DIY Musician Debunked: Of Course You Don't Do It All Yourself
October 15, 2014
Kyle Williams

I first heard the term DIY when perusing a scrapbook store. It’s simple. Whatever it is you do it all by yourself…without any help.

That’s what that term means. Understand? Good, glad that’s settled.

Now what about DIY musician?

When I hear the term “DIY musicianI interpret that to be stuff that musicians normally didn’t do in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

So what did musicians normally not do?

Booking. Promotion. Marketing and on and on.

Nowadays this is what musicians end up doing. In a way, we are forced to do this.


Because it’s hard to find good help especially when you can’t pay much. Also major labels are only interested in helping if you have a very large audience that they can further monetize using their marketing methods.

There is also the latest development of label services, but again that’s hiring help and requires money.

The other assumption I make about the phrase DIY musician is that it means the musician doesn’t have a label. You could also call them independent artists or independent musicians.

To some degree, when it comes to the business end, these musicians are “somewhat” self-sufficient.

As for the acronym DIY, well you can’t take it literally so don’t think that you have to do everything yourself. You don’t…but you do have to learn things outside of the music creation process.

The Real DIY Musician

The reality is that though you may call yourself a DIY musician, there is no such thing as a successful DIY musician. There are only successful musicians.

Everyone who is successful has help, and every large venture is a collaborative effort. Music careers are no different.

DIY Musician = musician who is knowledgeable in the basics of online marketing, music distribution, and other music industry related business skills.

Learn from other musicians

I run an interview show where I talk to full-time musicians and music industry professionals about ways to build a bigger fan-base and make more money with music.

The goal is to provide solutions for actually having a profitable, sustainable career in music

What I’ve noticed from these full-time musicians is that they all have certain similar qualities (these are artists building careers today and not in prior decades).

The first quality is that they have gotten help from someone in some way. What’s interesting is that none of these cases involved major labels.

Then there are three other qualities that can be drilled down into a simple formula. Understand, Take, Learn.

First there was DIY. Now there is UTL.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call them UTL musicians because that sounds dumb, but this is essentially the approach that successful musicians today are taking whether they realize it or not.

1. Understand

They understand the real opportunities that exist for musicians in our current music industry climate.

Important point: There is a difference between blind optimism and seeing things for how they truly are. This business is not for everyone. It’s very tough. A huge amount of musicians’ careers will not get off the ground and will not grow.

But for those willing to put in the time, make the necessary sacrifices, and see the music industry with the most realistic and pragmatic eye, doors will be unlocked and success will find them.

There is a lot of negativity going on right now about making a sustainable career out of music. I’ve personally interviewed musicians whose examples fly in the face of the negativity.

Quit with the negativity, but don’t be unrealistically positive either.

Be an opportunist, but not a snake in the grass.

2. Take

Successful musicians take control of their time.

Time to quit TV. Time to lay off the video games. Time to get your priorities straight, because you can always make money somehow but you’ll never get your time back.

Get productive. Get prioritized. Stop making excuses.

3. Learn

You need to learn new and uncomfortable skills because that is what successful musicians are doing. I mean really setting aside time to learn.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone is the only way to really grow. Imagine what your music will be like if all you do is what’s comfortable?

Do you think Miles Davis would think like that? Ever listen to Bitches Brew?

And I want to address something else here…you don’t want to do anything but create music?

Me too, so welcome to the club. What is the reality here? Can you really just focus on the music?

The biggest music success fallacy is that all you have to do is just make great music and everything else will fall into place.

Ignore your business end at your own risk. There are plenty of derelict talents out there with great music, no money, and a small audience.

Stop complaining. Get to work.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

About the author: Kyle Williams is the host of the independent artist show Seeds of Music where musicians can listen to weekly interviews with successful musicians and music industry pros to learn how to grow a bigger more solid fan base and make more money with music.

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Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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