As part of our annual Indie Now package, we asked notable figures in the independent scene to offer advice on how to succeed in the industry. Below, Illuminati Hotties’ Sarah Tudzin talks to Billboard‘s Jason Lipshutz.
I think the label “DIY” is a little misleading — like you’re out on this island, fighting your way toward some sort of success or fame. To me, it’s really about doing it with all the people around you. The DIY community is what sends artists into the next levels of their careers, so it’s about surrounding yourself with people whom you believe in, who believe in you and want to support you. For me, that was mostly going to shows, meeting people who liked music that I liked [and] being open to new situations.
When you place yourself in a community, you learn about your own skill set and what other people are really good at — you realize you’re not an A-plus graphic designer but know how to record a band. Being able to produce and write with people comes naturally to me, and I like being around musicians, so it becomes this endless feedback loop of, “How can we help each other?”
Recording is more accessible than ever [right now] — if you have a laptop, or even an iPhone, you can do so much. It’s so easy to jump in with a limited set of tools, and the best way to get comfortable in that setting is to just do it over and over again: Practice, sit in your room with a guitar, record yourself, and listen back. Some of the music that I’m most blown away by is from high school kids with Ableton on their laptops, making crazy stuff. Or someone who went to a Goodwill, got a tape recorder and started there.
There’s a lot of talk on the internet now about the sustainability of the music industry — it’s hard to tour, and it’s often not fiscally rewarding while also taking a lot of time and energy. With live music feeling a little tenuous, I think DIY could come back stronger than ever because nothing beats a basement show. And that’s what will come back if middle-tier artists can’t afford to put on shows at a 500-capacity venue with sound and lights. We’ll get to go back to the basics of finding a warehouse and a community and feeding the scene.