DIY, why would you want to do that?

DIY Music? Who would want to do that?! 
Ok so in the past I have been scolded for making fun of “The Voice” and at times I have been rather coy when asked to be part of some sort of arts alliance or music association but I’m going to come clean here and lay out some thinking that I have had rolling around in my head for the last month... 

Radio Shank (RIP) had a rather cool ad that sadly did nothing to help keep them thriving in the business world but it talked about DIY or “DIT” which stood for “Do It Together” and I think the Maker Community in general has had a better grasp of skill sharing than artists in the music industry have... Funny how wood workers and metal workers are artists too and yet they seem to have a better ability to get paid, and make a living from their art than musicians! 

A little history here: I grew up around skilled craftsmen who built things out of iron and wood. Fences, railings... Sculptures and wagons and carriages to name a few things that were built, funny thing was when a guy who mostly did welding got a job that might require a lot of forging he would team up with another artisan close by and the two would share resources like shop space and materials, with a fair split of the money going to each maker.... 

Now musicians seem to have two schools of thought... There’s the “I need to be on The Voice so I can get a record deal” and then there’s the crowd who basically screams from the rooftops “screw The Voice, I’lll build my career myself” and while neither option is what I consider “wrong” I hardly agree that this type of thinking is the best means to go about a task... 

First of all, yes The Voice is a TV show loosely based on reality, though I certainly feel like the reality of the winners contract looks and feels more like financial bondage and a nightmare to me... There’s some perks to being on The Voice... First of all it really does put you in a place where you may get some instantaneous exposure (More on Exposure later, but remember people die from “Exposure” every year) For instance a friend of mine had around 3’400 Likes on Facebook and was on The Voice. She was booted after the first real episode but she walked away with 25k Likes on her page! Now that’s a pretty serious hike... But how many people are now die-hard fans who will come to shows and spend money? Good question... 

Now for the folks who scream out “SCREW THE VOICE!” I say this.... 
Sure, knock it all you want, but it is good television! While you’re probably not going to see me on the show, nor have I even so much as been asked to be a contestant... I will address the idea that doing it all yourself is not going to always guarantee a better career than going for a quick fame grab on TV... 

The idea that you can make an album in your bedroom with free software and a basic computer setup and a few hundred bucks worth of hardware and microphones seems pretty romantic, doesn’t it? Sure an artist with even a ten year old laptop running free software has more sonic options available than The Beatles had when they made Revolver, but... Let me point out that The Beatles, while very hands on and involved in the creative process of their craft, did not make those albums alone... They also did not use home studios until later on when relationships got strained and John and George wanted to cut demos at home. They had guys like George Martin cracking the whip and calling the shots! 

See these days I see so many artists getting a glow in their eye and talking about wanting to take a four track recorder into the woods to some remote cabin and make an album all alone and without distraction... I ask you, have you ever done it? Have you ever made an album alone before? Because I have! In fact I have made several releases tucked away and alone from the world... Frankly it’s lonely and it starts to wear you down, to the point you can’t tell if the first take was really any better than the 5th... Also you have no positive energy to feed off of after you keep screwing up the solo on the bridge. 

I say what we need more of is DIT instead of DIY or worse DIO (Do It Ourselves) but since we like reality so much in entertainment I’m going to get real here. 
Frankly I have no budget for my next release and my fanbase is probably too small to crowd fund off of, and seemingly my best options may well be to head out alone again to forage another albums worth of finished songs... Or else reach for the stars and grab a quick dose of fame on TV and hope it gets me enough people who want to invest at the very least... 

Or what I can do is this: Hey “insert talented artist I know” I will film your EPK for YOUR Music, if you will come play tambourine and hit record in the software while I lay down MY tracks... Or hey I made this video of me singing a new song, will you share it on your page, in turn I’ll share the cool picture promoting you opening for that awesome national act you need to bring in a crowd for... See how that mutually scratched both backs? 

Look, there’s less and less money to be made in music every year it seems... But there’s more and more tools out there to make it. What we as artists need to do is band together while retaining our independence from whatever it is we are afraid of being shackled to... 

If you don’t always like each others music that’s fine but be positive, yet honest. Victor Wooten always gives three compliments for one critique, maybe we could all stand to follow that value... But if I have an awesome video camera and you have an awesome space but no video gear... Invite me over to shoot a video and in turn maybe I can shoot you some footage of your project too! If you’re good at booking gigs but horrible at recording and mixing... Trade me some gig booking (seriously I hate booking gigs) and I’d be happy to track and mix a few songs... If we could all get just as creative with how to help each other achieve our dreams as we get making excuses for why we can’t earn a living making our art, somehow I think we could ALL prosper and grow as artists and creators of things. 

I don’t think we all need a record label, and I don’t think we need “arts alliances” with boards of directors and non profit statuses to help us make art. In fact I am VERY gun-shy of “Non Profit” outfits who are out to help me make art... They seem to be fine with not making a profit, but I’m not! I want to make a freaking living here! 

If you’ve made it through this, I want to thank you, and I hope you’re getting something out of this, maybe some ideas, maybe the courage to finally ask for help instead of just making another excuse for why your new YouTube video or promo photoshoot isn’t out yet, or why your EP sounds like crap, because you somehow think you don’t have any access to gear. 

Tell you what... At the next open mic you find yourself out at, why not ask one of the other artists if there’s something you can help with, maybe they can exchange a skill too. 

Being an artist is a lot like being in a fight... You gotta fight through the noise and you gotta punch through the fog to be seen and heard... A boxer once said “When you want to break a guys nose you aim for the back of his head” I think that graphic statement is a lot like being an artists today... You want to get a million views on YouTube, better shoot a video and produce it like you want 20 million views!

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