Sarah Saturday is an accomplished musician, web designer, and Warped Tour veteran, but most notably she's the founder of the Earn It Yourself movement. As staunch believers in the DIY ethos, we've followed the evolution of EIY and were psyched to finally catch up with Sarah to talk about the project. Earn It Yourself, or EIY, is an ethical ideology used by Saturday in her work with alternative and DIY musicians throughout the country, to encourage these aspiring artists to develop communal roots and to "do the right thing" in regards to their motives and business practices. Since its inception in 2006, EIY has evolved from an online forum and resource to a full blown movement that includes workshops at Warped Tour and a number of local EIY chapters across the country.
Find the interview below where we discuss the evolution of the EIY movement, plans for this summer’s Project: Warped Tour, and what it means to hold the EIY philosophy in today’s music industry. We've also put together an E.I.Y. playlist above so you can get a feel for what they accomplished last year.
As an EXTRA bonus we've embedded Sarah's latest album Saboteur below for your listening pleasure. It's pretty awesome!
Indie Ambassador: Tell us a bit about yourself and your qualifications for leading the EIY movement, so to speak. What in your life has led you to assume this position, what have you done in the past, what are you doing now, and what does the future hold for you personally?.
Sarah Saturday: I have played music since I was three. I joined my first band when I was 16 and have been recording and releasing music ever since, with the exception of the six years after my band of five years broke up, during which I lived in Los Angeles and worked in the music industry. I basically went from being a full-time broke DIY musician living back at home with my parents to living on my own with a salary in LA working for Kevin Lyman's production company, over the course of like three weeks. I worked full-time for Kevin and his tours for a few years before launching my own company (The Weekend Group) doing online marketing and website development, with Kevin as my first client. There was a year in there where I worked for a start-up tech company, too. I think that's mandatory for anyone who moves to LA to work in "the industry," haha.
I developed the idea for the EIY "philosophy" almost 10 years ago, and just started writing about it in my blog, and talking to people about it on tour. It's always just been my attempt to put into the words the way that I felt about the DIY approach to being in a band, and my own personal values in general. I didn't invent the values or the ideas but I've been working for a long time to put them into words and put them out there for people to find and hopefully feel encouraged by. It's evolved into something much bigger, now, but I think that's because through my years of touring and being involved with (and supported by) bigger bands and companies, I've been able to reach a lot of people. Now it's just a matter of creating an outlet for everyone to apply the philosophy and work together to put these values and ideas into practice, while still remaining true to the core values of the philosophy. I don't really know what I'm doing, or if I'm "qualified" -- I make it up as I go along. But that's easy to do when you know what you stand for.
IA: What are the basics of the EIY philosophy, why does it matter, and why do bands need to pay attention to this kind of mentality in the contemporary music industry.
SS: The core virtues of the EIY philosophy are: creativity, honesty, cooperation, humility, resoluteness, and integrity. You don't really see these virtues among many bands nowadays, and I would argue you don't see these virtues among many human beings nowadays! Imagine a world -- be it a small local music scene or the entire music industry -- where every single person was striving to achieve these virtues on a daily basis, in everything they did. Imagine how much great music would be happening. Imagine how much would get accomplished. Imagine how happy everyone would be.
Everyone is in such a rush to get famous and rich. Famous and rich. Rich and famous. Hurry up and get me into a battle of the bands or on a singing competition on TV so I can get famous and rich. It's gross and childish and fleeting -- but it's also incredibly alluring and tempting. Everyone goes through a moment or an entire phase in their lives where they think they want these things. It's human nature to be tempted by the mirage of a sparkling world of fame and fortune. But true joy is not found there. It takes some people their entire lives to figure this out, and then they are old and full of regret. I would like to help people figure it out sooner, so they can spend their lives feeling happy and free.
IA: How does EIY lend itself to making connections and networking within the industry? Your music was recently featured on the season finale of a show on NBC, how did you do that?
SS: If you live by the EIY philosophy, it is going to be more difficult to connect with people in the music industry, because most people in the music industry don't share the values of your philosophy, or strive to achieve and uphold the same virtues that you do. However, the connections that you do make will be so much more valuable and important, because the kinds of people you'll choose to work with, and the kinds of people you'll attract, are like yourself. They'll uphold the same virtues that you do. They'll be in it for the right reasons, with the same work ethic and ideas about what is right and wrong.
In my personal experience of exercising this philosophy in my own life and with my own music, I have found that it's a lot like having x-ray vision, or a laser that can cut to the core of things. I'm able to see through a lot of bullshit, and protect myself from getting sidetracked or tempted by false promises. The connections (or rather, friendships) that I have made over the years are deeply-rooted. The people who have helped me along the way have done it because they knew my motives and trusted me, believed in me and genuinely wanted to help me succeed.
And in return, I have offered my help to people whose motives I trusted, in whom I saw something good that I wanted to see succeed. A great example of this is the NBC placement of one of my songs, in the season finale of "Parenthood." I have a small team of people helping me with my solo project: a couple of lawyers, a licensing agency, and a booking agent. They've all helped me bring in a ton of opportunities in the past couple years. But this placement actually didn't come from any of them -- it came from a friend of mine who works in the music industry, who genuinely liked my new album, knew the project and felt inspired to send it to her friend who worked on the show. That friend also liked the album, and felt inspired to use the song. It was a genuine, organic thing that happened on its own. That's the ideal way for that kind of stuff to happen. Yes, it's important to promote yourself and meet people and get your music out to the world -- but ultimately, it comes down to the actual music itself, and being a good person so that people want to help you out.
IA: How does EIY tie into working with Warped Tour and why do Warped Tour bands, in particular, need to adhere to this mindset?
The Warped Tour connection comes from my working with Kevin Lyman since 2003 in one way or another. When I left LA in 2010 to go back to playing music full-time and to start focusing more on EIY, I asked him how I could get involved with the tour and he let me put together these daily "meet-ups" backstage on the tour. Aside from that, I booked bands on the Kevin Says Stage for years (2005-2011) and always used EIY to find bands that deserved to play the tour. There was an EIY booth on the tour in 2005, run by some kids who ended up setting up a stage outside the gates each day that sort of became the unofficial EIY stage. So EIY has organically grown to become a very small part of that tour -- for which I am eternally indebted to Kevin.
The thing to remember about the Warped Tour is that it sprouted up out of the DIY punk scene from 20+ years ago, and all of the bands and skateboarders and crew who were involved at the beginning all grew up going to DIY punk shows. It's turned into a crazy gigantic thing since then, but the DIY mentality is still at the heart of the older bands and crew who make that tour what it is. EIY and DIY share core values, and teaching young bands and kids about EIY inevitably means giving them a history lesson about the DIY movement and ethos that started in the 80s. Punk was not a genre of music or a fashion trend; it was a mentality and an art movement. I think the Warped Tour is one of the only places where you can still find that mentality.
IA: What does the future hold for EIY in terms of who you'll be working with and how you'll be promoting the movement and bringing musicians together?
We're trying to do less talking and more acting, this year. We're still working with Warped this summer but focusing more on the before and after, rather than the day-of stuff. We're launching a podcast in May, much like the podcast I ran in 2009, with different topics and special guests. We'll be hosting EIY Meet-Ups all summer for Warped, but in a totally new format: nightly conference calls. We'll also be offering true EIY-ers the chance to work at the tour all summer, and we'll be spotlighting each city's local music scene through the Warped website every day during the show. We've launched "EIY Chapters" -- local groups of members who get together to work on fun stuff to build their scene: shows, zines, food drives, etc. We launched a messageboard on the site that I think will really help people connect and share resources. Just focusing on offering whatever tools we can afford to offer through the website, while focusing on spreading the message to young kids who haven't been exposed to their local DIY scenes. We are the keepers of the basements and we have a lot of work to do!
IA: Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Join the forums and get involved with the podcast and everything else we have planned for the summer at earnityourself.com.
IA: Thanks Sarah!