50 Ways to Support Your DIY Music Community
Hindershot performing at Unit E.
Brandon Marshall for Westword.
The way a do-it-yourself music community/scene works is exactly like it sounds: by doing it yourself. DIY is an ethos that transcends genre. Regardless of what your music sounds like, you can create it, perform it and essentially sell it, through your own channels and own means without the hand or monetary support of a larger entity that can compromise your art. But it takes more than just musicians in a music scene to do-it-yourself; it takes the people who book shows, do sound, make merch and spread the word about music, too.
So what can you do if you want to be more a part of your community? To get started in the right direction, we've compiled a list of just some of the ways you can help support and be a crucial part of your DIY scene.
1. Go to a show
Any show thrown at a non-traditional venue (if the door is donation-based, it's probably a DIY show). The $5 you donate goes to the bands.
2. Donate at the door
DIY shows are donation-based for two reasons. One, it keeps the show affordable and open to all. Two, logistically/legally, there cannot be a set door price or they become a venue that needs permits and such. So toss what you can in the pot and know it goes to help the bands you're seeing play. Or if you don't have any money this time, donate a little extra next time.
3. Start a band
Music and art communities survive because they are a rotating cast of creative people. Bands are always needed -- seriously. There are never enough bands. So get off your ass and start one.
4. Rent your van to a band
One of the things that keeps local bands from growing is a lack of touring. And one of the things that keeps a band from touring is a lack of a vehicle. Help a band out!
5. Promote a show
You don't have to be in a band or running a venue to promote a show. If they are your friends or a band you really like, spread the word! Pass out fliers, tweet about it or invite friends on Facebook. Bands need to get people they don't know personally in the door. That's the whole goal.
6. Document your scene
Are you a photographer? Get out there and shoot shows. With social media, it is easier than ever to share these photos and in turn, give your favorite bands another way to reach new people. Plus, in ten years people will be drooling over your work and reminiscing about how much fun they had at the show you took photos of.
Pictureplane performing at Rhinoceropolis.
7. Make a band dinner
This is great when bands are on the road, especially, because if you are touring at a DIY level you are eating at gas stations and Subway (GROSS) a lot. A home-cooked meal when you're touring means more than you know.
8. Buy a PA
A show can happen anywhere, any time. Want to help make that happen? Buy a PA and rent or loan it to people for house shows.
9. Go see a DIY-level touring band that you don't know
The best way to discover new music? Going to shows where you don't know the songs yet. Plus, you're usually ahead of the curve then, because many DIY level bands graduate to larger venues and you get to be that guy who says, "I saw this band play in someone's basement!"
10. Go to a DIY music festival
Just underneath the world of corporate music festivals, there is a whole different circuit of music festivals put on by people and bands without corporate sponsorship (or they are sponsored by local companies, which rules!). They may only cost a fraction of what you would pay for a big name fest but offer just as many bands. These things are a great way to see a ton of good bands for one ticket price.
11. Buy merch
Bands do make money from the door at a DIY venue, but buying their merch can ensure they get to eat at their next tour stop. For both local and national bands, buying t-shirts, albums, buttons and whatnot from them can help fund everything from the next recording to the purchase of a van.
Occasional Detroit performing at Glob.
12. Involve Women and people of color in whatever you do
Are you booking a show? Putting together a music festival? Look at your line-up. If it consists of mostly white dude acts, change that. One of the tenets of DIY is inclusion. Bring different kinds of musicians to the stage and see your audience grow.
13. Book a show
Did you know you don't have to be a promoter to book a show? Anyone can book at show at a DIY venue. Anyone. Being organized, taking the initiative and being the stage manager at the show is crucial to its success. Anyone can do it!
14. Start a record label
Starting a label is as easy as fronting a band -- it costs about a hundred bucks to dub an already-recorded album to cassette. Music, like all art, can benefit from business-minded people who are interested in being a collaborator with an artist. Or if a label sounds like too much work, being the person behind putting together a compilation of tracks from local bands is equally necessary. Comps are one of the best ways to get bands new listeners.
15. Help bands find shows in other towns
One of the hardest parts about booking your own DIY tour is finding shows and bands to play with in cities where you don't already have a connection. If someone is asking about booking a show in Philly and you know a cool place that might have them, be that connection. Connections are how the DIY world goes around.
16. Book a show at your house
Having an awesome PA is great, but even if you don't have one, you can usually borrow or rent one. That's all you need to have house show.
17. Lend a band gear
If you ever look at Craigslist for music equipment, then you know how many people buy fancy gear and then sit on it. Perfectly good instruments go un-played in people's basements across the country. Loan that equipment to an artist, or sell it to her for cheap.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick.
18. Get your non-music friends out to a show
It's hard to believe, but there are people who don't go to that many concerts in a year. If you drag one of those friends out once a month to see a band you like, you might create some band's new biggest fan.
19. Make flyers
Got access to a copy machine or printer? Make flyers for your friends' shows. Then hand them out.
20. Volunteer to work the door
All DIY spaces usually need help -- it can be a big operation to run a show, so any help is great. Putting in a few hours to work the door, do sound or load gear helps a show go smoothly and makes it a pleasant experience for all.
21. Put the touring band in the middle of a line-up
So, you're already booking show at a DIY space. While there are many ways to organize a line-up, one of the best (and to the benefit of the band) is to put the touring band in the middle of the line-up. Sandwiching an out-of-state band between two local acts can help keep the room full.
22. Start a distro
Become a walking record store! Work with local bands, artists and zine makers to create a catalog of great work and then set up a table at a show and sell it.
Lady Wu-Tang performing at Glob.
23. Deconstruct outdated rock n' roll norms
This may sound a bit grand or ambiguous, but sexism, ageism, racism, homophobia and ableism can be rampant when they go unchecked and can still be found in the backstages, front doors and crowds of shows, legit or DIY. Create an environment that anyone can feel comfortable in by being a considerate human. Don't point out that there is a woman on stage. Just enjoy the show for what it is, lead by example and leave judgment at the door.
24. Volunteer to do sound
If you have experience with a soundboard, you are qualified for this position! With DIY shows and especially with DIY festivals, having a person who is confident in their own capabilities running sound can be crucial to a show's success. If you have the skills, your community could definitely use you.
25. Screen-print t-shirts
Screen-printing is a process that looks harder than it is. If you have a light bulb, a screen, some ink and a sink, you're set! Seriously, screen-printing is super easy. Bands always need help making merch.
26. Buy a button maker
Same goes for buttons. This is a little bit more of an expensive initial investment, but you can buy a button maker online and start making buttons for bands. All bands need merch - it is how they make a lot of their money on the road.
27. Make a zine
Blogs are awesome, but there is something great about reading the printed word. Pen a love letter to your favorite band or interview them; write your own record reviews and opinion columns. Then print it out/photocopy it/hand-craft it and bring it to the next DIY show you go to.
Part one of Neon Savant & The Silent Trajectory, Pete Bell's documentary on DIY venue Rhinoceropolis
28. Let a touring band stay at your house
This is crucial for bands on the road because sometimes they end up playing in a city where they don't know anyone. Sometimes they can sleep at the venue itself, but being able to have a safe, clean floor to crash on makes all the difference. Be the person who offers that option to a band and you'll likely walk away with a fun experience and a new group of friends you can stay with whenever you visit their city! (P.S. offering a band towels and your shower or your washer/dryer is extra, extra awesome/appreciated, too.)
29. Employ people in bands
Do you own your own business? Hire people in bands. People in bands always need jobs - not necessarily because they are flakey, but because they often have weird schedules that revolve around shows and touring. Accommodate them and they will be your employees for life.
30. Go on tour
Are you in a band already? Go on tour, anywhere. It is not only beneficial to getting your band in front of new audiences; it does wonders for your hometown scene. Making connections with other bands in other cities is key to helping bands and their communities grow.
Ultra Boyz performing at Monkey Mania.
31. Put on your own festival
It takes a lot of planning and probably some of your own money, but organizing a festival yourself is a great way to connect artists with new audiences. And getting to curate your own line-up of bands and performers is pretty awesome experience in itself.
32. Bring cash to DIY shows
Sounds like a no-brainer, but in this credit card-heavy world, a lot of folks don't carry cash. Though some savvy bands and DIY venues now outfit themselves with a Square and can take cards, cash goes a long way. And think - at a DIY show you can probably get into the show, buy a t-shirt and an album for less than the price of a normal concert ticket.
33. Talk to strangers
This can really apply to anywhere, but often at DIY spaces there can be a shyness in people that is confused for snobbishness. This is often not the case, and reaching out to the person next to you at a show and saying hello is a great way to get to know those in the community you may not have met yet. They might be the person you've been waiting to meet to start a band with!
34. Design posters, t-shirts, whatever
Even in DIY, art is needed! Are you a designer or artist? Collaborate with a band and make some really cool looking shit. Then enjoy seeing strangers wearing your designs on a t-shirt and feel awesome about being a part of something bigger than yourself.
35. Make a video for a local band
Videos spread through the Internet easily, but often bands don't have the means or know-how to make their own. Help a band out while exploring your own creative vision. Collaborate and make some fucking art!
Suspended at the Mercury Cafe.
36. Don't be flaky
Did you confirm your band for a show? Show up on time. Did you say you would work the door at a show? Show up on time. DIY doesn't mean you get to be flaky because nothing is "official." DIY just means we cut out all the bullshit so art could connect people without a middleman.
37. Respect load-in times
Again, DIY doesn't mean, "This is not a real event." If a venue or promoter asks you to load in at a certain time, be there, even if it is four hours before the show starts. For things to run smoothly for everyone, a schedule is key. Don't be the shitty band that shows up late all the time -- people will stop booking you.
38. Be a patron/customer to places that help artists
Coffee shops that hire musicians, restaurants that let bands have shows in them, anywhere that supports art needs your support, too. Be conscious of where you get your next burrito and you will be surprised by how many people behind the counter are artists benefitting from your patronage.
39. Don't fuck around about money
So the show you're running didn't make that much money at the door -- be honest with the bands about that. In the DIY world, everyone is responsible for getting people in the door, just like at a regular show. Making sure bands get paid at the show and being transparent about where the money is going is a great way to keep on people's good side.
40. Respect other humans
Whether it is about getting too drunk or just the inherent danger of hubris, sometimes at DIY shows (like any other shows) people (and I'm talking a lot about female-identified people here) are treated as subhuman. Do not ever assume anything about anyone -- a person may be performing, that's why she's backstage. Not because she's a "groupie." Be kind and respectful to everyone in any given situation (and make zero assumptions) and the world will be a better place.
41. Work with bands/artists/people you don't know
We tend to surround ourselves with people like us, and that goes for music scenes, too. Crossing over and connecting with musicians in other scenes is a great way to not only make your scene stronger and more visible, it is a benefit to your audience, too. When booking your next show, reach out to a stranger. It could change everything.
42. Start a music and art blog
Though the world wide web seems chock full of music and art blogs, there is never enough coverage, especially of local bands and artists. Never. Cut out your little piece of Internet real estate and share your thoughts on what is going on in the music scene you are a part of.
43. Volunteer your special skills
Are you a graphic designer or web designer? Are you a master at accounting, a great mechanic or are just really buff and like to haul gear? Help a band you like or know out. Being a band takes a lot more than making music, and it is the people who support in these ways that helps bands be successful at the making music part.
44. Be kind to the kids
DIY is generally synonymous with an all ages experience. Sometimes when we get older, being at shows with teenagers can make us grumpy. Remember how much fun you had at shows as a teenager and instead of complaining about the kids, talk to them. They are cool. They are going to be in bands soon if they aren't already, and they are going to need your support.
45. Work the corporate music thing from the inside.
Know people who work at a local radio station? Are you fiends with a promoter in town? Maybe you work at a large venue as a sound person or a bartender. Talk about the bands you know to the important people. Spread the word about your favorite band that people may not know about -- you never know. You could be the person who helps your favorite local band get to in front of the important people with money.
Caldera Lakes at Glob.
46. Stay connected with out-of-state DIY level bands
Say you let a band stay at your house when they are on tour in your city. Next time they come, offer to let them stay again. As they grow, they will most likely remember you and will later be able to return the favor.
47. Make a podcast or community radio show
Let no medium go unused. Start a podcast or a video blog where you bring different musicians into your living room to talk about music.
48. Offer to sell merch for your friends
Again, a music scene is about more than just the people who make the music. Offer to watch your friend's merch table and help them sell stuff so they can make their next record.
49. Let a band practice in your basement/garage
Have some unused space at your house that would be perfect for a band to practice in? Rent or loan that space to a band and you will be helping them tremendously.
50. Keep safe spaces safe
Another tenet of DIY is making personal safety a priority. If you see a potentially bad situation going down between two people at a show and you don't feel comfortable intervening, tell someone at the venue. Especially in spaces that invite all ages crowds, the safety of our friends is key to keeping a DIY venue part of a productive and healthy DIY scene.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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