Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: Documenting 21st Century DIY

Blood-sweat-vinyl-logoDiscussions of DIY and indie music often center around how to conduct business and build a livelihood without signing with a major label. However, as we all know, the DIY and indie ranks are full of people who play music because they have to and take care of business inasmuch as it facilitates their art. That approach is the focus of the documentary "Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century" and filmmaker Kenneth Thomas has done an excellent job of capturing that perspective.

Blood, Sweat + Vinyl, directed by Kenneth Thomas of The Scourge Productions, takes a look at 20 bands and visual artists connected by 3 record labels, Hydra Head, Neurot, and Constellation, and an association with heavy and prog rock though that doesn't communicate much about this great documentary. Composed of interviews and pieces of live performance with much of the music being shot in 2006, Blood, Sweat + Vinyl features such bands as Neurosis, ISIS, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Pelican, Oxbow, Evangelista, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Cave In.

Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century (Trailer)

In addition to introducing me to a lot of music with which I was unfamiliar, I found the documentary full of insights into what drives these artists and business people, some of which are shared in the above trailer.

Thoughts about the business included:

"we just want to make music with our friends"

"the really important and great music would be made anyway, whether or not there was any money to be made. for those people business gets in the way."

"independent is meaningless cause it's not independent"

"big labels feel like a mistake"

"this music isn't going to sell at a level that would work on a major"

"people who signed us did not have commercialism as a guiding ethos"

From a business perspective, the record labels are of particular interest and they all share a focus on putting out music they like and basing business on "good faith relationships" without a dependence on contracts. Though some discussion slips in related to funding, Blood, Sweat + Vinyl tends to leave out the topic of money. My main disappointment was not finding out more about how their operations are funded and not knowing if any of these people actually make a living in the music business.  But, for most viewers, such questions are probably beside the point.

Blood, Sweat + Vinyl definitely captures the spirit of artists who do what they do because they care and, whether or not they find success in a business sense, will probably keep doing it as long as they can because no other path is as worthwhile.

Currently Blood, Sweat + Vinyl is working the film festival circuit and is available in a 2 DVD Box Set with the documentary plus an Extras DVD of live performances. Other options are on the way and you can also check out some footage from the Extras DVD as well as live performance outtakes.

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at All World Dance and This Business of Blogging. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. The bottom line is the big companies are just shifting ground to still make sure they get the biggest piece of the pie-This is in all genre’s of music. I want to talk to the majority of people who DIY in 10 years and see how it either went for them or is going for them-You still need infrastructure and partners. I know there is always that amazing story of the one who broke through but the paradigm for the future really hasn’t been set yet
    Peace, jason Miles

  2. @Jason – I’m interested to know how important you think it is to a DIY musician to “break through”? I think the point being made is that people make music and art for a multitude of reasons, and not everyone is seeking fame nor does everyone want to make a living making music.
    Also, part of the DIY process trades in corporate profit mentality and competitive nature in favor of community and collaboration. So you still have an infrastructure and partners, but not in the familiar capitalist sense.
    I think it’s wonderful to have a choice these days in how to market music; DIY as well as the traditional big label option.

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