FREE CHAPTER – Leave the DIY to others


The DIY principle in the music industry has its origins in the punk scene. DIY, as you know, stands for ‘do it yourself’, and that effectively means: so you don’t want to help us? We’ll do it all ourselves. Because in the
era when so many successful rock ’n’ roll and punk bands were being born, the music industry had a surplus of music and too little time to help all those sludge bands get a serious career. A big problem, because in those days no one could predict which band was going to make it.
The solution came swiftly: make choices. And when you start making choices, there has to be a residue. And the residue was made up of bands who weren’t offered recording deals, or management or booker’s deals either. Naturally, that wasn’t the coolest story for band members to tell in their squats, so the term ‘DIY’ came to the rescue. Everyone who hadn’t yet managed to make it in the big bad world of music grabbed hold of the concept and got cracking: they released their own records, did their own promotion, booked their own tours and of course sold their own merchandise.
And to be honest, there’s not all that much wrong with DIY, at first. Most bands and artists start out like this. But as soon as it’s clear that it’s gone on too long, or they start bringing out their band biographies, it becomes very embarrassing. And no one is sitting around waiting for embarrassing self-written, self-published biographies of unknown DIY acts. These
are the acts that are still harassing people in the music industry with their over-enthusiastic optimism for their latest album full of country- inspired marching band covers. And yes, maybe I’ve made that sound worse than it really is. But these kinds of bands won’t ever be more than hobby bands. That’s just great, go right ahead and book your own tour and release your own albums. But stop pretending you’re a successful act, when everyone knows that you’re still playing the punk rocker for an audience of twenty-five, because you’ve constantly made the wrong choices. Yes, it’s a hard world, and I’m simply telling you what it’s like.

In the big bad music industry it’s all very simple: there is no DIY. Because the success of a band or an artist largely depends on the fact that other people think you’re great. An audience, for example, that’s a crucial factor in success stories. If you can’t manage to get one, and the only people who put feathers in your cap for your creative endeavours are your family and a couple of friends, then maybe it is a good idea to stick the ‘DIY’ label onto your career. It comes across as being less embarrassing to the couple of venues who still want to book you. But the question is whether in among all that DIY there isn’t something you could do that you’re really good at, such as screen printing or tour management, because probably your strengths lie in a different sphere. Leave the real work to the people who are naturals, and reconcile yourself to the fact that the stage was not made for you. Then later, when you’re a day-to-day manager or whatever, you can say you just rolled into that job, and that’s why you’re so good at it.
But the real question, of course, is: how can you tell that you haven’t
got talent? What tells you that no one is sitting around waiting for your act? True enough, the music industry has sometimes scared itself to death because of the so-called ‘masses of missed opportunities’. Artists who weren’t signed, but who did eventually become megastars. But
it’s actually a bit silly to talk about missed opportunities, because The Beatles did eventually get a record deal after all their rejections, and so did U2 and all the other mini and mega-artists. Nevertheless, between
us we’ve come up with an excellent solution to such rejections: we pass people on. So if someone asks for your opinion about a particular artist, you’ve got three options. They’re fantastic and you’ll start work with them immediately. No problem at all: success and the cash comes rolling in. Possibility number two: you think they’re terrible and reject them outright. The risk is that if the artist does turn out to be successful, that eats into your ego and the outside world suddenly values your opinion
a lot less too. That’s why the last option is the most popular and most effective. Whatever your opinion happens to be, you can say you’re too busy or it’s not really up your street, but you do know someone who could perhaps help the artist a little more. And then you give them the number of a colleague, competitor, friend or acquaintance. It doesn’t matter exactly who, as long as you pass the buck. If success ever comes, then at any rate you were the one who set up the relationship. If nothing comes

of it, no problem either, no one’s spent too much time on it – not you, at least.
The art of passing the buck: if you spot that happening, as a musician, you can do two things. Stop and look for another job, or decide to do everything yourself. And that brings us back to DIY.


There’s a chapter in the book called: Contracts aren’t for signing. In a nutshell: because they are boring and they take up too much of our time. Strangely enough, now we’re into management, we’re making deals and signing contracts with our clients. And we are spending a lot of time explaining every detail of the agreement. And once the contract is signed, we store it somewhere with the intention of never taking it out again. Until there’s trouble, usually when you break up. When it’s time to make an exit deal. So a contract is nothing more than a tool to make the best deal, right?

So, should you sign a contract? No, you don’t have to sign contracts. You just have to make sure that you confirm the deal.


On this day, 46 years ago, a Sex Pistols gig was cancelled because the city they would play said ‘We don’t want that sort of filth here’. Made me think of the shows that got cancelled under my watch. There are obviously the Covid ones, but those don’t outnumber the shows that got cancelled due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’. We even had a show cancelled 2 months upfront because ‘the gear would be too late due to bad weather in the Pacific Ocean’.

We all know what that means: lack of ticket sales.


It’s all about tickets this week! Bruce Springsteen talked about pricing and the Taylor Swift on sale crashed all figures.

Bruce was criticized about his high ticket prices and explained it was always ’let’s do what all the others do, but a little bit cheaper’. But for the last tour they shifted to: ‘let’s do what all the others do’. Hassle.
The demand for tickets for Taylor’s US tour was so high, that the Ticketmaster site crashed: ‘no one was able to buy a ticket’ and people started buying overpriced tickets on secondary sites. Hassle.

Let’s forget about nuance. Only 10% of the available tickets for Bruce were indeed pretty highly priced. No one complained about the other 90%. And why was ‘no one’ able to buy a ticket for Taylor if they sold so quickly?
We’ve seen sites crash for high demand shows at a lot of on sales. Sheeran crashed, Adele crashed, even Springsteen! Why? Because there a too many people trying to buy tickets at the same time. Every site would crash.

And the artists know that. So the question is: why won’t they spread the onsales? Just split the dates and go on sale on a different time or day.

Because it’s all about marketing. Taylor and Bruce had a good week.


The man said it himself in an interview, so it must be true. Michael Jackson wrote over hundred songs for ‘Bad’ and only nine of them appeared on the album (‘Just Good Friends’ and ‘Man in the Mirror’ were written by others). He threw away over ninety songs, just to make sure that the album would be the best album he could ever make.

I know that was thirty years ago and times have changed. It just makes me wonder. As it is all about content’ now, are the current artists aware that great music takes effort, time and a lot of adjustments? Because I’m getting the impression that, with 100.000 tracks released on Spotify every day, it’s more about quantity than quality at the moment.


As you might know, there’s a problem with pressing vinyl albums. At the moment, it can take op to nine months before an album is pressed and printed. There are some pressing plants that claim to do it faster, but then it still takes three to four months. That means that in a world where you can release a song on the day it has been created, you will have to wait months before you can get it in the recordshops.

They say it has to do with the succes of vinyl…

I was at the HMV in London last week. I was quite surprised that the store still existed but was more surprised by the amount of vinyl in the store. There were some new releases, but in the top ten it was re-releases only. Bowie, George Michael, Thriller. The next day, I passed a gigantic billboard with an add for the re-release of Rubber Soul by The Beatles.

Made me wonder. It’s not about the succes of vinyl, it’s about blocking the chain of new releases by releasing albums you can buy in the second hand record store for half the price.

Showcase festivals

I have never been at Amsterdam Dance Event in my life, so today will be my first. To be honest, my attendance at the event is questionable… I have got one meeting in Amsterdam, not at night and not in a club, but at least the meeting is about dance music.

I don’t know why I’ve never been there, is it because there are too many showcase festivals? I can imagine that there is a turning point when you’ve seen enough of these. Eurosonic, SXSW, NXNE, Womex, By:Larm, The Great Escape, Reeperbahn: it’s just too much in one year! How many new acts can you discover and how many new people can you meet?

Maybe I should get better at networking on these festivals, because I never leave them with a pocket full of new business cards. Or make sure I’m better prepared and have loads of meetings already planned before the festival even starts. Or maybe I should have checked the festival dates for ADE first. Because I just found out that the event hasn’t even started yet: it starts tomorrow.


Why do bands underplay?

An underplayed show is a show in a venue that’s definitely too small for the status of the act. Like Harry Styles playing in a 1500 capacity venue, that’s an underplay. But your favorite act playing a smaller venue than the last time, that’s an underplay as well. And it happens constantly. Why? Because the only thing an act wants is sold out shows. By underplaying, the act always has a sold out show, plus it is great marketing. Everyone that could make it into the gig will talk or post about it, so free publicity!

As you can imagine, after covid, there are so many tours happening that ticket sales aren’t as good as they used to be. There are too many acts on tour and ticket prices are high, so it’s obvious that a lot of shows aren’t selling. The clever acts have a nice way to avoid that: by underplaying. So, if you see any underplayed shows nowadays, you can ask yourself: is it because they can’t sell enough tickets or do they need the marketing?


Did you know that 60,000 songs are added daily on Spotify? That’s more than 400,000 songs a week. 22 million tracks every year! That’s the main reason why new acts are having difficulty finding people in the business to work for them. There are just too many acts around spitting out too much music. The public can’t handle it any more.

Did you know that the Black Album by Metallica, Ten (Pearl Jam), Blood Sugar Sex Magic (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Badmotorfinger (Soundgarden) Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 (Guns n’ Roses) and Nevermind (Nirvana) were all released in the space of 44 days in 1991

Combined, that’s 94 songs that changed the music industry. I guess we’ll have to wait another 30 years before we know which ones will stick with us, out of the 2.6 million released the last 44 days.

Climate Festivals

I sincerely question whether the marriage between the live music industry and action against climate change is a good one. We (in the biz) all pretend it’s a big topic, but in the end you can’t deny that not playing live is the only answer to a better environment, right? Or the bands travel or the audience does, both ways: pretty bad for the planet. Using LED for lightning, public transport or multiple shows to reduce emissions are good things, but eventually still bad for our health.
So, with that in mind, it’s great that there’s a festival called Global Citizen Festival! They say: “Take Action Now. For Girls. For The Planet. To End Poverty.”

So, first of all. I don’t understand why we should take action for Girls. What’s wrong with girls? Is it all the girls or just a few of them? It’s probably not for all of them.
Take Action Now to end poverty. I understand that one. ‘We do a festival, you pay and we donate your money to end poverty”. Pretty simple and effective.

But For The Planet? We already know organizing festivals isn’t the best for the planet. But look at this:
“You need to PRINT your tickets in order to enter. Mobile tickets will not be accepted” and “Bags must be: small, clear PLASTIC, VINYL or PVC…. “
So bring your plastics and paper and we’ll take action for the girls! That’s not really helping the planet, right?