DIY or Die – What the Heck is the DIY Scene?

[Banner Photo Courtesy of Northwest Sound Exchange]

Big name concerts are fun for anyone. Some argue that the theatricality of lights, confetti drops, and background dancers can’t be beat. Honestly, seeing Hannah Montana arena-style in 2007 was quite life changing, so I can respect that stance. That being said, underground, worlds of music away from the public eye are everywhere. Here in the heart of Seattle, they’re even down streets in basements, living rooms, and other self-created spaces. This is the heart of DIY. DIY music scenes thrive on independent concert spaces, booking agencies, and labels. It thrives on tight communities of all kinds of local art. DIY is everywhere, so instead of my own definitions, I’ve gathered a few opinions from people all over the country, speaking on what DIY means to them personally. Here’s what they have to say.

“I moved to be closer to Akron DIY. It’s where I made literally all my friends, and it inspired me to make music… Everyone is a big family, and we even have Thanksgiving dinner together a few days after [the holiday].” – Nic Adkins (Akron, Ohio)

“There’s something about seeing a band huddled in a semi-circle in some dim basement with your sweaty friends that creates a sense of unity, or to some, claustrophobia, in the DIY scene” – Nik Paulson (Seattle, Washington)


Photo by Joe Calixto

“The DIY community has been a safe space for me and my friends to enjoy some our favorite local bands as well as touring bands. If it weren’t for my local DIY, I wouldn’t have met some of the best people that are now such important parts of my life. Also, as someone who is trying to get involved in the music industry, the DIY scene has given me so many opportunities to network with touring bands and meet promoters/tour managers. I love DIY, and I’d be lost without it.” – Alyssa McCarthy (Fresno, California)

“To me, DIY was a way to meet creative, fun, musically inclined people when I moved to a new city for college… When I ended up moving to California, I took what I had learned and the connections I made with the DIY community at my old college and used it to meet new people, go to shows, and eventually create meaningful relationships in the scene out here. In fact, it even helped steer me in the career path I’m in now!” – Tadia Musgrave (Los Angeles, California)


Photo by Lindsey Lewers

“I think DIY thrives on a ‘music for music’s sake’ school of thought. A lot of DIY bands and venues might even lose money on shows and tours, but it’s never been about monetary gain. In fact, I’d argue that any band that sets out to write songs to ‘make it’ or whatever is missing the entire point… DIY rejects all of that and makes it about substance and what a band can do sonically.” – Jeff Dunn (Seattle, Washington)


Photo by Connor Limbaugh

“To me, DIY is a community of friends who continually support on another in artistic endeavors. A common misconception of DIY is ‘it’s a bunch of punks in a basement screaming at one another,’ which isn’t completely untrue, but a community that supports painting, photography, theatrics, poetry, as well as music is a truly wonderful thing. This constant support and being able to support and be with people that I have come to call some of my closest friends is something I am truly thankful for.” – Alex Couts (Kent, Ohio)

“The DIY Scene is so important. It gives people like me a way to be a part of something. It allows me to take everything into my own hands and make things happen for myself, rather than going through some huge record label that wouldn’t give me the time of day. DIY means opportunity I wouldn’t have otherwise.” – Max Ferrell (Concord, California)


Photo by Julia Walker

“I moved to Philadelphia because of its reputation of having an incredible DIY scene. Half of the artists I listen to come from the DIY scene here, and after living here only for a few months, I can see why. I’ve attended so many shows hosted in houses, churches, and even batting cages where well known touring artists and small local bands play together. After the shows end, I’ve been able to hang out and get to know these artists who’ve inspired me for years because of the relaxed environment. It has been inspiring and motivating for me to get involved and start playing shows of my own.” – Jack McCann (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)


Photo by Jay-Michael Wilson

“Being involved in an expansive DIY community has helped me come out of my shell and given me a voice. I’ve made all of my friends by going to house shows and mashing with strangers in basements. I’ve had the time of my life screaming lyrics from local bands and being able to make music with so many different kinds of people I never would’ve met otherwise. The DIY scene has shown me that I can start any project I want, that nothing is stopping me. My favorite part is how supportive everyone is of each other’s art and how collaborative each and every aspect of the scene is.” – Olivia Sladd (Nashville, Tennessee)

“Being part of DIY is an extension of your intangible qualities, some deemed too sensitive for the general public; such as mental illness. Suffering from bipolar disorder, I found solace in the crowded spaces and noise blasting. No longer did I feel alone. Being able to have these qualities and abilities not just accepted, but supported gives hope for music, friendships, and perpetuating good and equal treatment of others.” – Elijah Bill (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

“It has created a place for me to meet like-minded people. Ones that don’t want to follow the beaten path. Individuals that want to intertwine friendship and music. I think it’s sick.” – Skylar Faucett (Tacoma, Washington)

As you can see, DIY music scenes are meaningful to different people in different ways. This year I plan on exploring controversies and topics around DIY, as well as focusing more deeply on Seattle’s very own DIY scene in this monthly column, “DIY or Die.” Stay tuned and, of course, long live rock ‘n’ roll, kids.

JULIA SCHWAB | Hannah Montana Changed My Life | KXSU Music Reporter


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