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, http://baphotos.com

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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