or non-traditional arrangements of modern and Medieval songs, but if you are looking for a flask, keychain or – of course – a t-shirt, it is likely available.

T-shirts are the new staple of the artists merch catalog.  You usually need to jump when you see them, but you can find some pretty snazzy threads from artists like Adaboy, Val Hazel or Winaschnitzel if you watch.

Speaking of t-shirts, I wouldn’t want to leave out the venues that are important to musicians and music listeners in the area. 

If you drop by White’s Bar, Bemo’s, Jake’s Corner Lounge or your favorite watering hole they probably have shirts.  They are great advertising, cool concert wear and have better margins that beer.

90.1 FM at Delta College is a favorite resource for listeners of independent music.  You can make donations earmarked for your favorite shows, like Mid-Michigan Sound Operative or The Audition Room.

If you really would like to branch out in your giving this year, you might look to the other end of the musician tree – musical charities and organizations that help kids get started in music. 

You can look into an organization like D Street Music that funds scholarships and finds instruments for kids who may not be able to afford them.  Major Chords for Minors offers lessons and playing opportunities for young people, often free of charge.

While they are not non-profits, if you contact Mark Shelly and tell him you’d like to fund a School of Rock scholarship or Herter Music Center to help send a kid to Band Camp, they will be able find the right candidate for your donation.

Another thing that many people don’t think about is how the expenses stack up for a gigging musician. You are constantly replacing cords, batteries, capos and other gear that wears out, breaks down or goes missing. 

A gift certificate from a local music store, a music big box or even an online retailer in your tip jar would resonate more that the same tip in cash.  It means you understand and put some thought and time into this week’s tip.

And really, it’s your thoughts and your time that mean more than anything, especially at this time of year. 

Happy Holidays to all of you!

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    Bob Hausler

    Thank you, Matt de Heus and the Review magazine for your support of local indie artists.