DIY doesn’t mean “do everything”

DIY doesn't mean do everything Bemuso BlogAmanda Palmer has announced Cooking Vinyl will handle European distribution and marketing for her Kickstarter album Theatre Is Evil.

Unhappy people criticised her fund-raising (how dare she ask for money?) and her short-lived record deal (obviously responsible for her entire career) now they complain she’s not really DIY because she’s using a distributor.

I first saw uncertainty about the meaning of DIY when I started this site in 2002, and I covered it in several places. But many music biz commentators and people in the industry appear not to know what DIY is about.

DIY music dates back to punk and probably before that. It’s all about record labels. A DIY label is one you do yourself. It doesn’t mean you must press the CDs, drive the delivery van and work behind the shop counter. And it doesn’t mean you work entirely alone. It simply means you run your own label—just like any other but yours. All the big record labels use other big labels and distributors when it makes sense. Most indies use big label distribution somewhere.

You provide the music and own the label, everything else can be done by others (design, pressing, marketing, distribution, fulfilment, retail, etc.). In fact, as long as you can afford anything someone can do better than you it should be bought-in, sub-contracted, outsourced or licensed.

So, you own all the rights and owe nothing unless you choose to pay for it. Nobody else dictates the lyrics, the song selection, the running order, the producer, the studio, your image, the sleeve design, the launch, the gigs. You decide, that is DIY.

The point was never to “do everything yourself” it was always to avoid “getting signed”, and the Pitchfork interview with Amanda Palmer linked above demonstrates why that can be a very good idea indeed.

Don't just sit there fuming, write something!