When I was in middle school, my introduction to music was the Indie Rock Radio station on Pandora. Up until that point, I didn’t really put much effort into finding new music to listen to. I was either listening to South Florida’s Number One Classic Rock Station, 98.7 FM – The Gator, or a compilation of greatest hits CDs that my parents had accumulated throughout the years. When I first learned about this thing called indie music, I didn’t really know exactly what the word ‘indie’ meant. I interpreted it to simply mean less well-known, or something along those lines. It wouldn’t be for another few years when I heard the word used in front of other art forms, like films and games, that I would decide to look into the actual meaning of the word.
When you google the word “indie,” the search engine politely tells you that the word, when used as an adjective, means “not belonging to or affiliated with a major record or film company.” When I first heard this definition, I interpreted it to mean something similar to what I now interpret DIY to mean: independent. I thought of albums put out by bands that were only able to afford making the album after playing at their local bar dozens of times, or maybe a small group of friends helping out a community of bands that they like in order to promote and produce their music.
But later, I started to notice that this definition was changing a bit. When I found an older playlist put out by Spotify of the top indie tracks in 2015, I was a bit confused. There were tracks put out by bands that were signed to multi-million dollar record companies, which to me seemed to go against the meaning of the word indie entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing the quality of that music at all — Sufjan Stevens, an artist that I greatly admire, was pretty high up on that playlist. It simply seems as though the word indie has shifted from referring to an independent project to becoming a synonym for alternative. Indie rock now seems more like an offshoot of alternative rock.
And now, it seems like this is starting to happen, albeit slowly, with the word DIY. Thankfully, I haven’t heard of any band signed to a record label that began as a twenty million dollar joint venture being referred to as a DIY band. However, more and more each day, it seems like the adjective is thrown around to describe the sound of bands instead of the background of those bands. Bands with a lofi, alternative sound are increasingly being referred to as DIY bands, regardless of how much of the work they’re actually doing themselves.
I’m not trying to be a gatekeeper of the word DIY — I truly want as many people as possible to be aware and involved in the DIY community. I don’t want to pretend to be some sort of authority on what is and isn’t DIY. I absolutely don’t have the experience or knowledge to make that claim, and I don’t believe any one individual does. What I do know for certain is that this community is important. The passion that runs through the DIY community is truly inspiring and is something I hope everyone gets a chance to experience. I just don’t want DIY to be known for anything besides that passion.