Napalm Death have been a band for parts of five decades at this point. It’s weird to think that about the grindcore pioneers, but they can trace their roots all the way back to 1979. Of course – they don’t have an original members (Although all the early members seem to have gone on to play in amazing projects) but they still maintain their original ethos – even after years on the road playing to hundreds, if not thousands of people every night. They remember that above all else you need to keep your DIY ethics intact if you want to get anywhere as a music industry professional.
The more I work with bands the more I realize that it’s the ones who stay true to the promise of Minor Threat and D.R.I that really get to go places. It’s the guys who know how to stay sober if they have to, the guys who divide up the work, hire a manager and then set up countless exciting opportunities. A big part of success in a DIY community is just showing up, doing something (Anything really) and not being a jerk about it. Like I said – until you make people care by going out and doing stuff, then they are simply not going to care – that’s just the way that it is – and if you try and couch this in some sort of rock star mythos that you actually believe in then you will probably crash and burn.
Here’s the thing – it’s totally fine to have a rock star ethos on stage and even a little bit when interacting with fans. It can help to conjure up an aura of mysticism about your band. For a while at least the only person who will be building up your legend is you. The thing is – you can’t hold that against industry people. If you are late for a meeting, you fucked up – no matter how many times the industry person in question was late. They have the power and you’re just a band – they have dozens if not hundreds of bands contacting them every day, and your mistake could potentially cost you thousand of dollars. I know it sounds brutal – but as I’ve said time and time again – in the new, leaner, meaner music industry that we all face we have to embrace the fact that the people with power are busier than ever before.
Most people simply don’t understand that the music industry has no place for fat – there is no culling here because that implies some sort of flab got put on in the first place. The people who make it are the ones who remember that hey need to work the hardest if they want to get anywhere. Some will tell you that DIY ethics will only take you so far – and this is kind of true. You definitely do need management and booking agent and a label and all that good stuff if you really want to move forward in the music industry. That being said – even if you do have those things – you should not forget the DIT street punk ethos that has taken so many of your favorite bands so far – even huge bands do a lot of stuff for themselves, not just because it saves money, but also because it just makes sense.
A lot of bands in this day and age chose to deny DIY – they think that they can do it all through management and labels because they have never had to put the work in themselves in the old model. That is no longer the case. Despite growing awareness many people still don’t seem to understand that a record label can’t do that much for you. This isn’t because the label are money grubbing assholes who hate musicians but rather because in this day and age the way the music industry works simply means that a lot of us can’t expect labels to take care of everything. They can help you put out records and figure out your place in the scene, but they probably aren’t going to be able to invoke the genre breaking power that they need. You need to do it on your own through hard work, spending money on PR and realizing hat in the end – it’s the bands who show up and prove they care that matter.
I know that you claim to care – but again people in this industry only care about results, and if they tell you otherwise then they are misguided and wrong – or trying to scam you. This is not an industry of passion, though it is driven by it, this is an industry of results and no one knows that better than the DIY crowd. You need to be willing to trust people to build towards a better tomorrow. This isn’t a damnation of bands as much as it is a statement asking people to realize that not only are we all far more stupid and screwed than we could possibly imagine, but also that nobody is going to help us out until we reach out and do things.
Am I a bitter and tired old man who wants you to be miserable like me? Kind of. That’s not what I’m trying to get at though. What I’m trying to get at is that as long as you’re not creating, being respectful and generating stuff that people will want to care about once they are exposed to it then people simply are never going to work with you. As a band you have literally no power, everything needs to be done on your own until you start to prove who you are and what you’re worth. Together though, with this knowledge in hand, I know that we can move forward.