boxingOn the DigitalMusicNews.com today, editor Paul Resnikoff published an piece on independent/D-I-Y musicians and the relatively bleak outlook he predicts for the future careers of the vast majority of them.

I tend to approach all of Resnikoff’s editorials with a healthy sense of skepticism, as he generally sounds as if he is trying to be Lefsetz, but with much less real-world music industry experience. Yes, I read his site daily and it is the go-to authority for current updates on music in the digital space–I have never met him, and I have nothing personal against him; again, I use the wonderful resource that he provides almost religiously.  However, with regards to speculation and commentary, his goal often times seems to have more to do with describing the status quo than it does with offering solutions or real insight, asking questions without identifying answers, as if he is afraid of offending potential sources, advertisers and readers (note: that’s just my speculation).

His current article offends in its ambivalence and more. In The DIY Utopia, Resnikoff takes on the idea that independent artists can earn a living from being a full-time musician.  After offering a brief history of the concept, he delves into aimless speculation and questions regarding artists who are trying to go it alone.  I do not mind that he is asking questions about the economic viability of the do-it-yourself model, nor do I take specific issue with his reluctance to make predictions on what the evolution from the major-label machine to DIY will have on the music industry and music marketplace in general.  Questions should be asked about the real viability of any economic model–especially by those who are putting it into practice–and his unwillingness to make specific predictions and declarations is annoying (especially as it is an editorial!), but not criminal.

What irritates me most about his commentary is his obliviousness to the existence today of so many successful independent musicians who were never signed at one time or another to a major label. From his article:

Quitting the day job is one thing, though slaving away for a modest music wage is another…So far, being middle class with a guitar means working tirelessly, and juggling fan-building, touring, and creativity while trying to get enough sleep…Sure, artists have the ‘tools’ to connect, to host, to create easily…But does that mean that a huge DIY population will exist? Or, more importantly, will enough targeted fanbases exist to support a substantial group?

The truth is that “a huge DIY population” does already exist, and not only does this population of DIY musicians exist, but it is thriving.

The truth is that “a huge DIY population” does already exist, and not only does this population of DIY musicians exist, but its members are thriving.  Each day, I discover new artists (or they discover me) who have never had contact with a major label who are earning a living by doing things on their own.  Yes, they are working non-stop to make it happen, and no, they are not living in Beverly Hills mansions or performing for 15,000 people at Coachella (though some are!), but they are also not working for some clueless executive in a soul-crushing cubicle for 60 hours per week while dreaming of being a professional musician.

Ask any independent musician who is earning money from their music and they will readily tell you that it is not easy to be one’s own publicist, producer, marketing department, sales rep and financial analyst, as well as the performer and song writer, but to assume that a heavy work-load is the same thing as unsuccessful is naive at best, as is the speculation that we will not know if the DIY model is viable for many years to come, as so many independent musicians already do earn their living from their music.

I am not saying that every musician who wants to will make a living from their music, and I am not saying that every musician who is able to earn a living from their music will do it in by following the same business model (as each situation and fan base is somewhat unique).  However, there are already many, many independent musicians who are living comfortably whose only “job” is to create and promote their music. The model has already shown itself to be viable, and hopefully Resnikoff will take some time to discover some of these many artists and learn this for himself.

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Additional Reading:

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(Note: I began to list links to all of the independent musicians who I know who are earning a living as professional musicians, but the list became longer than my commentary, so we will post that some time in the near future. In the mean time, feel free to be blatantly promotional in the comments below as you talk about your successes as an independent musician)

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