DIY Music: A Timeline

From the era of photocopying zines to making the most of 140 characters on Twitter, the history of DIY blends both art and science.

Silkscreening: The technique was popularized by Andy Warhol (see Warhol's album cover for the Velvet Underground) and soon adopted by bands to imprint images on shirts bought in thrift stores.

Cassette tapes: Phillips invents the "compact cassette" for audio storage. Its portability is key to sales outside of traditional stores, particularly at concerts.

Zines: Self-published fan zines like New York's Punk and the United Kingdom's Sniffin' Glue begin to flourish thanks to cheap, easy photocopying.

Street teams: Word-of-mouth is boosted by word-of-pack, as street teams employ fans to promote bands in exchange for merch. The Kiss Army is founded by teenagers in Indiana.

Bulletin board systems: As dial-up modem speeds increase, online communities develop to discuss myriad topics, including music. Street teams began promoting bands in these forums.

Audio CDs: Smaller and more durable than a vinyl LP, the CD ushers in the dawn of digital audio.

CD-Rs: Hewlett-Packard and Phillips release the first sub-$1,000 device that can record music on blank CDs.

Blogs: Online diary tools like Open Diary, LiveJournal and Blogger allow for easy publishing and invite reader commentary on musical tastes. Modem speeds for both uploading and downloading allow for music distribution to be completely digitized. Unsigned musicians can distribute music and fans can access new artists without the imprimatur of a label.

Napster: Shawn Fanning's peer-to-peer network allows for easy, quick trading of digital song files in a matter of minutes. The online retailer accepts digital files, allowing for customization of DIY merch on a whim.

USB drives: USB flash drives make all-in-one music-and-merch devices possible.

iTunes Music Store: Apple debuts the reigning champion of music retail. Now, partners like TuneCore allow DIY bands to distribute through the service.

MySpace: Due to its ability to host and play multimedia files-and the chance to interact with and gain information about their fans-bands turn to MySpace for promotional efforts.

Facebook: DIY embraces peer-pressure tactics with the advent of Facebook, as bands compete to earn viral fans and the support of app developers like iLike.

YouTube: Video may have killed the radio star, but the debut of YouTube goes on to give artists like Justin Bieber and Greyson Chance entry into the label system.

2006 Twitter: The lure of Twitter is its immediacy, giving artists the ability to talk about upcoming gigs, or inanities like what they ate for breakfast. Professional cellist Zoe Cello is one of the DIY champs, with 1.3 million followers.


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