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DIY, By Choice or Consequence? – Part 2 of 2

Welcome to part 2 of DIY: By Choice or Consequence.  What are the limits of DIY? What are the downsides? Below are some things to consider. Read Part 1 here.

I think artists that are uninhibited create the best art. These inhibitions include physical limitations, but mental ones as well.  And realizing that you don’t need that $500 microphone to sing is a big step. Work with what you got. Don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t done before. Therefore, it becomes more than just doing it yourself, but a complete philosophy on how you approach what you create.

Now, DIY does have some drawbacks. The most obvious is that for some, DIY has never been a choice. Some artists have to do it themselves because they do not have the funds to do it any other way. Some DIY because no one else will help them to do it. Joan Jett had to start her own record label to get signed. All-female bands in the 90s had to create their own scene when they were excluded from the burgeoning hardcore and indie ones. And at times, DIY can be overwhelming because there is so much work to do as an artist. Writing, recording, producing, mastering, promoting, touring, social networking, press interviews, photo shoots, practicing, distributing your material, staying informed of the latest music news…let’s just say that it can be too much for the solo artist, let alone a band to handle themselves. That is why many artists hope to get on a big label because so much of this work can be delegated out. Does that mean every band on a big label is just a puppet? No.  Does that mean every DIYer is awesome? No. It just means that there is a lot of work to do, and finding a way to make it work for the music is key without sacrificing art or paying the rent.

That is why I say we can strike a happy medium. We can make DIY a positive choice, a valuable and actual option, while making it a positive consequence of our increasingly interconnected culture.  You can retain your DIY ethic without selling out. You are your own expert.  It’s not a last resort due to financial constraints. You can have autonomy over your art, but still look for help from others around you, either friends, other artists, professionals, or those in the industry who share the same ethic. While for some DIY is a trend, the hipster thing to do for those with too many options, privileges, and time, I think we can safely keep DIY as a useful item in our  artistic toolbox without loosing sight of the goal—to create really good music.

Photos via crownjewel82, wadem, and sourdiesel. This post was originally titled “DIY: Back To Basics” written for and published on Crowdbands.


DIY, By Choice or Consequence? – Part 1 of 2

DIY…to do it yourself. It is a phrase that resonates with many musicians and artists alike. It has power, it has potential, and it can be overwhelming.

But what does it mean to DIY? What is a DIY ethic? How can you as a band or artist make the best of it without burning yourself out? And what can DIY mean for the future of music? All of these thoughts are considered below.

To “Do It Yourself,” as a band or artist, means that you take control over much of the production, distribution, and creation of the music. This can be anything from choosing your own material, recording and mixing the tracks, designing your album art, burning CDs, doing your own PR, to distributing your albums out of the back of your beat-up Volvo. Many bands and artists do this now, including myself. Other things that you can DIY include: screen printing your own t-shirts, hand numbering cassettes, hosting your own basement shows, viral fund-raising, making fan-zines, and lo-fi music videos. DIY has a deep history in the punk and indie music movements, which tended to move away from mass produced and conglomerate control of music to centralizing it in the hands of you and me. Back to basics.

Riot grrrls, street punks, and intellectual indies all could appreciate the uniqueness of becoming closer to your craft, and engaging your audiences in a real way. For example, many fan zines promoted DIY by just getting people to speak their thoughts and to become active in their musical communities.   Artists would invite fans on stage to sing with them, help create their merchandise and spread the word.

Another way to do this was by starting their own bands and record labels. It didn’t matter if you had never played an instrument before, or didn’t have years of professional training, it was about the process. It was about letting go of your  inhibitions and just doing. The result wasn’t necessarily the most glamorous, but getting yourself out of the box was. You don’t need to be an expert to do a, b, or c. You don’t need a multi-million dollar record deal to make music, tour, or gain a fan base.  The old avenues do not necessarily guarantee success, and artists are now looking around for new ways of doing thing in the digital age.  The internet has aided in this tremendously with social media tools and networking websites to help artists that may never have had a shot at a big record deal get exposure. DIY is a tool to break the mold.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Photos via crownjewel82, wadem, and sourdiesel. This post was originally titled “DIY: Back To Basics” written for and published on Crowdbands.

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