How To Start A DIY Music Scene In Your Own Town

For this week’s NME, I wrote about the Massachusetts music scene, talking with various artists and show-bookers who have been carving out an identity for the local underground lately. The piece focuses on the local underground community: one that has been more or less self-made in DIY venues and grassroots organising over the past few years. If you’re wondering how to get a similar thing going in your town, here are some ideas to keep in mind.

Getting organised is important. A good place to start might be forming a booking collective – that can mean many things, but generally refers to a group of folks with similar values and goals who work together to put on shows. Typically collectives hold regular meetings, every week or so, where they make decisions and discuss ideas. Or, if you’d rather work with a smaller group, or by yourself, coming up with a name for your booking efforts is helpful. There are a lot of small/independent booking organizations in Boston like Fast Apple, Sippy Cup Everything, Boston Hassle (also a music news site), Freak Flag (also a zine), and Primordial Sounds (also a label).

When there aren’t a ton of aboveground all-ages spaces around, you can just start to re-imagine everything around you as a potential show space: basements and living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, backyards and attics. In Boston, underground shows happen in houses, but also in bigger spaces like Lorem Ipsum (a used book store), the Video Underground (a VHS rental shop), and Cambridge Elks Lodge. Your favorite makeshift show space might not last forever, but something new will come along if you make it.


Know the noise ordinance laws of your city, know your rights, and be prepared to deal with cops. But regardless of laws, establish communication with your neighbors and be respectful. And when you’re at someone’s house, respect their boundaries. Also, even as dedicated to non-commercial and all ages spaces as you might be, sometimes in smaller towns you need to be open minded about bars. Local bars are local businesses; in Boston, even the DIY show organizers will frequently book places like Great Scott and the Middle East.

Zines, blogs, and websites help make local communities more tight-knit; in Boston, there’s the Countercultural Compass, the Boston Hassle, Allston Pudding, and others. College radio is also helpful. In Boston, there are a few dedicated local shows: Left of the Dial on WTBU, Mass Ave and Beyond on WZBC, and Pipeline on WMBR, for example.

Collectively-organized festivals are a cool way to create temporary infrastructure in transient places. Some past/forthcoming Boston fests to read up on: FMLY Fest Boston, Allston DIY Fest, Homegrown/Hassle Fest, New England Underground Music Fest, Ladyfest Boston, Smash It Dead Fest, Weird Stalk, Blastfest. They’re also great excuses to take a trip here.