Streaming is king, influence is worth its weight in gold, and there has never been a better time to be a DIY artist. With the rise of platforms like Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, Instagram, and an ever-growing list of outlets that allow for artists to connect directly with fans, the day and age of major labels serving as gatekeepers between people and music is seemingly nearing its end. While major labels are by no means obsolete, DIY artists are estimated to generate over a one billion this year, a number that increases with each concurrent year.
Beyond the idea of just existing a financially feasible option for artists nowadays, the notion of going completely DIY or signing to an independent label has given form to a musical landscape that shows no qualms in playing with the notion of recklessly bending genres or exploring newfound sonic territory. In celebration of a new wave of artists who are making the music they want to make, we present to you 13 DIY artists doing it all + an accompanying playlist for your everyday inspiration.
“how i made a hit song with a TRASH BEAT (SAYONARA).” Chances are you may have first stumbled upon Aries and one of his similarly titled YouTube videos before ever hearing his music. First cultivating an avid fanbase on YouTube with a series of instructional videos that varied from parody to hinting at the producing genius of the enigmatic artist, Aries’ rise to inevitable fame has been nothing short of unconventional. In similar fashion, his infectious and perfectly indescribable blend of alternative, emo, hip-hop, and electronic has gone on to rack him up plays in the tens of millions, while still remaining completely independent.
The endless comparisons to Frank Ocean may simply be because, much like the first time we heard Ocean ourselves, there is simply no worldly comparison to be found when it comes to describing Choker’s heavenly sonic musings. Yet, to simply call Choker the next Frank Ocean would be to do the genre-bending artist a grave disservice. Effortlessly blending elements of pop and atmospheric R&B with a voice that is sure to stop you in your tracks, Choker is an artist not to be slept on. This is music that is the very definition of timeless, existing lightyears beyond its time.
girl in red
Perfectly imperfect may just be the best way to describe girl in red’s music. Chronicling the lived realities of Marie Ulven, a teenage queer icon for queer teenagers and beyond, girl in red’s music arrives as a perfect blend of lo-fi rock and bedroom pop. Tracks like “i wanna be your girlfriend” and “girls” feel like they could have been ripped straight from the pages of anyone’s teenage diary with their intimate nature and candid lyrics. Circumventing the major label route, there is an undeniable honesty to her work. girl in red in the sort of artist we have needed for ages.
LAUNDRY DAY has turned a captivation with the all-minded approach of musical and cultural savants BROCKHAMPTON and Tyler, the Creator into a veritable mission statement. The New York five-piece outfit is not just seeking to create their own inventive style, but they want to be a band that, much like their initial inspirations, simply does it all. With countless hours already clocked in their bedroom studios, LAUNDRY DAY has emerged with a collection of music that illustrates a breathtaking range and capacity for evolution. We have no idea what exactly to expect from LAUNDRY DAY, but we can promise it will be big.
The shift away from major labels has brought not only a wealth of promising talent through new mediums, but has seen an explosion in artists who may not fit your typical pop mold finding homes at independent labels. beabadoobee is one of these artists. Signed to independent label Dirty Hit, the same people who gave us The 1975 and Pale Waves, the 18-year-old phenom crafts music that blends all the melancholy of any of the best bedroom-pop recordings with the raw edge of lo-fi ‘90s indie rock. The end result is a nostalgic yet novel to indie music for Gen Z and beyond.
Deb Never stands at the forefront of one of music’s fastest growing genre-bending subcultures. Carving out a niche for herself in the nebulous world of grunge meets dark pop, the Los Angeles artist’s delicate vocals skirt across ominous atmospheric production to deliver a musical vision that gives credence to the phrase “putting you in your feels.” As to be expected from the first female signing to WEDIDIT, Never’s music carries with it a palpable emotional weight, yet still finds a way to come across as light as air.
The next Rex Orange County may just be a teenager out of Indiana who goes by the name Sam.Sts. Releasing his first-ever series of singles while still navigating the treacherous waters of life known as high school, the bedroom-produced track “Applesauce” would go on to rack up over a million plays without any major label or outside support. Whether that be due to the references to King Krule and Dragon Ball or the sun-drenched nature of the whole affair is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain, you need to be keeping your eye on Sam.Sts.
mxmtoon came to music for the same reason so many people flock to the art form: a place to escape from day-to-day life. Self-described as rhyming diary entries, the Oakland-based artist’s idyllic musings doubled as both nigh-perfect acoustic pop songs and a way for mxmtoon to express everything she was unable to say in her face-to-face interactions. The result was plum blossom, a debut EP recorded alone in her parents’ guest room that stroke a chord with millions. Now, set to release her debut album the masquerade this fall, mxmtoon’s rhyming diary entries are poised to take a worldwide stage.
It would be impossible to make a worthwhile list of DIY artists doing it all without giving a nod to the guitar-driven punk bands that practically coined the term “DIY.” And one of the best bands to emerge in 2019 from that space is without a doubt Ultra Q. Formerly known as Mt. Eddy, the teenage punk band returned from an indefinite hiatus that saw the four-piece outfit finishing high school and returning with a fully-realized musical vision. With only a pair of singles to their name, “Gool” and “redwood,” there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to the future of Ultra Q.
Long gone are the days of a major record label telling you what you need to be listening to. The rise of platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, and plenty more have given way to previously unconceived methods for artists to connect directly with fans. YouTube vlogger turned pop phenom Tessa Violet is one of these such artists who has turned her platform into a means of delivering euphoric moments of indie pop–flavored bliss. First striking gold with the DIY viral music video for “Crush,” which saw Violet transforming a family friend’s grocery market into one of the most eye-catching videos of 2018, the rising star has gone on to release a series of singles that have shown her veritable future in the world of pop.
Truth be told, there is little I can tell you about khai dreams beyond how his music makes you feel, which is to say serene. The musical project of a half-Vietnamese singer-songwriter born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, khai dreams blends acoustic and electronic elements to superb effect. As if to exist in stark contrast to the overcast and rain that permeates so many projects from the Pacific Northwest, there is an inescapable warmth to every one of his tracks, even when those same tracks see him at his most wistful. To listen to khai dreams i tso give yourself over to his endless summer.
If you were to ask what music sounds like in 2019, you may very well arrive at Yeek as your answer. The Los Angeles–based singer, songwriter, and producer originally from South Florida is thriving in a genre-less era. Blending distinctive elements of hip-hop, lo-fi, alternative rock, and pop-minded R&B with a reckless abandon, Yeek’s otherworldly amalgamation of sounds and moods come to life on the track. Seeming to never waste a moment in any of his impeccable genre-bending ventures, Yeek’s music is a deep-dive into the mind of a post-genre savant.
The rise of DIY music has allowed for a greater representation of cultures and voices that have for far too long been underrepresented in mainstream music. In the vein of artists like Cuco and The Marías, Mauri Tapia, who goes by the moniker Los Retros, is drawing upon ‘70s soft rock and leftfield Chilean pop to create a soundscape that spans generations of influence. Signed to independent record label Stones Throw, the 19-year-old Los Angeles artist may have only just finished high school, but his heartfelt songs are set to carry him to places far beyond far the horizon.