by MATT BACON >
One of my favorite aspects of the music industry is the fact that anyone can get involved and do something badass. The basic bones of the system are fairly straightforward, and things can be put together fairly clearly – it just tends to be a lot of work. This weekend I attended Doomed & Stoned festival and it was one of the single most impressively put together festivals by a amateur promoter that I have ever seen. When it comes down to it a lot of people want to help but they do stupid things which makes the whole process ridiculous and painful. I think that’s one of the trickiest ways to try and counterbalance yourself in the music industry, especially when you are starting out so I wanted to spend some time looking at how the industry has come to shape itself and how people like you and me can interact with it in order to create a better experience for everybody who wants to be an active part of this.
I think one of the key things that helped make Doomed and Stoned so special was that everyone involved was friendly and had no ego. The big problem with DIY is that a lot of people don’t want to admit that the math of the thing often simply doesn’t work out. (I’m not trying to suggest this festival lost money, I have no clue about the financials, I’m just making a broader statement.) On top of this people don’t consider that some of us drive for ten hours to go pay a show to thirty people, so of course there’s going to be a little bit of grumpiness. If you have a bad attitude about it it will ruin your festival, but if you remain positive and stoked then there’s no reason to worry. This is one of the key rules of DIY, assume that everyone around you has been having a worse day than you and do your best to serve them. Again – most people don’t think about some of the basic realities of this stuff and they wind up cranky and talking shit. But that’s missing the entire point of being a band who are trying to fight for the music and help it grow.
The thing with DIY is that it’s a volunteer job that puts a lot of peoples fates in the hand of someone who doesn’t have to have any qualifications to do it. This is the blessing and the curse of it. Sometimes you get things run by good ass people with good attitudes, smart ethics and an awareness of how they want to grow. Those are the good times. Those are the Doomed and Stoned’s of the world, where we get to really enjoy what makes this whole thing special and we can come together in order to establish a better future for those of us who want to really commit to the thing. The bad times though are the ones that alienate people. When folks take your money and run, or when they simply have different expectations than you do then things start to become a lot trickier and it’s a bitch to negotiate. It’s gray hair moments that make us stop caring and want to just back out of sleeping in vans, traveling on no sleep and risking your life.
Think about that though. That there are literally thousands, if not millions of people who love this so much that they will get involved in shockingly dangerous shows in basements of houses that are literally falling apart in order to play a show to six people. It’s a weird headspace to get in, and again, one where there can be a lot of falling outs and problems that happen because people can’t quite get it. That’s a huge part of what makes an event like Doomed and Stoned so scary, is that one band showing up with bad attitudes or saying ‘There’s only a few hundred people here, that’s not a festival, this is bullshit’ and the whole thing gets ruined for everybody. Any middling to large DIY music event is basically one person away from getting ruined at any time. I think this says a lot about how the whole thing works as a result of that. It tells us that clearly we are all willing to put aside our troubles and deal with the bullshit to do this kind of thing.
Another key I’d like to touch on for a moment before wrapping this up would just be that when you do these sorts of things people want to feel catered too. They want to have things set up explicitly for them. I’m not talking about entitlement, I’m just talking about marketing. On a basic level it means stuff like having girl shirts because girls are frequently the one holding the money at a show. On a deeper level it means making sure that people in certain, but not insignificant market segments can feel cared for in a special way. This might be with relation to providing a specific LGBT angle to things, it might be food options, helping parents or really anything else. When people see that they can have a sense of ownership over something in DIY – an environment that is defined by a sense of ownership then they start to really treasure it.
I just want people to be happy and the people who are truly successful in this also just want people to be happy. I want things to be fun and silly and low key and give us all a chance to be cool. Other people don’t want to deal with the bullshit of this industry, and that’s fine. It sucks and it’s a lot to have to digest at any given moment, but sometimes you need to accept the sheer brutality of this industry and move forward if you want something cool to happen. You have the choice between sucking it up, working, and having a badass experience or just staying home and watching something stupid on Netflix. Your fucking call.