Pandemic Was a Gift to the DIY Music Scene

An interview with DIY musician Midwxst about how the scene flourished during covid, and what that might mean for the future of music

Sachin Rao, Staff Writer

Although the pandemic brought many parts of the music industry to a grinding halt, some DIY (artists who are not signed to major labels and release music themselves) and bedroom (artists who produced and made music inside their bedrooms rather than in proper studios) artists were able to thrive. 

Twenty years ago, an artist would have most likely needed access to a studio and to be signed to a label to see success. By the time we were thrown into a lockdown, websites such as Soundcloud, with software like FL Studio or Ableton, were making the creation and distribution of music easier than ever. Now, with enough talent and hard work, many have found notable degrees of success without leaving their bedroom.

Especially during the pandemic, lots of people have used their newly found free time to put out songs, made possible through a complex hub of producers and vocalists. Most of these artists haven’t even reached adulthood yet, but have seen massive success from releasing music and pouring their feelings into glitch-laced raps and ballads. 

A prime example is Ash Guiterrez, who performs under the moniker Glaive. A 16-year-old who only started making and uploading music after the pandemic hit, Ash has released two EP’s with Interscope Records, and reached over a million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Although he is one of the most prominent artists to have grown exponentially almost entirely through the internet, he is only one in a large scene of underground artists who are beginning to break through to the mainstream. Some other artists include Juno, Aldn, Ericdoa, and Dltzk. Most of these artists had made music before the pandemic, but they have seen the majority of their growth since its beginning. 

So, what is it that’s helped half of that list see major-label contracts, and the rest increased underground followings? Midwxst (pronounced midwest), is an 18-year-old artist from Indiana who recently landed a deal with Geffen Records.  He released his fourth body of work, “better luck next time,” and reached over a million monthly listeners on Spotify – all within the past two years.

“The pandemic really gave kids who were already on their computers a lot [of] the time necessary to focus on their craft.  Whether someone was a graphic designer learning their way around photoshop and illustrator, or an artist trying to mix their own vocals in FL studio or Ableton, COVID and quarantine were peak times for both boredom and innovation,” says Midwxst, who recently performed a string of live shows on tour with Glaive and Ericdoa. “It allowed me to make some of the best music I’ve ever made to date, and also get closer with my online friends and contemporaries who I’ve worked with in the digicore/hyperpop Soundcloud scene. And get in touch with my mental health, and more.”

Although the internet as a whole has had a major role in this, two specific platforms are most responsible: Discord and Soundcloud.

Discord is a social networking platform originally created for gaming, but it has since seen a shift in direction, allowing a wide variety of communities to thrive. Many people have become collaborators, artists, and friends, and helped communities bloom, through this app.

SoundCloud is a music-sharing website where anyone can upload free of charge, and lots of artists have started out posting their music exclusively on this platform. Many older songs from artists in addition to large collaborations can be found on SoundCloud. If you scroll far enough, you’re bound to find music that exists nowhere else. 

As of now, major labels still dominate the music industry, but we could soon see the DIY revolution take over. Managers are beginning to shine a spotlight over these artists, and this is just the beginning to the ways the internet is democratizing music-making.

Having access to DAWs” – or Digital Audio Workspaces, aka music editing software – “is gonna allow, and already allows, so many kids who have always wanted to take the step towards production or making music to become possible. It’s a space for kids to be the most organic and true version of themselves,” says Midwxst. Having distribution services, especially ones like Distrokid and UnitedMasters (both which I have used before I was signed) allow for people, regardless of stature or popularity, to get themselves heard on all platforms and internationally, regardless of how polished the music is.”

Making and releasing music has never been more accessible, and social media and new apps only make it easier for artists to grow their followings. These factors combined with publicity from high-profile media outlets like Lyrical Lemonade are leading to more and more breakthrough artists getting publicity and contracts. Could this be the future of the music industry? 

To an extent, yes,” says Midwxst. “But the entire team and resources that come with labels will always be a reason why people are going to sign. I think more people are gonna realize that if they wanted to, they could do everything independently without a major label and resources behind them if they have a big enough following or know how to operate within the music industry and the other realms that come with being in the music industry.”

Although Midwxst doesn’t seem to think so, he hints that it could definitely be possible. Even if it isn’t a drastic change, we may soon see labels take a backseat to more DIY artists on a much larger scale than we have yet seen.