DIY or Do-It-Yourself is an artistic movement that transcends genres and mediums, which has become a state of mind increasingly adopted by creative types from around the world. The DIY acronym was first used by Punk Bands in the late 70's, which out of the necessity to overcome a music industry that would not support their counter-culture began to organize themselves, creating their own record companies, concerts, and print media. This became known as the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethic. Now, nearly three decades later the DIY attitude has grown stronger than ever, embracing all forms of creative expression, in particular music, film and books.
A great resource for DIY information is the DIY Reporter which holds yearly DIY Conventions and Festivals around the nation.
How Do I ‘DIY’
1) Create a product to sell.
In our society, money is necessary for survival therefore artists need to find ways to generate income. Ideally, the first step in this process would be for artists to set up a legal entity (a company) to house their intellectual property. In order to reap the full protection and tax benefits of a company it is advisable to create a Corporation (Inc.) or Limited Liability Company (LLC). There are many online resources that will walk you through each step of this process and allow you to create your company without ever leaving your internet connection, my favorite being the Company Corporation. Next, your product needs to be prepared for sale. The creation of music whether it’s song writing, production or engineering is a very personal process and should be left to the discretion of the artist. I personally do a lot of my own recording on Logic Pro and for those based in D.C. I highly recommend the engineering of DJ Boom at Listen Vision. The presentation of your album should not be taken lightly, it is the one factor that can immediately let people know that you are serious, and even without ever having previously heard your music may entice someone to purchase it. A great resource for CD replication is Disc Makers, they will provide a top of the line, ready for retail album at reasonable rates in two weeks, start to finish.
2) Somewhere to sell your product.
Now that you have something to sell, you need somewhere to sell it. You will without a doubt sell your products at live performances but it is very necessary to create an online presence for yourself so people from all over the world can learn about you and yes, purchase your product. CDBaby was the first and is still the best at providing an online store. They give artists a place to sell their music online and still return 91% of the profits to the artist, they will sell your album and also help you place it on digital download sites like iTunes and Rhapsody. I also highly recommend that you create your own website. The process of creating your own website is three part; 1) purchasing a domain name 2) hosting the website 3) finding a design (template) that you manage or having someone design your website. GoDaddy is an excellent company for the first step of researching available domain names and purchasing and managing your address through them. The best company that I have found for hosting and allowing you to manage your own flash website without needing to have any knowledge of web design is Dynamod, I highly recommend their service.
3) Let the public know about your product.
In order for people to listen (and purchase) your music they need to know about it. Marketing, promotions and publicity are the cornerstone (along with hard work) of any successful business, without it, even the greatest song in the world would be lost to obscurity. There are many mediums through which you can let the world know about you, but there are three free resources that are great for promotions that I would like to refer you to; MySpace, YouTube and Email Lists. The popularity of Myspace has made it phenomenal for networking and making your music, shows and ideas available to a community of people that are highly receptive. YouTube is also an online community based site, which allows its users to upload short videos, giving it's users a virtual Television Channel through which they can promote their music. Email lists take more work to gather but once people sign up for you list, whether through your website or in person at a show or networking event, you have a direct line to them which can be a powerful tool in promoting your performances and to yes, purchase your product. There are a few pay services, Vertical Response and Constant Contact in particular, which allow you to create custom newsletters to reach your mailing list. These services can be very helpful in understanding your fans because not only do they give your mailings a professional look but they also have functions that allow you to track how many people actually open and read your email/newsletter.
The ‘DIY’ Challenge
Aritsts will need to ask themselves the difficult and introspective question of what it is that they are truly searching for through their artistic expression, to make a living off of it, to be famous, a little of both?
Hip-hop artists have the blessing of being part of a technological revolution, which enables them to become self-reliant, in a way that has never been seen at any other point in history. Life during this revolutionary era forces us to ask ourselves deeper questions, in relation to our motives and the intentions of our art. In the past the only avenue for multi-media entertainment was through major companies that controlled the distribution channels, but today there are many alternatives to this. When focusing on Hip-hop music and the surrounding business, it becomes necessary to ask oneself, what is it that I am trying to accomplish and at what cost. The reason that this is necessary is because it is more difficult if not nearly impossible to get where you are going, if you do not know where that is. Many Hip-hop artists want to get signed to a major label, others want to create their own label, what do these things mean?
The DIY mentality does not stand opposed to any path, instead it affirms that 'no matter what path you choose or stumble upon, the only person responsible at the end of the day is you'. The DIY ethic is a paradigm shift in the way we view ourselves and our role in our own careers. It is both empowering and intoxicating. I ask that you reflect on how you can use some of the resources that I have mentioned in this blog for your career, but first you must answer the personal question of what it is that you want out of your career.
Wishing you continued success!