In the 90’s Ani di Franco became the model for the DIY independent artist. She toured continuously, printed her own CDs and did all the marketing/promotion. To me, two things characterize DiFranco: she is on her own label (therefore “unsigned”) and she plays her songs herself.Lately, this got so fashionable that some record companies would invent totally bogus stories about how an act/artist was totally discovered on MySpace or something. From Sandi Thom to Lily Allen and Artic Monkeys. These are major label artists using an internet story to get some “creds”.
Then, there was another type of artists: working musicians who just want be able to make a living at their craft instead of working at a soul crushing boring job (you know…the one where you keep lookin’ at the clock). They have no record deal and sell directly to their fans. They may not be super-rich or famous, but they are happy.
Look at the above photo of Jonathan Coulton and tell me he is not a happy guy. For those who don’t know Jonathan Coulton (JoCo) is an indy singer-songwriter who has had quite a bit of press lately for his awesome internet-based music marketing. Two years ago, he quit his job as a programmer and never looked back. He recently got a feature in the NY Times where he basically explains how he did it. The short story: a lot of work, a lot of talent, good friends and a little luck.
The thing with JoCo is that his songs are actually good. Ya know what I mean: how many times have you listened to indy artists off the internet and found that their songs were not exactly “ready for prime time”. JoCo has a knack for crafting great melodies with layers of vocal harmonies and solid guitar work. He does it all by himself using ProTools LE on a Mac G4. One more proof that it’s not about the gear…Man, we have no excuse…
Read his very inspirational recounting of how he did it and check out the excellent interview he gave to ace podcaster Merlin Mann. There’s also an excellent interview at Cecil Vortex where he discuss creativity, vocal arrangements and Protools drum sequencing.
JoCo does it right: he is still unsigned and plays everything himself. That’s true DIY.