5 New Tips For DIY Artists

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the first of a few new ‘Advice’ column we have planned for the day ahead. This one in particular is quite special because it was contributed by one of the hottest up and coming alternative acts in the world, and the advice they have to offer could very well aide another developing act in reaching a new level of success. If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog, or if you would like to learn more information about the services offered by Haulix, please email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.


For the better part of the last three years, Stars In Stereo have been working their way up the underground rock ladder of success. From their from their first practice in the city of Los Angeles until now they have been focused on proving once and for all that rock and roll is not dead. In fact, it is very much alive, and anyone with doubts need only witness Stars In Stereo’s critically acclaimed live show for proof. This four piece is the real deal, and slowly the rock world has begun to give them the attention they deserve.

Recently, a publicist friend of ours brought Stars In Stereo’s latest release to our attention. After learning of their journey through the various levels of rock recognition it dawned on us that the band may be able to offer some insight into life as a touring artist that otherwise may never be shared. We made a request, and late last week the following submission arrived in our inbox:


5 Tips for DIY Bands

My name is Jordan McGraw, I play guitar in Stars In Stereo and I own a record label called Hundred Handed.  When we started this band, we decided that we wanted to do things our way and have control over every step of our career.  We signed ourselves to our own label and went for it!  So far, it is working out better than we could have imagined.  Here are a few tips about what I’ve learned from being in a “do it yourself” band.

1.  My first piece of advice for a do it yourself band is to keep in mind that doing it yourself does NOT mean doing it without help.  The first key step to putting your DIY band out there is to surround yourself with people that know everything that you don’t about what you are doing or hoping to do.  This person could be one mentor at the beginning or a whole team of people.  Either way, you NEED someone watching your back and looking for the things you might have missed or might not have learned about yet.  For us, the first person to help was our friend and producer/engineer Eddie Jackson.  He roped us in when we were going on too far of a creative tangent but was such a close part of the team that he could tell when and what seemed like a tangent was more of a development and would challenge us to go after it.  We wouldn’t have found our sound as quickly as we did without him.  Once we had our sound and a first batch of songs, we were lucky enough to catch the ear of Craig Aaronson (he signed The Used, My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold… the list goes on). For the next year, he acted as an A&R type voice, manager, agent… everything.  From there we went on to grow into a need for more team members.  Best of all, because we are a DIY band, we were able to pick who we brought in based on what we wanted and what they were willing to do rather than just being handed a team and dealing with it.

2. My second piece of advice is to STAND YOUR GROUND.  Now you have your team, listen to them but don’t let them push you away from what you want. It’s no secret that the music industry is full of “know it alls” but there is no right answer… There never has been.  Hell, tell me I’m full of shit if you don’t like this article… but DO keep in mind that the formula for the music industry is broken.  Not in every way… but it is broken.  With social media, easier access to studios, the ease with which you can steal music, and plenty of things I probably haven’t even heard of, there is no one way to do things.  So, if something doesn’t feel right, challenge your team to come up with a new way to get it done.  If that new way fails, try another one.

3. Thirdly, now that you are your own boss, you now have all the time in the world to get through every step of your career.  That’s not necessarily a good thing…  Taking too much time and being too picky about little details when it comes to EVERY decision will, 9/10 times, be detrimental to your end goal of success (whatever your measure of success may be).  BOSS YOURSELF AROUND.  Set realistic deadlines for every step of your process and do everything you can to get there.

4. This is a big one to me… One thing that I see time and time again on tours with other DIY bands is the blurring of the line between business and creative on the way up.  When you are on tour with a band, make friends with them, hang out with them, party with them, whatever… but don’t turn every hang into a networking meeting.  From what I’ve seen, it never works as well as a band thinks it will.  A lot of times they don’t make a lot of the decisions anyway (because they aren’t a DIY like you… They have higher ups to answer to).  If their manager is around, THEN put on your business hat.  If you’re hanging out, grabbing a beer with the headliner after a show, just hang… Don’t start selling yourself for other tours or collaborations.  All that fun stuff happens with time and with a good relationship. 

5. Finally, this is a full time job.  If you’re going to “do it yourself,” expect to do A LOT more work than if you were just going to be on some label where they do the work for you.  Lots of emails, late nights, early mornings, hiring, firing, failing, problem solving, budgeting… PLUS the creating, writing, performing, practicing, interviews, photo shoots, video shoots… EVERYTHING.  If you aren’t ready for that, then do it another way.  Again, there’s no one right answer.

Stars In Stereo have big plans for 2014. Be sure to ‘Like’ their Facebook page and follow the band on Twitter.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.