012. Do it yourself, Punk!
This week, I want to write about how accessible I think it is, to be an independent musician today. Let me start with how I see how things now. Musicians today and I include myself in this, are locked in an archaic and outdated view of what success is. A cyclical generational epoch that we refuse to see in any kind of new way. Because of how the music industry has been run, we feel that we don't have any real control. We feel we need intermediaries in order to validate what we are doing. The problem is that these middlemen exploit musicians at every step.
The list is long but here are a few small examples. Gigs for exposure, slots at festivals in exchange for social media likes. Pay to play gigs. Radio playlisting. Not to mention streaming royalties. But the real tragedy is that musicians are letting themselves be exploited. They continually undervalue themselves waiting for their big break to be handed to them. And settling for these empty promises from people who are lining their pockets.
But on the flipside of this, what inspires me are the anti-establishment movements like the underground punk scene of the 70's and again the grunge scene of the 90's. The mentality back then was not so much about your ability, but your balls to go for it. If things were not within reach, you got your friends around and moved to grab them for yourself. In those times they made their own flyers, cut their own records, designed their own record sleeves and even set up their own record companies out of sheer necessity. Look at the Buzzcocks or Subpop, they embraced their own ingenuity and built their own culture around their bands and their music.
These people circumvented the major record labels and the so-called tastemakers and communicated straight to the people who loved their music most, their tribe. And in doing so had complete creative control and a real movement of like-minded people was born.
I think we can go back to that attitude that made the movements of grunge and punk so vibrant and alive. Not to make the music the same but to embrace that idea of doing it yourself of taking the reigns. Everything is within your grasp. Whats more is we have the massive advantage of technology. Flyers on telephone poles are now Facebook events, record sleeves are now a collaboration with that amazing artist you found on Instagram. Pressing records is now an email away, finding your tribe is no longer turning up for that one off post-punk night and hoping you can give your demo to some record PR guy. It is joining online groups who live and breathe the same culture as you.
Ok, I definitely feel old writing this and maybe any millennials who are reading this will say "are you just realising this now?" The answer is yes, I like so many of my peers, was institutionalised. but now I see the future is bright and it is never too late to embrace your inner Punk.