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DIY Exists, You Just Don't Know What It Is: You CAN Do It All Yourself by Mary Lemanski

When I read Kyle Williams’ article, “DIY Musician Debunked: Of Course You Don’t Do It All Yourself” here on Music Think Tank last week, I could not understand why such an irresponsible piece of writing was getting so much attention when the author obviously did absolutely no research on what DIY is, it’s history, or the collective aspect of the DIY philosophy.  

I immediately took to my Facebook profile, ranting and slamming this article:

Here is the PG version with edits, clarifications, and more ranting in parentheses:

“When I hear the term ‘DIY musician’ I 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.” (Kyle Williams)

The author of this article obviously does not know what the (heck) he is talking about. (Please visit:) (for a definition that would have taken 5 seconds to look up AND a brief history.  DIY is not a new concept that sprung up with the birth of the Internet.  It’s been around in the punk community since the 70’s…and YES, bands did do their own booking, promotion, marketing and on and on.  Heck, musicians since the beginning of time have done their own booking, promotion, and marketing!  It’s not a new concept!)

“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.”
(Kyle Williams)

(I call myself a DIY musician.) I guess it depends on what your definitions of “successful” and “DIY” are. I hate when people change the definition of things to suit their own purpose. Alanis Morrissette ruined the definition of “ironic” with her song, “Ironic.” The only things that are ironic about that song are Mr. PlayItSafe dying in a plane crash and the fact that she’s singing a song about being ironic and doesn’t even know what ironic means. Anyway, don’t “interpret” a meaning or make an “assumption.” Find out what DIY is before you say it doesn’t exist.

A proper working definition of what DIY is is at the wiki link above ( It includes the concept of “collective DIY.” So the whole “you’re not really doing it yourself, stop saying that” thing is just due to lack of research (and immature).  (To summarize collective DIY, if you have a bunch of DIY-minded individuals and businesses working together to accomplish something, it is STILL DIY!  You are not hiring Mr. Mainstream Money to do your work for you.  You are building a DIY community and network.)

I can think of, what I would consider, many successful DIY artists or artists that started out DIY, made a name for themselves, and then either went independent or major. These artists may not all be household names, but they have thousands of fans, who buy thousands of albums. Some of them don’t even have to have a day job. That’s my definition of “successful.”

If your definition of successful means winning a GRAMMY, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are considered by some to be DIY. They do have a DIY ethos, and they won four GRAMMYS last year.

It’s debatable about whether they are considered truly DIY though. DIY purists would not consider them DIY because their distribution is done by an independent arm of Warner Music called Alternative Distribution Alliance. When you add major label muscle behind your music, it’s probably not DIY anymore, but they did get there by taking the DIY route.  (Also, some in the DIY community could make the argument that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are DIY because they are still using an “independent” distributor.)

Anyway, I am so glad to get all that off my chest.  I have a real issue with people making up their own definitions of a concept that has been around in the punk community for years.  The DIY ethic has gained popularity across all musical genres now because of the Internet and it’s tools that make booking, promotion, and marketing so much easier, but it is nothing new…and yes, I CAN do it all myself.

BIO: Mary Lemanski is a DIY artist and has been a DIY artist since she started her professional music career at age 11, playing pipe organ. For the past 15 years, Mary has released her original music ALL BY HERSELF.  For more information on Mary Lemanski, please visit

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