Unforeseen Consequences of the “Do it Yourself” Internet Generation by John Orr Franklin
We all set out with big goals and hopes of turning our dreams into reality. “Do It Yourself” is the name of the game for anyone starting out in the music business today and the concept of artist development, is now more than ever, the responsibility of the artist themselves. A daunting task that if not properly balanced can lead you into a bit of a predicament. Based on my personal experience and in my humble opinion, while DIY is certainly the way to get things started, it’s possible to take the approach a bit too far these days. The concept of learning how and when to ask for help from others is a skill that needs to be developed just as much as the skill of playing your instrument.
There are so many ways today that new technology will help you to accomplish things on your own. However, the music business is ultimately about building community and sharing your music with the world, so there has to be some balance to this equation. Learning how to share the business side of making your music with others is truly what being a professional musician is all is about. If you’re not careful, in this new world of DIY, you can alienate yourself from the very people that you hope one day will assist you in taking your music to the next level. Its all too easy today to fall into this time consuming and self absorptive process of making the music and forget all about the world outside. At the end of the day, it can also feel a bit aloof when you end up spending so much time alone in front of a computer trying to accomplish all of your goals.
No Man Is An Island
I really believed that starting my own record label, writing my own songs, producing and engineering my own CD’s, singing my own songs, playing all the instruments myself, were all good things and reasonable steps in attaining my goals. In reality, it seemed to isolate me to the degree that I felt like I had created a shell around my little creative world. It also took me ten plus years to master and develop many of these skills, when it all could have potentially happened much faster had I known when and how to ask for help.
I don’t believe it was an issue of control, it was simply the fact that I saw a natural progression to doing things myself so I kept going that course. The concept of time management wasn’t really on my radar and I was more or less thinking only of task management. The main goal all along was to create a product that would enable collaborative relationships. Yet because of everything I had accomplished on my own, it felt as if people were less likely to approach me because they saw me as someone that didn’t need their help, even though this was why I was putting myself out there to begin with. It was, after all, somewhat of a completed vision that I was presenting to the world.
I’m still extremely glad that I did all of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining by any means. I have no regrets and it was a wonderful learning experience that certainly progressed and moved my business forward. I just wasn’t getting as much out of the process by doing it all by myself and I felt a bit unaccomplished as a result. While you would think accomplishing all of these tasks alone would be more rewarding, I actually found the opposite to be true.
It takes a Village – It’s not just a cliche!
Music has always been somewhat of a tribal based activity. Only now with the advent of computers is it possible to emulate this group concept by layering instruments in a multitrack environment. However, the spirit of community, the true feeling that is shared when the music is created, is missing from the experience and ultimately from the recording itself when you have produced music in this manner.
This now applies to the business side of music as well. There is a spirit of camaraderie that comes from working together on a project and bringing it to life in the world. There is a great deal of talk about how the new music business model has removed the gate keepers and broken down the barriers between the musician and the consumer. While this is true and probably not totally a bad thing, there seems to be another side effect and that is the potential lack of collaboration in producing the product of music. Again, it’s ultimately about building a community and just because there is a way through without help, doesn’t mean it’s the most meaningful or best way to go. Could it be that these so called gate keepers, that we’ve now bypassed, had something meaningful to give? I can’t imagine they would have existed at all if they didn’t.
One very positive aspect of all of this new technology is the fact that the internet is indeed a great way to make new connections. However, they are connections that must be followed up with real world interactions or they simply don’t amount to much. Just having another follower or another friend on a website is pretty meaningless if there is no real communication happening there.
If you’ve made a good contact online that you think could help you out by collaborating with you on something, don’t be afraid to ask them, you may just be surprised with their response. Break out of the box, leave the computer behind and bring about an actual meeting of the minds in the real world.
Draw the Line
I guess the message to take away from this blog is be wary when walking the DIY path, it may soon appear that working alone is the way that you prefer to go if you tread along these lines for too long. There is balance to be found in everything and anything. There is always a line that can be crossed that takes things too far. If collaboration is your goal and you are presenting a finished product to the world and doing it all by yourself, then most people may assume that you don’t need them and therefore never give you the time of day. You wouldn’t offer a drowning man water would you?
It does indeed take a village for dreams come to light in this world. Beginning and starting these creative relationships early on is not just a prerequisite, it is the stuff that allows your dreams to take hold in the real world. These interactions that take place outside of your computer, off of your phone and away from your musical instrument will begin the real work that carries you closer to your true calling and closer to bringing your dreams into reality.
There truly is nothing that I have accomplished on my own that I am nearly as proud of as the things that I have accomplished together with others in collaboration. This spirit of community, especially in terms of music, is what it’s all about. – John Orr Franklin