The industry debunked ‘DIY’ years ago, yet the concept remains a romanticized, religious idea for many artists and companies. More and more, that’s proving to be an expensive belief, especially when it overloads, distracts, and demoralizes artists who need to be focused on their art first-and-foremost. Here’s what Daniel Glass of independent Glassnote Records told an audience at Musexpo on the topic on Monday. Glassnote is home to artists like Phoenix, Childish Gambino, Mumford & Sons, and the Temper Trap, among others.
I think it’s very difficult to do things without a team. I would hate to have an artist or a manager leave this room thinking, ‘oh that’s easy, I can do this myself, I can just do the site, do the work, get my records loaded in and everything goes well,’ or ‘I can just sign the artist and go to a distributor and it ends there.’ I think ‘DIY’ means the autonomy of the decision-making on the taste within your operation. I think that’s the do-it-yourself feeling where you don’t have to depend on someone to tell you what to do with your music. But I still think that either you’re putting together a loosely or tightly knit team of professionals to perform functions and rent them out or use consultants. I think it’s been done quite well by certain people. The Civil Wars, for example, went to the Grammys and had a profound effect and won two Grammys. They did things on their own but had an amazing team, and spent a lot of money getting there. I praise them, they got there and sold several hundred thousand albums. But a pure DIY is really smart if you put together the right professional teams – song pluggers, publicists, distribution people, people who will do those things well for you.
My advice to people is not to be too DIY, because you should focus on the essence of why you got there. And most of us feel that it’s the music, and repertoire, so if you get bogged down in distribution issues, and payment issues, and sub-contracting issues, I think that’s when you kill your business, and kill your spirit.
Because people do those things really well, obviously there are people on this panel who do really well in distribution. So I’d go to those professionals. And go to like-minded people, if they distribute labels in the culture that you like, and they pay their bills and if you can get some recommendations, then take that out of the way. The same thing with campaigns. If you’re looking at Radio 1 or Triple J, or if you’re looking at K-Rock or KCRW type of records, who’s working on those records? So look at those teams, look at the pedigree.
Just like we look at who masters records, who mixes records. If you have a child, and your child God forbid needed surgery – a serious thing – you’d go to one of the twenty best surgeons in your country. You’d fly anywhere for your child.
So why would you make a record for three months, put every bit of your life savings and not have it mixed or mastered properly by one of the great people who do it? So the same thing should be for every part of your DIY team.
So you may not check into that big hospital, but you would research it for your child. Same with your band and your music. Pearl Jam has a team – they’re doing it themselves. Radiohead has a team – they do it themselves. Odd Future put together a team, but it feels DIY. I just think that they are making creative decisions on their own, and not encumbered by some filter at a major corporation or label that will say, ‘oh this should be the first single.’ They’re over that, they don’t want to hear that anymore. These are successful touring bands. So that’s where it comes from. I think the DIY will tell you more about a band that’s pretty self-sustaining in the touring area and then can do things on their own.”