It isn’t DIY

10/15/2012 at 9:18 am | Posted in Music | 10 Comments
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I leave for my first Europe tour (as a singer-songwriter) in a matter of hours. I cannot believe it.  It still stuns me when I come up with a crazy idea and somehow it works and then here I am doing it.  There is one million more work before me, for the plane I suppose, but I’ll call it quits now and sleep.  It’s just mountains beyond mountains.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Boston and Reykjavik and Amsterdam.

But before I collapse, I just stumbled on this little poem-ish treatise I wrote last year in a late-night fever dream for the digital liner notes of Something Fierce (which comes out on November 13th, 2012). I never posted these thoughts here on the blog, and I very much need to.  Because fresh off an incredible exhilarating singalong all-request concert at Tommy Doyle’s, bound for a bigger scarier tour than I’ve attempted before, these are the thoughts pounding in my head, begging to be let out at 5am:

Photos by Brian Adams,

A lot of people refer to my music, and to the music of other such unsigned new media upstarts, as D.I.Y.  …Do It Yourself.
And there’s comfort in that description — it’s a security blanket — it explains the haphazard website, the production and logistics flaws, the little transparent studio mistakes, the off notes.
But D.I.Y. is a misnomer. I have never been more reliant on people than I am today.  When the audience buys directly from the artist, we are as interconnected as we can possibly be.
I have never been so acutely aware that I could not do this myself.
Every person who decides to listen, to buy, to attend, to say good or bad things about the art to their friends — my career is all tied up in them, for better and for worse.
Mostly for better in my case because I want to learn to live in gratitude.

It’s not as if listeners own artists — it’s just that we’re entangled now.  [We can’t help it.]
The once-formidable middle men are reduced to mere 1’s and 0’s, and we are no longer insulated from our interdependence.

SO we need a term for our new reliance, our new leaning on each other.
Some clever acronym or sound bite.

I don’t know how to name it, but I know we need to.
Because this is not D.I.Y.; it’s quite the opposite.

It’s a barn-raising and a fire brigade and a potluck with extra desserts.
This is not art by committee,
This is art through community.

I don’t have unmitigated good feelings about the artist relying completely on the audience like I do.  It can be exhausting, and it has the potential to water down the art. Really the fact is that doing art for a living is hard, and it has always been hard for some reason, and it probably always will be.  And this is the new landscape and the modern challenge.

But let’s not frame it as a question of independence, of “indie”-ness (not in the “social media musician” sphere anyway).  The questions now are about how to cope with our interdependence — how to still make arresting, interesting art when our all-important audience might react badly — how to ask for funds when everyone else we ever knew is also asking for funds — how to find genuine honest community, even as the word “community” is losing its meaning through corporate buzzword overuse.  These are the issues I’m confronting as I make art and as I consume it.

I love the new frontier.  I love the future of music.  I loved the crowd at my concert tonight more than words can say, and I felt very free during the show.  But it’s not a solo sprint and it never was.  It’s truly a barn-raising, complete with splinters and strong personalities and barnyard smells.  Going it alone is not the new world.  Learning how we work together is.



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  1. Marian, I have never felt closer to you and your music as I do right now. You have truly.captured the essence of our fan/artist relationship. You have my continued support, and gratitude for reawakening a part of me that had lain dormant too long.
    Kick some start in Europa.! I hope they realize how fortunate they are.

  2. We live in an amazing time.

    And reading the above makes me think about how you rely on the philosophical antithesis of the train of thought which goes “oh, yeah. I liked artist X until they became popular!” That weird selfishness where we want to hold onto our feeling of uniqueness rather than sharing the things we love and building communities based on commonalities.

    Is it because we are afraid of being rejected? Is it because we like feeling superior by knowing things others do not? Is it because we just do not know where to begin?

    I would guess that different people have different reasons and that there is no singular simple answer.

    But what I do know is this. I really like the idea of Done With Each Other (DWEO) or Done With Help (DWH) but your mileage may vary.

    Anyway, I hope that Europe will treat you well. Sing well. Make beautiful art. Be the amazing person that you are. And please come back in one piece. Your North American friends will miss you while you are gone.

  3. I’m very excited for you Marian :-) Can’t wait to hear about the European adventure!

  4. Do It Through Community. Pronounced “ditsy”.

  5. So excited for you. I hope you find some time to soak up the majesty of the places you’ll go:). Mazel and good luck, M. Love, BigFoot

  6. The payoff between the freedom of expression and the dependence on the money from the fans is a tricky one to navigate for sure. I think somehow you’ll manage though as the fanbase seems to be supportive and enthusiastic for you. I doubt there would be the European tour were this not the case. I for one cannot wait til you are over here. I promise not to be demanding of you.

  7. You bring extra dessert to the potluck of my life.

    DIG IT=Doing It Generates Impassioned (or Invaluable?) Togetherness

    The new DIGITal music revolution. (I started with Do It, Get It Together, and then overcomplicated things. Maybe with a comma after the second It and a G-word for share or enjoy it would work. Sheesh, I have a whole way-out-of-date website of these things and now I can’t even get one right.)

  8. That is so beautifully put.

    Interdependence not independence. A barn-raising.

    Of all the metaphors America has rained on the world, the barn-raising is perhaps the purest. It’s the one that for the rest of us best captures the democratic spirit that created your nation. That’s the one to carry in your heart to Europe :-)

    As you know I’m writing an academic paper on your model of engagement, and how it affects the music you make. As we’ve chatted about on Twitter, the best metaphor for what you are doing might be the mediaeval Troubarour tradition. It struck me that your whole ethic is predicated on honour – people honour their committments to turn up to your concerts, pay what they can afford for your songs, honour the obligations they make to organise, minion, bake :-) and in return you honour your committment to make music with them. It’s not a commodity-exchange transaction, it’s an honour code.

    So extending the medieval metaphor a bit, I’m calling my paper “A digital trobairitz: musical chivalry in the cyberspace age”. Trying to capture (in pompous academic language, naturally) the spirit you captured so elegantly in your post.

    [I’m also trying to argue that your music sounds so good partly because of the nature of this interdpendence. Something to do with authenticity. This part’s trickier to argue – I have to write it yet. But would “Good Morning Moon” sound quite so joyful if it weren’t your supporters’ actual voices in the chorus? I think not. But hard to prove! Won’t stop me trying :-) ]

  9. I have such enormous admiration for your musical talent, your business sense, and your dedication to engaging and serving your fans. Today I submitted your Kickstarter as a Quest to The Art of Non-Conformity×5/in-search-of-stories/?awt_l=FxxMx&awt_m=JtAbrL7yrsnt7W because your European Adventure Quest is exactly the sort of quest he’s looking to feature.

  10. Stop what you’re doing and laugh for a while
    At all of your foolish ambition
    Deluded and fragile and brave, like a child
    Who still thinks life comes with a mission
    Drop your sword and your flag, get your sponge and your rag
    Let the mirror remind you, let your fairy-tale dreams melt away
    For at least one hour every day
    … (Rx: Stop What You’re Doing)

    Take care, I’ll see you on thursday

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