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.