DIY culture is a fundamental part of the music industry, it’s weird to think about it that way to because, asides from being largely illegal, for so long it seemed like it was going down the tubes and we were going to lose control of it all. When the music industry got really out of hand in the 80s and 90s it seemed like DIY culture was dead, but now that there is no money in the music industry (At least in regards to the mainstream) DIY is back and bigger than ever – but what does this mean for your band, how should we approach the upcoming storm that we must all embrace if we want to take our careers further?
We are at a point where even the friendliest bars are asking for a minimum of two hundred bucks to play a show. Now that’s fine – in fact there’s nothing at all wrong with that, people need to be paid, that’s part of how venues work. That being said – DIY venues traditionally cost nothing, or very little, to play and are a huge part of what should make your band move forward. Instead of relying on expensive venues to play, it makes a lot more sense to me at least to have your band play a few DIY spots along the way in order to recoup funds and help to establish your place in the scene before tackling the big ones.
Here’s what matters though – in a world of increasingly diversified incomes, your band needs DIY culture in order to survive. It’s hard to find good spaces these days that will support your work and do it on the cheap, so you need to give DIY a chance. Every band to have come out of the underground in recent years owes a major debt to the DIY scene, that’s the only place nowadays that will even bother to host shows for the music we love, and even fairly major bands, groups who land on magazine covers, can be found playing dingy basements and groups who play to massive crowds at festivals have been known to play shows that were blatantly illegal. Why? Because it makes financial sense.
That being said – some bands simply don’t work in a DIY setting. If you have a special emphasis on your stage performance then a lot of smaller DIY venues simply won’t work for you. Other bands, like Agoraphobic Nosebleed or Tengger Cavalry are simply trying to breed a cult of exclusivity. (Admittedly with Tengger Cavalry the theatricality is a big part of it too) This is crucial to those bands’ image and rightfully so. That being said – the odds that your band are in this category are relatively small – and in fact, playing DIY shows, in the current climate, can boost your authenticity.
We all know that in this day and age authenticity is crucial to selling your band. Remember, when you sell your music today you are trying to market to a generation who have been marketed too their whole lives. People can spot a phony because they’ve been training at it since they were babies, and it’s going to only get worse from here. If you’re not in it one hundred percent and showing off your dedication to the scene with DIY ethics and a simple understanding of how punk and hardcore permanently altered underground music then it might just be too late for you.
The DIY scene is roaring back, every few months a cool new spot will open up in your city. A veritable DIY revolution is overtaking the world as more and more folks are open to letting concerts take place in their homes. As independent music becomes the norm we are entering a world where just about everyone is a part of the music industry to some extent, and now more than ever the fans have a tremendous impact on making things work out. This is a crucial development and means that people are getting ready to move towards a world that is entirely DIY.
Is this actually going to happen in the near future? Probably not – but the trends seem to suggest that great things are coming. People are increasingly socially liberal and I think there is a greater level of appreciation of the arts manifesting itself in the millennial generation. You need to take advantage of this and the new found clemency that we are all benefiting from. This is perhaps the first time in the history of music that people are starting to get a sense of what artists are worth and want to do things to help make paying them possible.
DIY culture is a fickle thing and certainly a hard one to master. Everything relies on your reputation and your ability to prove that you’re good people, but perhaps it’s better that way. I personally really like that we are all working together, striving for a better tomorrow and reveling in the promise of a more exciting scene. It’s a weird thing that we’ve built up and all come to rely on, but it is also a fundamental part of how the industry works now and the smart record labels understand that. If you’re a band, you more than likely need DIY, and if the people around you don’t realize that, it might be time for you to move on.