Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Doin' It for Themselves: Queer Musicians Join Authors and Filmmakers in Subverting Corporate Distribution Channels with the DIY Movement

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Doin' It for Themselves: Queer Musicians Join Authors and Filmmakers in Subverting Corporate Distribution Channels with the DIY Movement

Article excerpt

She was not original (too Bonnie Raitt), she was in her mid 30s (too old), and her music was bar-band material (too unrefined). These were the reasons singer-songwriter Holly Light was given by a major-label music exec in the mid 1990s as to why she wasn't "signable."

"And then he showed me a new act he liked," recalls Light, now 43, "and they were exactly like Hootie and the Blowfish." It was then, Light says, that she realized that if she was going to make a living as a music artist, she would have to do it on her own.

From MP3.com to Sundance to McSweeney's, doing it yourself--or DIY--is a decision more and more artists are making when they can't, or don't want to, achieve mainstream success through traditional means. And many artists, including openly gay ones like Light, are discovering it is not a sentence to total obscurity. To wit: Light's self-published first album, 2001's Beautiful World, won the 2002 Songwriter of the Year award at the DIY Music Festival in Los Angeles.

"It's a classic album, as good as anything you'll hear anywhere," says festival director Bruce Haring. "Bonnie Raitt would kill for those songs." Over the past four years, Haring and his wife Debbie have helped independent musicians, writers, and filmmakers learn how to make and market their own material through DIY conventions, festivals, and live events in Los Angeles, New York City, and Nashville. While Haring, 47, credits much of the DIY boom to the growing number of inexpensive creative and publishing tools, he points out that "gay and lesbian artists have really been at the forefront of the whole DIY movement," citing Allen Ginsberg's self-published 1955 epic poem Howl as a classic example.

"The reason the indie thing works so well is that you don't necessarily have to have a label [or genre] attached to you," argues Randi Driscoll, 32, an indie singer-songwriter whose benefit single, "What Matters," has raised in excess of $30,000 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation over the past three years. …

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