Document your art. Archive your art.
DIY Media is important. It’s not just entertainment, it’s a movement.
For a few months in 2015, I spent a lot of time trolling through scans of old punk zines and the noise-arch archive and various other sources talking about underground/independent music from the mid 70s up through the mid 90s. You know what I found? Lots of really great music, and also many empty space.
When I say empty spaces, I mean I would read a review about a band, or an interview in a zine that would pique my interest. I’d start looking for more information about that band, or the members of that band, and build a little spiderweb of references that took me from scene to scene and show to show over a period of two or three years, almost invariably to end with
1) No recordings still available through any sources to which I have access
or more likely
2) No recordings ever made
I can’t tell you the number of times I’d see an interview with a band I respect the hell out of talking about how they took the majority of their inspiration from this other group. And then I’d go dig for information on this other group and find rave reviews and nothing else. We owe it to ourselves, and to the future, to keep a physical record of the things that we do and to help one another in recording and archiving and documenting as much of each of our respective movements as possible.
I’m talking about music because I was close to music, and I watched these things play out in real time through lots of little decisions that seemed like the best idea at the time but that ultimately resulted in even our relatively recent scene being full of Empty Space where music should be.
But it’s more than music. I’ve seen indie films at local festivals that, if you weren’t in the room at one of those screenings, you’d never know existed. They’re ghosts. I have only my memories of them, and you don’t even have that.
Or think about all the Amazing artists you knew on Tumblr who have completely disappeared, and taken their archives with them. How many of those artists still even have copies of all of that work? And, unlike in years past when, in order for something to stop existing it had to actually be destroyed, today things can just stop existing with the click of a button. There aren’t any physical artifacts tied to their existence.
Archive the art
This is not me railing against digital creation and distribution. Let me make that clear. I love digital creation and distribution. But we need to remember that the digital can be ephemeral, and make efforts to preserve our work. (We’ve talked about this before.)
In addition to all of these empty spaces caused by media which was no longer commercially available, there were also empty spaces caused by media which was never created. Many bands never recorded even a single song.Bands that everyone loved! Bands that packed houses! Bands that were called “the next thing” by the bands that actually went on to be the next thing!
In 1985 this was almost excusable, except that 4-tracks were affordable and cassette distribution was better than nothing.Today, there is hardly an excuse.
If you do something creative, music, acting, writing, whatever take the time to preserve it. The people like me in future generations will thank you. If you keep waiting until you’re “Ready” you might never release anything.
When I watched this play out in real time, I saw people frequently choosing not to archive their content in highly public places out of fear that
- It wasn’t good enough
- People would take it without paying for it
And I guess either of those things might actually be viable concerns the day that you release the content, but I can’t tell you how many of those things that folks decided not to make too available are just gone now.
If you create things, release them in to the world. Archive them as quickly as you can. Make sure that those things will still exist in ten years. Because in ten years, the only people that stand a chance of being remembered are the ones that we have proof existed.
If you don’t write about your favorite local act, will anyone ever know about them? If your favorite local act never releases a recording, will anyone ever care once they know about them? If they did release a recording, but they only ever posted it to that one really hot streaming service that went under four years ago (myspace anyone?) and released it on hand made CD-Rs to the dozens of people who showed up in person, how will I fall in love with them next year?
Talk about the art
If you don’t, who will?
For me, for the next year, this means making a DIY Media Spotlight a regular feature on this blog. It means that I’m making an concious effort to consume independent media, and to talk about the independent media I consume. It means I’m bringing back the Analog Revolution Zine (and trying to track down a new team to help produce and distribute it all over the country) and renewing our focus on independent media.
I want you to do the same thing. When you hear a great local band, write a blog post (and send it to me!)
Index the Art
I keep offline archives on DVDs or AVCHD DVDs even though I don’t own a thing that can play either. I also have multiple terabytes of storage at home. My personal archive strategy will remain largely the same, but in addition to those things, I’m going to start putting as much as I can in to the internet archive.
The Internet Archive is the closest thing we have to a long term solution to our archival problems.
Unfortunately, just archiving the stuff isn’t going to be enough without also indexing it.
My plan on that front is to put together a very low resource static website that embeds and/or points to all of the things I have on the internet archive. No reason for that to just be My stuff, though. (Both because most of the things I consider “mine” are actually communal efforts, and also because I want to highlight DIY media in general even if I wasn’t involved with it.)
So, when everything is said and done, I should have a viable index of DIY media available for public consumption.
Make the Art
My goal is to make as much cool stuff as possible, and to help other people make as much cool stuff as possible and to fill the world with independent art. As I’m getting my house in order, and releasing my media and my software, I also want to document as much as I can about how to do these things. This will turn in to a kind of DIY MEDIA SCHOOL that will live along side the index and archive we discussed above.
Do you also care about these things? Do you want to help me make podcasts or publish zines?
Do you want to release your own zine? or your own media? Reach out! I’m friendly.
I will continue to write more about this topic, but I do want to specifically link to these posts:
- A great example of the importance of documenting your art, The Ace of Cups
- A primer on how to archive things without it being a lot of extra effort
- Permanent URLs from Archive.org