Building A Better Music Scene: Why I Started Punk Out

Anyone who has spent more than a few days browsing our content will have no doubt noticed a number of contributions from the fine folks at Punk Out. You may or may not be aware of this, but Punk Out is not a music blog. Okay it is, but it’s not a music blog that typically features news and reviews. Punk Out exists for a much greater purpose, which we at Haulix believe is very important and today PO founder Michael McCarron is going to tell us the origin story of the organization.

I became really good at hiding in my own skin. I mean, ”date a girl for 4+ years” good. For most of my life, though, I was living this little game where I’d say all the right things, kiss all the right people, do all the right mind-numbing drugs. But eventually, that schtick fell flat, that “passion” got called out, and those decisions drove me into the ground. It took 18 years (six of which I spent rocking out in the dank VFW halls peppering the outskirts of the Philly metro area) for me to pull the plug on who I was. It took another two years for an upgraded model to be plugged back in.

Six years later, and I’m still surprised there was even an updated model of me available.

This is the context for the origins of Punk Out, the non-profit organization I began back in March 2014. This is the motivation behind every benefit show we put on, every discussion group we organize, and every Op-Ed we host. In its simplest incarnation, Punk Out is an organization dedicated to keeping kids from experiencing the same shit I went through. But if you check out our 501©3 tax application, Punk Out is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT+ musicians and fans. Red tape can be so constrictive.

At Punk Out, we believe in one simple mantra: Louder. Prouder. We aim to connect and support LGBT+ musicians and fans through the music they create and love. We see connections (real, flesh-and-blood connections) as an avenue for tangible change. See, here’s how it works: when musicians feel empowered to share their experiences, they serve as microphones able to amplify our message of inclusion and respect to their fans—far better than any blog post or Facebook status. But how do we empower musicians? By creating a support network where musicians feel as if they are equals amongst their peers, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Here’s the thing though: that support network, that diverse community adhering to a set of core values, that doesn’t exist in our scene’s current incarnation. But those core values are what we’re working on creating. We see a music scene that encourages musicians to express themselves organically. We see a scene where our straight and cisgender peers support our queer peers and enforce the mores of inclusion and mutual respect. We see a scene that embraces diversity of all stripes. And we see a scene that provides the helping hand needed when so many of us fall down.

Punk Out is not the panacea. But we hope to help develop the music community we all deserve. We can’t do it alone though. It’s easy to toss out idealistic rhetoric and to promote a positive agenda. And it’s even easier to tear down others when they slip up. You can talk a big game, but armchair activism only takes you so far. Ask yourself, what are you doing to improve the community you owe so much to? Are you out there pushing back when someone spits bullshit homophobic nonsense at a random kid at a show? Are you giving money to bands or labels who promote inclusiveness and empathy? It starts with taking a good hard look in the mirror because real change is going to come from the individual level.

This is an amazing time in our music community, despite what some may tell you. Do we have problems? Undeniably so. But the future looks bright. Hell, if you asked me when I was a teenager if I ever thought I’d feel secure enough to be an out gay man, let alone start a queer organization in our music scene, I would have scoffed at you. But here I am. All I want in life is for others to feel the same sense of comfort in being who they are and in writing music about what they’ve truly experienced. No filter. No pronoun switches. No apologies. We, as a community, need to pull together to encourage everyone to feel safe and secure. Because being who you truly are—that’s punk as fuck.

Michael McCarron is the founder of Punk Out. For more information on his efforts, please visit the organization’s official website.

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.