When Sarah Saturday started laying the groundwork for the Earn It Yourself program in 2003, it was intended as a networking platform for motivated unsigned bands. But in the last eight years, EIY has gained the support of the Vans Warped Tour and evolved into a program that could educate and inspire a set of music industry leaders for the next generation.
“EIY’s purpose, at least right now, is to unite people and educate people about basic DIY things within your local music scene,” Saturday said. “How to throw a show, how to get involved, and how to go about conducting your business as a band or whatever you’re doing.”
The Earn It Yourself philosophy is “not just the journey, it’s the honest journey,” she continued. “It’s not just the destination, it’s the meaningful destination. It’s definitely about cultivating and educating and reminding people: this is why we’re doing this, this is how to do it the right way, this is so everyone can benefit and everyone can have fun.”
EIY was little more than an informational website until Saturday took the organization out on Warped Tour in 2010, hosting meet-ups at every date on the summer tour. Attendees spoke with Dave Weier of Fuse about journalism, Rob Hitt of Crush Management and Darryl Eaton of Creative Artist Agency about management, and Paul Tollett of Goldenvoice about promotion, among others. Members from bands such as the Bouncing Souls, Four Year Strong and Fishbone stopped by a few of the dates to answer questions about recording, touring and making a career in the music business.
Guest speakers change from date to date and there will be new surprise panelists this year, but Saturday ensures that there are people who can answer questions about all aspects of the music industry, whether the attendees want to know about recording, publicity, journalism, touring, production or merchandise.
“We try to have guests every day to just sit in and chip in — especially people from all different angles like managers, booking agents, bands, merch people, sound techs,” she said. “Anybody that we can get in there, just because you never know what questions are going to get asked.”
The meetings introduce young music industry hopefuls to tour founder Kevin Lyman, Lisa Brownlee, the Warped Tour tour manager, and a handful of guest speakers. Attendees sit down with the professionals for an hour or two, asking questions and sharing opinions about the future of the music industry.
“Warped Tour’s cool because we’ve got Kevin Lyman, who gets paid to go speak at conferences about this stuff, and he’s willing to take an hour out of his day every day to sit down with a group of people and just answer questions and talk about what’s going on,” said Saturday, explaining that, on Warped Tour, EIY is really just about giving kids the opportunity to interact with people like Lyman and Brownlee.
Lyman is more than happy to spend an hour at the meet-ups each day. “It’s great to see that’s there’s kids doing stuff, because I get so caught up in having to deal with the business sometimes that I forget the reason I do this,” he said. “And I think sitting with those kids kind of reminds me why I do it.”
Although Sarah Saturday is staying home from the Warped Tour this year to work on building EIY, the meet-ups will continue on each of the traveling festival’s 44 dates until the tour wraps on August 14.
“I have a feeling the meet-ups are going to be bigger this year than last year, since we just did the tour and we’ve been promoting it so much. I think there’s going to be way more people and hopefully more questions,” said Saturday, referencing the Earn It Yourself Spring (Into Action) Tour that hosted music scene meetings and local shows across the country earlier this year.
During the spring tour, Saturday saw a side of the music industry that she was unhappy with, and that she hopes Earn It Yourself will one day be able to change.
“We saw the issue of promoters and ‘battle of the bands’ organizations forcing bands to either pay to play their shows or forcing them to sell a minimum number of pre-sale tickets in order to pay their shows. And this ‘pay to play’ thing is rampant right now,” Saturday explained. “It’s kind of becoming the norm, and a lot of bands didn’t even realize that that’s not okay.”
In the future, Saturday hopes to expand the Earn It Yourself organization by implementing local chapters, filing for official non-profit status, and expanding the program so that new artists will always have somewhere to go for advice.
“I’m just so excited that everybody that’s involved with EIY is helping to continue to push it to the next level. I really want people to tell me what they want to do so that we can work together on coming up with whole new ideas for EIY,” Saturday said, emphasizing that Earn It Yourself is all about a community coming together to build something great.