DIY for Just $4.95

  • DIY for Just $4.95
    This short Wired News article directed me to the The DIY Report, a new subscription website with a focus on “on teaching people how to create, promote, protect and distribute independent film, music and books using online and offline techniques.” Most of the content requires that you be subscribed, so it’s hard to evaluate it. But there’s this part of me that’s instantly cynical of a site that promises do-it-yourself media tips but first requires a subscription. Isn’t the DIY ethic about being self-sufficient and independent?

    This isn’t to say that books, magazines and other literature aren’t useful or helpful in learning to be media maker. Yet a subscription website like DIY Report really smacks of lifestyle marketing to me. A perusal of the titles for some of the site’s features gives the impression that it’s really aimed at wannabe media moguls rather than true DIYers: “How to Agent your Agent,” “Motown Alumni Take DIY Route,” and “Looking for Fab Comeback.” How are these topics really useful to someone who’s interested in independent media?

    That question really gets at the heart of the difference. To me, DIY media is about independence and exploiting the freedom to be creative and critical when you’re not beholden to a larger, more powerful interest, be it corporate, the state or even an NGO. But to the creator’s of the DIY Report, it seems to be more about using independent media to become part of the media mainstream. The site’s editor in chief is a former writer for, USA Today, Billboard and Variety — that’s hardly what I would call indie credentials. In the Wired article the editor says, “It’s now possible for savvy people to make a living from their film, music and books, and we’re seeking to show others how they can duplicate that success.” I agree with that notion and think it’s important that independent media creators be able to actually make a living from their work. But the fact that there’s a section at DIY Report called “Showbiz Jobs,” indicates that it’s more rhetoric than reality. If we take the independent film movement — as best manifest in the Sundance film festival — as an example, it seems like for the DIY Report, DIY is a route to being discovered by the big players, like the Hollywood studios, rather than a modus operandi in and of itself.

    If someone is interested in breaking into Hollywood by setting out and making movies, music or other media on her own I think that’s fine. But it’s foolish to think that this is somehow better or more effective a route to success than moving to Hollywood to become a star and going to audition upon audition. It’s all really part of the same system that is run by a small group of elites who have a strangehold over the entire industry, and it seem like success often means just becoming one of those elites.

    There’s a lot of rhetoric out there about how new technologies are going to undermine the mainstream media industry — and damn how I hope that’s true. That’s not going to happen if DIY is really just independent folks working in parallel, using the same techniques and operating under the same assumptions. It may result in a change of elites, but that’s the only change.

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