pictured above New England Patriots @ Allston DIY Fest 2013
Hi I haven’t been feeling very writey lately but I just read an article called “DIY in Decline" from Ben Martin and while he makes some good points I found myself vehemently disagreeing with its conclusions so much so that I wanted to respond.
For those of you who didn’t click on the link, the article talks about how gentrification (and the subsequent closing of centrally-located performance spaces) as well as high gas prices has made it much more difficult for bands to hit the road and tour without the help of booking people/PR agents etc. It goes further to say that, perhaps as a result of this new era of recession, slick pop music is more hip than ever and more performers are trying to skip the house circuit entirely and work behind the scenes to get “discovered” by the industry powers-that-be so that touring is financially viable for their music career.
I think the root of my disagreement comes from the dubious nature of the word(s) DIY. Like “indie” before it or any successful youth movement it gets watered down, subverted by advertisers and eventually confused as a genre or fashion statement or whatever until it loses its potency as a set of ideas. To me, DIY is about doing things exactly the way you want to and not paying into systems you don’t like. Its about creating your own opportunities, and building communities instead of waiting for someone to do it for you. Perhaps most of all, it is about adaptation. To say these ideals are on the decline and are being replaced by label-backed pop music and buzzbands isn’t what I see happening around me, in fact, it is almost as if they exist in different universes.
Because many “DIY” (for lack of a better word) spaces fly in the face of normal capitalistic conventions, and often are made up of people seeking fulfillment instead of $, it makes total sense that the landscape would be completely different than 5 years ago. People eventually get burned out constantly answering booking emails, college scenes have high student turnover, and as Ben mentioned, cops get aggro when they’re trying to “clean up” a neighborhood for developers. But then we adapt. For a season, we have to find new ways to rethink spaces, to challenge noise laws or find loopholes around them, we skill share and organize national networks that share contacts. We have to hit the road with less people in our bands in compact cars and look for scenes in the small towns in between the big ones.
I felt most compelled to write this because, whether Ben meant to or not, I felt like the article was almost advising people to not take a shot at touring when they’re a young nameless band and that notion made me sad. It made me think about what my life would be like if I hadn’t saved up and road-tripped with my friends with delusions of grandeur, nervously playing terrible music that would clear out rooms sometimes but eventually getting better. I’d have missed out on the feeling of going to a new city and feeling free for the first time under the big country sky or falling in love and getting a totally new perspective. I don’t know, that shit is so much realer than if I had used that same saved up money on some slick PR that might get my (at-the-time) young, dumb music on Gorilla vs Bear or something.
Eventually, if you’re lucky as hell, it might make sense to start working with a music industry person if they are on the same page as you philosophically + don’t suck (there’s a couple out there whom I’ve worked with) but until then what’s wrong with being “DIY”? Dub your own tapes, play a battery powered set on the beach at sunset, screenprint on some thrifted shirts, collage a flyer, buy an sm57 and learn how to record on some free program, involve all your friends, reach out to artists that inspire you! But definitely don’t wait for some publication or label tell you its good, that’s for you and your soul to figure out.
The music industry is just that, an industry. It exists to generate wealth, to sell “units” or beer or tickets or pageviews. If you do well by the metrics set by the people above you then maybe you’ll get a piece of the pie, but fuck that, I’d rather cut out the middle people, work some part time jobs here and there, and do what makes me happy with my friends the rest of the time. To me that’s what DIY is, an alternative to that bullshit rat race- but we have to build it ourselves and I certainly hope its not on the decline
Ok 2 stoned to write anymore / no offense meant