For the Ambitious, Doing It Yourself Can Make the Difference Between Success and Obscurity

By Thom Fowler
Posted 03/05/02 19:14:43

For everyone whose had a great idea for a book, wanted to promote their band out of the garage or become an independent film auteur, the DIY convention can give you the tools you need to begin thinking your way out of the box.

Bruce Haring, editorial director of, a daily news feed covering the independent film, music and book communities and director of the DIY convention is an indie veteran who has authored several entertainment industry books, including, ¡°Beyond The Charts: MP3 and the Digital Music Revolution¡±.

¡°There wasn't a convention geared toward teaching people how to create, promote, protect and distribute film, music and books. I've produced independent film, music and books during my career and always wanted more information geared toward my interests. Thus, I saw a niche. I already had the industry contacts and we launched.¡±

This is the second year of the Los Angeles Do It Yourself convention for Books, Film and Music.

DIY fests happen around the country. In Berkeley, CA, there is a women¡¯s DIY fest where women gather for a ¡°skills exchange¡± and put on seminars in their field of expertise, ranging from changing a bike chain to herbal remedies for menstrual complaints.

I told my punk rock friend Erik about the DIY convention and he said, ¡°oh, its LA DIY¡±. This convention wasn¡¯t about the underground for the underground, but about equipping new talent with the fledgling connections to hook up to the know how and money of the established industry.

The topics covered all the important aspects of financing, legal matters, marketing and publicity with the occasional word of advice such as, ¡°Don¡¯t work with your friends just because you know them. Work with people that can get the job done.¡±

Why wait for your fifteen minutes to come to you.

Many people have become successful by nurturing their vision and creating companies around themselves to not only avoid artistic compromise but to take home every last penny they can.

With big name rock stars like Don Henly, Sheryl Crow, Beck, Weezer and Ozzy Osbourne, gathering the night before the Emmy¡¯s to raise an estimated 4 million dollars money for a legal and political assault against abusive recording industry practices, this festival may be coming at a good time.

Those labels who have the power to create stardom may be loosening their grip if artists are given a bigger share of the pie, rights intact. With less money to invest in high return acts, it may be the right time to take matters into your own hands to create a living for yourself as a writer, film maker or musician.

The overwhelming consensus is that yes, you can do it yourself. But it takes work, focus, passion and commitment and it doesn¡¯t hurt to have a lawyer and an accountant.

Lots of artists aren¡¯t business minded folks. If you can put the business sense into what you do, you can create an independent enterprise.

The keynote was a rowsing ¡°believe in yourself¡± speech by Pat Dinizio of The Smithereens. ¡°Don¡¯t listen to what anyone has to say. I was a garbage man until I was 30.¡± He now programs an eclectic program on XM Satellite radio for unsigned bands. ¡°Give me your CD and I¡¯ll put you on the air¡±. That¡¯s one way to get the indie people interested in satellite radio. XM also pays royalties for air time and here is where all that solid industry advice gets helpful. ¡°Get registered with BMI and ASCAP¡± and start tapping into the revenue stream that your content helps generate.

The conventions three tracks; books, film and music were tabled by an impressive array of people who work inside the established industry and people who have been successful creating and marketing their own work. For a meager 80 bucks you could get face time with people who really knew their stuff and ask all the questions you ever wanted.

Entertainment Lawyers, accountants, casting agents, publicity agents, new media developers, market analysts, consultants, writers, record label owners, music supervisors (who place music inside films and can be a good promotional avenue for musicians), publishers and a random assortment of talented, knowledgeable entertainment industry folks were making themselves available for consultation and discussion.

It¡¯s so true that everyone starts somewhere. ¡°We spend a lot of money looking for new talent¡±, I heard one presenter say.

¡°This business is all about relationships¡±, was repeated like a mantra.

Seminars such as ¡°The Deal: Legal Issues and Business Affairs¡±, was a crash course in being a producer and ¡°Guerilla Marketing¡±, led by Kimberly King-Burns of the LA Based Convergenz Solutions Agency, a noted expert of using the Internet as part of a comprehensive and highly focused marketing campaign, gave genius advice that normally cost her clients hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Even though the convention was all about ¡°Do It Yourself¡±, I was amazed to learn that you don¡¯t have to do everything yourself. Casting agents can help you find the talent that can secure financing, if you can find a casting agent willing to negotiate a deal. ¡°Everything¡¯s negotiable¡± said one presenter.

If this keeps up, the DIY convention may become the de facto yearly meeting ground for the development of a thriving independent arts scene as well as a fertile pool of talent to be tapped by agents and music supervisors looking to make some cash off the next big thing who just don¡¯t know how to do business in Tinsel Town.

Haring intends to continue growing the convention.

¡°I see us expanding to more cities and finding ways to connect artists to share resources.
Ideally, more and more people are going to be educated as a result of our efforts and can take their knowledge and get out there and create while running the business side of their art more efficiently. If that happens, I'll be happy.¡±

There will be another DIY convention in New York in the fall. Details can be had from their website

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