Preaching the gospel of the DIY religion, moderator and shareholder of Greenberg Traurig Steven Beer led the panelists in a discussion that covered some of the difficulties of doing everything yourself, the rewards and some tools that can help artists to keep goals in mind as they are going down the DIY path.
While it can be a long road with many bumps along the way, Beer began the discussion by saying that, “This is the first time in the history of popular music that the artist can define success on their own instead of the industry defining it. No longer are you successful if you go platinum or gold or win a Grammy. You can actually have your own success idea and form a success plan around that definition of success.” He then asked the artists on the panel if they were born DIY or if they were converted to the “religion.”
“I was definitely born into this,” said DIY artist/producer Erin Barra. “I even started singing my own songs just purely because I needed somebody to sing them. I had written them, and then it just continued on. I needed somebody to record them, so I learned how to use Pro Tools; I needed an engineer, and from there it’s just completely been one step in front of the next of taking every single obstacle that I have encountered and turning it into an opportunity.”
And the idea of empowerment as a DIY-er held true for all of the panelists. Founder and chief music officer at SoulBlendr.com Charley Hoefer explained that his company aims to connect starving artists with other starving artists for the goal of a collaborative profit.
“Entrepreneurs are do it yourself. And I think that’s the thrill for us, is empowering people,” said Hoefer. “And we’re trying to. And when we looked at our business model, we just said, ‘what’s broken?’ Well the business is broken first of all, nobody’s making any money from music. OK, well, what’s working? Merch is on fire actually,” he said, continuing to describe how SoulBlendr.com allows artists to collaborate without any greedy hands, keeping the money in the artists’ wallets and allowing them to make merch they can use to profit.
With the financial difficulties that come along with being a DIY-er, the panelists also all touched on several different technological tools that can help make a business plan successful and enable artists to grow their careers. Artist Julia Nunes, who was discovered by accident after putting some YouTube videos of her singing online to share with friends, spoke about how she used the micro-funding site Kickstarter.com to create her upcoming album.
“I tried to offer what I would like an artist to offer me, and offer that to my fans,” Nunes said. That included posters with lyrics written on them and all of her album’s 18 mp3s for $10. “After 30 days of crowd-funding, I had raised $78,888,” she said. With the goal of $15,000 in mind when she began her Kickstarter project, Nunes was able to reinvest the money in her career and to make a music video—something she thought she’d never have the money to produce herself.
Stressing the need to think creatively as a DIY artist and to do things that other artists aren’t doing, Nunes and other panelists shed light on the DIY culture and how artists can make it work for them with a lot of self-reliance and a strong work ethic to propel their careers forward. Winding down the panel, the group agreed that while the DIY religion isn’t for everyone, it can be just as rewarding—if not more so—than other routes into the music industry where artists can lose creativity along the way. Sometimes, if you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself.