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Mid-Week Beat: 2013 – The Year of the D.I.Y. Musician?

Music >

2013 is starting to look like a very good year for D.I.Y. musicians.

There was once a day when most musicians longed to be “discovered,” which really meant “marketed and paid very, very well” simply for performing, creating and sharing their art. Those musicians had no interest in becoming entrepreneurs, and gratefully allowed others to take the reins of the business side of their career, in exchange for a cut of the profits. Using that model, both the artist and the fans were paying quite a bit for the privilege of finding each other. Most times, it also meant compromising your artistic vision in order to become more accessible to a mainstream audience.

Today, it has become easier for a gifted artist to keep control of the reins of his or her career: booking gigs and tours, selling recordings, interacting with fans and avoiding the “middlemen” of the industry. Artists can do this armed with nothing more than a solid work ethic, a laptop and a sufficiently large core of faithful supporters and fans.

A recent example of this is Seattle rapper Ben “Macklemore” Haggerty and producer Ryan Lewis. The duo have taken a D.I.Y. approach to gradually building a fan base. They shot and edited their own video for “Thrift Shop” which now boasts more than 50 million YouTube views. Macklemore and Lewis avoided signing with a major record label, turning down potentially large advances to put out “The Heist,” their second album, which debuted at #1 on iTunes and #2 on the Billboard charts. In the past, it would have been literally unheard of for a self-released album to achieve this level of success. Also, Macklemore and Ryan decide for themselves which shows they will play and which services they will buy/use to promote themselves. By doing this, they stay true to their art, and the messages they are sending through their music.

They do all this even in the face of “being discovered” by major labels who want to do all that work for them, albeit for a large cut of their profits and a certain level of artistic control. Mackelmore’s success proves that major labels aren’t necessarily the best judges of the public’s tastes anymore. They’ve proved that mainstream success is possible without corporate influence.

** WARNING! This video contains language that may not be appropriate for all viewers. **


Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ success is an inspiration to DIY artists everywhere and proves that the old music industry model is rapidly decaying. The power is being taken away from multi-national corporations and back into the hands of the artists, as long as they’re willing to work for it. With a limited budget, hard work and a love of their art, they are making it happen and we congratulate them on their success. It proves that the D.I.Y. model that Brown Paper Tickets was founded on 12 years ago is sustainable, despite what the industry has been telling us for so many years.

If you’re going to be in Stockton, California on Thursday, March 28, why not check out their show at the University of the Pacific Spring Concert, with fellow DIY artist, Ryan Leslie? By using Brown Paper Tickets for this show, it means tickets are just $30 plus a $2.04 service fee, which includes all credit card charges. Sweet!

Another example of the D.I.Y. ethic at work is Bay Area rapper and event producer Sellassie. Sellasie not only performs, writes and releases his own recordings but he also produces live events and tours for other up-and-coming hip hop artists. Like Mackelmore, Sellassie is cutting out the middleman and doing it himself, proving that D.I.Y. success is hard earned but so much more appreciated when it’s on your own terms.

He’s ticketing the West Coast leg of his “Undiscovered Tour” with Brown Paper Tickets as well as his “2Racks Rap Contest” and in a recent post on Brown Paper Tickets’ Facebook page, he says that he will always use us for his ticket sales, even when he’s selling thousands of tickets. Why? Because we take less money from his fans and provide DIY artists like him with unparalleled support.

** WARNING! This video contains language that may not be appropriate for all viewers. **


By working with and supporting artists like Sellassie and Mackelmore, we here at Brown Paper Tickets feel that we can help to construct a new economy where artists and fans find each other without the help of corporations; where fans can buy tickets to their favorite artist’s shows without paying exorbitant fees; a world where nobody has to sacrifice their artistic integrity to achieve success and where DIY becomes the norm, not the exception.

Wanna check out Mackelmore and Sellassie live? Here are some upcoming dates that we’re ticketing for both artists. Get your tickets quick because all of these events are sure to sell out:

TONIGHT! Wednesday, January 23 I The Undiscovered Tour Santa CruzSanta Cruz, California

Thursday, January 24 I The Undiscovered Tour OaklandOakland, California

Friday, January 25 I The Undiscovered Tour Santa RosaSanta Rosa, California

Saturday, January 26 I The Undiscovered Tour San FranciscoSan Francisco, California

Wednesday, January 30 I The Undiscovered Tour SeattleSeattle, Washington

Friday, February 1 I The Undiscovered Tour PortlandPortland, Oregon

Sunday, February 10 I 2Racks Rap Contest Los Angeles – Los Angeles, California

Thursday, February 21 I 2Racks Rap Contest San FranciscoSan Francisco, California

Sunday, February 24 I 2Racks Rap Contest BerkeleyBerkeley, California

Thursday, March 28 I 2Racks Rap Contest OrlandoOrlando, California

Thursday, March 28 I University of the Pacific Spring Concert with Mackelmore and Ryan LewisStockton, California