CAC: What goals do you have for EIY?
SS: There is one main goal for the EIY movement, under which is an endless number of smaller goals, and that is: to offer a moral alternative to the mainstream, morally corrupt way of life that has become the "norm" in our society. It's a movement that I've attached to the music industry, because the music industry is a manageable microcosm where the philosophy can be applied in a practical manner, and can produce successful results quickly; but really, once you learn the EIY tenets and approach, you immediately understand how it can be applied to all areas of one's life.
The basic tenets are:
(1) You don't have to cheat, lie, steal, or compromise with evil in order to reach your goals. There is another, alternative route. It may take a bit longer, but your conscience will be clean, and therefore the things you earn will be rightfully yours, and will bring you true joy. Aim to reach your goals by being honest, truthful, hardworking, and steadfast.
(2) Always be developing a clear idea of what you believe, and what you stand for, by constantly asking yourself why you want the things you want, do the things you do, think the things you think, etc. Continue to ask yourself "why?" for each answer you give yourself, until you can't answer "why?" anymore. These "end of the line" answers are, in essence, your "values."
(3) Never go against your "values" in the face of temptation, or in order to get something you think you want. If you do go against your values in order to skip a step, you will not have truly earned the thing, and therefore you will lose it (because it was never really yours), or you will only receive unhappiness and a feeling of unsettledness from it.
(4) Strive to bring meaning to whatever you do, in your daily effort to achieve your goals. At the end of your life, the most important thing is that you were honest in your attempts (your means) to reach your goals -- NOT whether or not you reached the goals (the end). The end does not justify the means; the means justify the end.
The goal for the EIY movement is to show by application in the world of independent music that the "earn it yourself" philosophy is the right way to live your life, and the only way to be truly happy in your life.
CAC: What artists will benefit most from what you are offering?
SS: As it applies to the life of a band, the EIY philosophy, movement, and website helps independent bands at every level, from bands that are just getting started, to bands that tour and release their own music on a regular basis. Bands can learn everything from how to start a band, to a fans' point of view of what constitutes a good show or proper band-to-fan interaction, to booking tours, to doing your own taxes as a business. There are already so many tools, resources, and people on the site that can help bands -- all free and ever-growing.
Promoters, venues, and booking agents can also benefit from the website, via the booking tools, databases, and show trading features. We have the biggest online community of active DIY, underground, and independent bands, promoters, and small venues -- plus our ever-growing venue database that outnumbers other sites' venue lists by the hundreds.
Fans of independent music, and anyone interested in getting more involved with the music industry from a non-artist perspective, can also benefit from the website. It's a way for kids to get involved with local and touring bands in a very tangible way: actively interacting with the bands, helping book shows, finding them places to stay, promoting shows, and actually working with the bands in a personal way that makes them feel more invested in a band's success than just adding them as a friend online and maybe going to a show. Bands and fans really connect on the EIY website, creating working relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime.
I think the thing that makes the EIY community so different from all these other websites that try to offer similar resources and functionality under the guise of "promoting independent music" is that you can take our website offline, and apply it to real life, and actually see real results from what we are talking about online. You will meet people on our website who are actually working hard in their daily lives, making things happen, and genuinely working on building their careers and working towards their goals. We're not just a bunch of "talkers" who are sitting online posting things because we are bored. We're producers. We're real people and we all have goals and ideas. So you can log off of the EIY website and still be actively involved in it. The movement has very deep roots, from our ties to the BYOFL community, to the accomplishments and personal experiences of the people who are behind the website, to the actual people who are on the site every day, using it and applying the philosophy to their lives. The people on the site are real, and it's all very honest and very human.
CAC: What new initiatives do you have in the works for 2010?
SS: The thing I'm most excited about - well one of them - is that we have decided to apply for non-profit status for Earn It Yourself. We (meaning: myself, Ernst, Wyatt, and Dean) have been working so hard, for years, to make this an amazing website. But we never really figured out what kind of company we wanted to be. I kept thinking we should push to incorporate the company and get investors and do the typical business-y stuff with it, but then it dawned on me: none of us are in this to make money. We have been pouring our time and energy into the site because we all love it, and we think it's a damn good idea, and we think we are offering something to the underground music community that nobody else is offering. Why complicate it? We're all artists and creative people ourselves; we are not old men in suits, or washed-up A&R guys trying to make a last grab at whatever money is left to be made in a dying industry. We're too busy trying to apply the EIY philosophy to our own lives, so we might as well just be part of the community we are building, rather than try to capitalize on it. So I'm hoping that we'll have non-profit status by next year sometime, and I feel really good about the decision to move the company in that direction.
Other really exciting stuff: our second year sponsoring the Kevin Says Stage on the Warped Tour, with the daily "EIY Spot" that will feature an EIY band in each city on the tour. (More info: http://earnityourself.com/kevinsaysstage)
Not only will we have EIY bands playing every day on Warped Tour, but Kevin Lyman has offered me an amazing opportunity to really spread the word about the Earn It Yourself philosophy and movement, by inviting me to run a daily EIY Workshop & Scene Meet-Up for local bands, promoters, venues, and kids in the scene in each city! I will be out on the tour all summer, running these awesome meet-ups backstage where a select group of active members in the community will get together, meet each other, talk about what's going on locally, learn more about the EIY movement and how they can get involved, and then have the opportunity to talk with bands, staff, crew, and other people who are out on the tour! I'm putting together an EIY Handbook to give out at these meet-ups as well, filled with interviews and profiles on people and artists who I consider to be good representatives of the EIY approach to building their careers. The idea here is to do something constructive, that will help to rebuild and kick-start local music scenes by bringing people face-to-face and really talking about the meaning and purpose behind what they're working on at a local level. If we can get the underground music scene active again, we can really start to build up a network that can support itself entirely outside of the mainstream -- like our DIY forefathers did it, 20 years ago.
CAC: What key experiences from your background do you draw on for EIY?
SS: I think it was a gradual evolution. Definitely being in my first band(s) from when I was 16 to 19, and all the things I learned during that time, had a huge impact on me. I had a short stint as a solo artist from about age 17-18 where I was hauling this embarrassing setup to a coffee shop 20 minutes from my house and performing outside every single day for an entire summer. I released my own three-song EP and learned a lot about recording, mixing, producing, etc, from that experience. Interning as an engineer (pre-ProTools) at a recording studio when I was only like 20 helped me develop a new understanding about sound and production that I've applied to writing and recording ever since.
Discovering the punk/DIY scene when I was 19 was a major turning point in my life, and unbeknownst to me was when I started to subconsciously develop my personal philosophy. Starting my band Saving Face -- and probably the entire 5 years that band was around -- was just one big lesson after another. It was during that time that I really finalized who I was as a musician and an entrepreneur in terms of being in a band.
But it was also during that time that I started reading a lot more, and rediscovered philosophy as an integral part of life, not just a subject taught in school. Once my mind was opened to seeing the world from the point of view of my values, my beliefs, my goals, and what I stood for, everything in my life got a lot clearer. So discovering and understanding the practice and purpose of philosophy in my daily life is probably the most important turn I've taken.
Of course, the six years I spent living in Los Angeles, touring and working only on the business side of the music industry, was the icing on the cake of experiences in my life that I draw on for EIY. I witnessed, heard about, learned, watched, and met everything and everyone that a person coming from the underground music scene could ever want or need to know. It was like going to college to get my masters or something.
So now, doing music again as Gardening, Not Architecture, is the easiest and most enjoyable thing I've done as an artist or an entrepreneur, simply because I have a full, objective understanding of what to do, how to do it, and the comfort of knowing what to expect, and what is realistic for me to achieve with it. It's like I've learned enough from other people, and I'm ready to just go through it myself, for my own enjoyment, and to learn what's left to learn by doing it myself. I'm my own student, now.
CAC: How was the business funded? Are you currently raising additional capital?
SS: We've paid for everything out of our own pockets. We've sold a tiny bit of advertising through Google. We're going to introduce the ability to donate on the site and become featured contributors, and once we get non-profit status, we'll be able to apply for grants, and allow people to write off their donations. We don't expect to make money on the site, but if we could get to a point where we have a small staff that we can pay for their time, and we could cover our overhead, and maybe put some real money into marketing efforts or promotional events for the community -- well, that would be amazing.
CAC: If funds and resources where unlimited what would be the first thing you would implement?
SS: An annual tour with amazing headliners that exemplify the EIY ethos in their careers; a team of programmers to help execute the rest of our amazing ideas and visions for the website; and EIY book that would be available at all bookstores; a ground-breaking record label (the business model for which is locked away safely in my brain, don't worry); a management company that would put all other management companies out of business; and a mandatory annual meet-up for everyone on the website, so we can sit around and talk about our ideas and all the things that drive us , and get all inspired and make a million plans with each other, and start a million companies and side projects, before passing out by a campfire somewhere, probably in a field, under an open sky filled with stars.
Learn more about the Earn It Yourself movement at www.earnityourself.com
Learn more about Gardening, Not Architecture at www.gardeningnotarchitecture.com