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a phd research zine #1 of 3 [winter 2015-16] free

hi i’m ellis i am 27 years old i am from bristol but live in leeds and i like both places a lot i play in a band called trust fund which is kind of “my” band in as much as i write the songs and do a lot of the admin. i also put on gigs in leeds as part of a non-profit collective called PLS TXT and i sporadically run a record label called “time of asking” this is a zine about my phd a phd is a qualification awarded by universities but people also use it to talk about the activity of gaining the qualification in the u.k. a phd is often done after an undergraduate degree (i.e. a normal 3 year degree) and after a masters degree (usually one year) and where undergrad degrees are taught in classes and lectures, and assessed by exams and coursework, phds students are self-directed so they don’t have regular classes but they have a research topic (often, and in my case, one that they have chosen themselves), and supervisors (in my case, two) that they meet with several times a year in order to check in, ask advice, get feedback, and try and stay on track phds usually last three years, at least, and aren’t really formally assessed until the end of that time, when basically you either pass or you don’t if you pass you become a ‘doctor of philosophy’, and you get to ring up your bank to send you a new debit card with ‘dr.’ in front of your name my phd is funding by the white rose college of the arts and humanities

which means they give me money to live on (and cover my course fees) for three years it works out at a bit more than if i was working a full-time, minimum wage job. i applied for some extra money to make this zine which covers printing costs and a few other things (including paying illustrators) but i don’t get paid for making it or anything the idea is that there will be three zines so one for each year of my phd this first zine does not have much of a structure but it is about a few of the overlapping areas that i am looking at presented in no particular order and the idea is that by the end maybe it will all come together into something that makes sense i would love to have feedback on this, good or bad you can email me at or i am on twitter @trust_fund the whole point of doing these zines and making podcasts is to try and make my research accessible and understandable to people currently active in d.i.y. music and to people who can do something useful with it. d.i.y. music has a really strong history of dealing with complex political and theoretical problems and trying to actively change itself and the world for the better and i would like to contribute to that

this zine is illustrated by emma thacker emma is an anxious punk from sheffield that likes to draw. music and d.i.y. culture are some of the biggest inspirations for her work. she plays in two bands and occasionally manages to finish making a zine.

if you are reading this you probably know what d.i.y. means or maybe what it means to you you can, if you want, write about what d.i.y. means to you here:

that’s very interesting thank you sorry that is patronising isn’t it anyway here is what i think a bit d.i.y. stands for do it yourself which is a term that doesn’t tell us very much about the sound of the music (unlike say ‘rap’ or ‘folk’) but instead tells us something, or makes a claim about, the way the music is made and shared the “yourself ” in “do it yourself ” implies that there is something which is usually done by other people which “you” have taken on responsibility for. that might mean recording your music yourself, releasing it yourself, promoting it yourself, booking gigs yourself d.i.y. has links to first wave punk (late 1970s) and david hesmondhalgh has said that it is not necessarily that punk was the first genre or musical

movement to have ‘indie’ labels but more that it was the first to attach political importance to the notion to being independent from majors d.i.y. also has links to literary self-publishing, to the early 20th century arts and crafts movement, to skiffle, to pirate radio, to self-sufficiency, to romanticism, to modernism, to feminism, to liberalism, to socialism, to anarchism, to animal rights you might be thinking that some of these ideas are directly contradictory and you would be right to think that. the point i guess is that there are lots of different types of d.i.y. and that different scenes or genres have their own types of d.i.y. which reflect a different set of influences and motivations for example some genres tend to be suspicious of technology (e.g. indie-pop, which trusts nothing but guitars), whereas some have embraced it as a foundation of their aesthetic (e.g. grime, noise) some of these differences might be related to social or cultural factors like for example the way a scene thinks and talks about money (and for e.g. whether making money constitues “selling out”) is probably related to how wealthy the members of the scene are some people might say “do it ourselves” rather than “yourself ”putting an emphasis on communality, sharing skills, and looking out for each other co-operatively-run, not-for-profit venues are a good example of how this kind of d.i.y. ethos might manifest itself i think it is important to understand that “do it yourself ” contains the germs of an ideology that is a lot more individualist and there are positive aspects to this (non-comformity, self-expression), but that the tension between individualism and communalism is basically ever-present in d.i.y.

theodor adorno saw the aesthetic predictability of pop music as a means of defeating psychological resistance from the consumer meaning the standardisation in pop music leads to a standardisation of thought and an unwillingness to fight for freedom lots of theorists have disagreed with this by arguing that people respond to pop music on their own terms, re-appropriating it for their own uses, and finding it politically and culturally resistant in lots of different ways


so either adorno was wrong or the major label brainwashing plan is not going as well as

what do d.i.y. participants think? well i don’t know but my suspicion is that there is something of a division some people are basically adornian and agree that pop music is a tool of oppression and that this is reflected in the music and other people think that pop music itself is great but that it is contained within a system that is oppressive the point here is that the political value of music that can be positioned at numerous places along the multi-stage process of musical production and circulation which is why you see that some d.i.y. bands make super-catchy pop music and some make kind of difficult music that is consciously quite far away

from pop music whatever the case i think it is hard to disagree that adorno’s work has a strong relevance to d.i.y. inasmuch as d.i.y. practitioners often see some kind of problem with mainstream pop music (ethical or aesthetic) and see their activity as a corrective to that or an alternative adorno saw the creation of different styles and behaviours around genres of pop music as essentially a form of market-segmentation designed to ensure that everyone has a product to buy he says: “something is provided for all so that none may escape” so regardless of whether you enjoy pop or metal or folk or rap there is no alternative and you are contributing to capitalism and ‘they’ are basically winning adorno is thinking about the effects of commodification of what happens when you make something exchangeable for money and therefore exchangeable with all other things i disagree with his pessimism and i disagree that all music is the same if it is exchangeable for money but still d.i.y. is often concerned with how to avoid commodification and how to differentiate itself from the rest of the musical world and i think the question of commodification is still important, which is to say, how to avoid one’s music being ‘just’ a product while the music industry is powered by money and run for money, how possible is it to maintain an adjacent scene where money does not come

first especially when money is always involved in various ways in the context of my research i am interested in whether online platforms tend to make d.i.y. seem more similar to other musics or more different whether the internet conflates things and makes them feel similar for me at least the internet makes me feel like i am a small part of something i don’t want to be part of sometimes related to this idea of being ‘one amongst many’ or of being contained within a larger entity which you cannot control is baudrillard’s work on ‘collections’ he says that when something is contained within a collection it becomes valued mainly for its role in the collection, and how it provides context for the other collected items i think about this like how souncloud and spotify and other streaming things are basically interested in amassing as much content as possible mainly so that they can say they have a library of a certain size its an illusion of choice or something i dont know

another relevant concept/framework/idea or whatever is jodi dean’s work on ‘communicative capitalism’ if you think of capitalism as means of capturing labour like taking workers’ time and extracting profit from it then maybe communicative capitalism is about how our communication with each other is also becoming subject to similar processes dean argues that social networks ‘capture’ their users in networks of ‘enjoyment, production, and surveillance’ all these words seem important: surveillance means that are watching us, and means they can use our activity to make money through targeted advertising production means we are working, or creating, and that we are doing it within their space enjoyment means we are getting something out of it, that this isn’t necessarily involuntary exploitation, but something more complicated dean argues through some zizek/lacan stuff that i truly dont understand that it is our constant unsatisfied search for ‘nuggets’ of enjoyment online that keeps us clicking and keeps us producing activity which benefits the corporations that own social media sites

one of the key ideas i am looking at is ‘prosumption’ prosumption is a ‘blend word’ of production and consumption i know however much academics are getting paid it is not enough the idea as described by george ritzer is that practices of consumption increasingly involve elements of production so the line between work and leisure is blurred for example self-service machines in supermarkets ask us to do the work of the cashier ikea asks us to assemble our own furniture obviously this has to some extent aways been the case and what consumption involves no effort at all but the point i guess is that you might think that technology might offer opportunities to liberate workers from their burden but in actuality this is not happening it is worth thinking about this in the context of ‘post-fordism’ where ‘fordism’ is a way of talking about the development of the production line and the mass-production of vast quantities of identical commodities

‘post-fordism’ still involves mass production of course but is also about specialisation and customisation and using technology to increase efficiency of manufacturing and distribution the internet is particularly good at this because non-physical products are easily customisable when we order online and when we use software we expect to have a plethora of options available to us in a way that is almost the opposite of ‘fordism’ where everyone got the same model of car the ‘flexibility’ which is a potential advantage of post-fordism also usually means flexibility of people to work anti-social shifts or be on zero-hour contracts, or in the case of cultural workers often to work for free the type of ‘prosumption’ i am most interested in is in cultural work so making films and music and writing lots of people are very excited about the potential for digital tools and ‘web 2.0’ to bring production into the hands of the many rather than the few the idea in david gauntlett’s words is of a ‘participatory culture’ so whatever power has been held by the traditional media companies, i guess the idea is that this power is being diluted and shared around platforms like youtube and soundcloud and tumblr make it very easy to be a ‘producer’ but also contain elements of consumerism i guess i am interested in whether this kind of production is particularly valuable, and whether it makes us any more ‘free’ than just buying stuff

paul théberge wrote a book called ‘any sound you can imagine’ which is about the rise of home music technology in the 1970s and 1980s so like keyboards, midi sequencers, cassette tape home studios, etc. becoming affordable to consumers for the first time i think that théberge identifies two important changes one change is that musicians, having previously been producers, become consumers they need to buy new equipment to keep up and the increased speed of technological development means equipment is quickly seen as obsolete as i mentioned earlier, lots of academics are currently talking about the internet as a place where consumers become producers, and maybe vice versa i want to think about these two things theberge’s home-consumer, and modern ‘prosumption’ in the context of the way music is made and shared online the ideology of d.i.y. music often presents production (i.e. making stuff, making culture) as more politically resistance than consumption (i.e.

buying stuff, consuming culture) but i guess what i’m suggesting is that maybe some types of d.i.y. production actually might fit into a post-fordist model of customisation where massive corporations such as amazon, youtube, soundcloud, whatever, capture all of the tiny activity of millions of prosumers and make make a profit from this data maybe

so hopefully you have some idea by now of what i’m looking at d.i.y. is a music with a history of valuing production over consumption, self-organisation over assimilation what i’m suggesting is that changes in the broader culture of music-making, brought about by the internet, mean that d.i.y. might not occupy the same political position as previously d.i.y. might involve doing the same thing but if everything changes around you, then your relative position to those things is going to change if that makes sense i want to assess the extent to which this might be true i am not aiming for a “yes” or “no” answer

i’m not suggesting that this kind of economically based approach is the only way that d.i.y. might be politically resistant obviously a huge part of d.i.y. is about how it enables people to get involved in music who might not feel able to otherwise, and to make music that there otherwise might not be space for but i’m also interested in how the internet might affect these social and cultural elements, too, like how the internet might affect music scenes by bringing people together in different ways or by changing the ways in which they communicate i think maybe part of the subversive value of something like punk was that it came into frequent, direct contact with the mainstream, and i wonder if the internet makes that kind of ‘friction’ less likely as people become more used to socialising in a network of their own making

danah boyd is a researcher who has written a book about teenagers and social media they use the term ‘affordances’ to refer to the ways in which social media sites have particular features or capabilities that mean we can do particular things with them so one ‘affordance’ of facebook is that we can search through all the messages sent and recieved in a chat conversation in a way that we can’t do with offline conversation boyd doesn’t believe that the architecture of sites completely determines

how we use them but that it is also to do with the way we use sites so we might think of affordances as the things which allow the potential for certain types of behaviours, and which also limit or restrict certain types of behaviour i am interested in affordances because they seem like a good way of thinking about how we behave around objects especially objects made by humans and the power relations involved in these interactions between humans and human-made objects for this zine i asked my friends, and the rest of the world (via twitter and tumblr) to draw pictures of the different social media platforms they’re on the reason i asked for these was as a way in to thinking about affordances and the way sites are built, and the way people use them do sites control and shape the activity of their users, or do users control and shape the site? drawings by: ~ georgia levens ~ idiot’s pasture ~ simon daly (2 pages) ~ cherry styles


as part of my phd i will be interviewing people involved with d.i.y. and people involved in music more generally phds need to get ‘ethical approval’ from the university to ensure they are not endangering participants and that data is stored securely here is some of a conversation i had on facebook with my friend nathan who plays in the band ‘martha’ about research ethics and anonymisation on the opposite page is the consent form that i am using to make sure people are ok with being interviewed and if i end up using their interviews in my research or in one of these zines then i am going to check that i have their permission to do that and show people their words in context so they can see where it fits in to my research people have the opportunity to opt out at any time

all participants are being asked to sign a consent form here is a screenshot of me taking a picture of the consent form this form gives me permission to use their words in my research and in these zines and in podcasts i am doing but only after i have shown them what i am using, in context, and given them the chance to opt out and all participants can be anonymised within the research if they like also i am hopefully going to do follow up interviews and try and make sure that my research is not something that i do “on� particpants but with them and hopefully my work will be better and more useful as a result we’ll see i guess

i will be making the next zine in this series in summer 2016 hopefully by then i will have done lots of interviews with d.i.y. musicians and my research will be much further on and i will have a bunch of smart stuff to say i am also going to make some podcasts starting in january 2016 if you wanted to comment on anything in here or be involved or anything then my contact details are at the front thank you for reading this and sorry

printed at footprint, leeds, december 2015