Archiving a DIY scene in flux: an interview with DoDIY.org

You’re a DIY artist. You want to tour across the country. You want to perform in spaces that fit your philosophy while you’re at it. Cool. Makes sense. So, who do you know in Nebraska?

DoDIY.org is here to fill in your blanks. And connect you with likeminded folks. Ultimately, DoDIY.org is here to help you feel less alone. It’s a big, beefy superhero of an international listing of DIY spaces. Each listing covers the basics: where the space is, who’s best to contact, and a little blurb that describes if it’s a garage that specifically caters to experimental puppet designers or a band who just wants to connect you with folks. And under each listing is a small line about when this was last updated. You’ll see a lot of ‘2014’s and ‘2015’s here, because Neil Campau works to update it. Regularly. Which he’s been doing for eight years.

The lifespan of the site stands out in a sea of defunct or scrappily updated listings; it is enthusiastically maintained and supports hundreds of touring artists, points activists and performers in the right direction, and connects DIY spaces themselves. It’s a vital resource, and one that Neil keeps up completely solo (you can donate to support the site here, and buy his zine Building: A DIY Guide to Creating Spaces, Hosting Events and Fostering Radical Communities while you’re at it.)

If part of what characterizes the DIY scene is flux, how sustainable is maintaining a listing? And if another part of DIY is knit together by “who you know,” what role do listings play in the process? What if we took things one step further and red-flagged spaces with a history of defending sexual abusers or racists? Archives can speak the whole story if we want them to. We get to examine these questions thanks to maintained sites like DoDIY.org.

Let’s hear more from Neil in this interview we did via electronic mail!

An imaginary version of DoDIY.org brought to life. Illustration by Pia Barnett.

An imaginary version of DoDIY.org brought to life. Illustration by Pia Barnett.


Why did you found Do DIY?

My friend had a myspace page called DODIYUSA that listed house venues. I started helping with it. The list got too long for myspace, so I started the site, compiling information from that page, as well as a bunch of similar sites/pages. I had become a bit obsessed with meeting more like-minded folks and creating DoDIY helped make that happen.

Who uses the site?

It seems like the majority of folks are in bands, but I’ve received thanks from punk circuses, poets, authors, couchsurfers, trainhoppers, zinesters, filmmakers, activists, and whatever.

What type of role do you feel like the site fills in the DIY community? What distinguishes Do DIY from other listings?

The site helps bring people together I guess. It grew really, really fast. That could be partially because of the simple layout (no flashy ads, dropdown menus, and such), but I’ve always felt that it was really important that the site be curated by an individual or group of people (I hadn’t planned or hoped to run the site on my own, but it’s just kind of worked out that way). The other similar sites that I knew about before I started DoDIY, along with most that have popped up since, rely on folks filling out web forms and pressing submit. That sort of model leads to spam, outdated listings, businesses (including some bands) just trying to plug their products, sexist/racist/homophobic/etc-ist crap, redundant information, and the like. I also spend a lot of time seeking out new listings, writing personal emails and talking to people in person.

"The other similar sites that I knew about before I started DoDIY, along with most that have popped up since, rely on folks filling out web forms and pressing submit. That sort of model leads to spam, outdated listings, businesses (including some bands) just trying to plug their products, sexist/racist/homophobic/etc-ist crap, redundant information, and the like." Illustration by Pia Barnett

“The other similar sites that I knew about before I started DoDIY, along with most that have popped up since, rely on folks filling out web forms and pressing submit. That sort of model leads to spam, outdated listings, businesses (including some bands) just trying to plug their products, sexist/racist/homophobic/etc-ist crap, redundant information, and the like.” Illustration by Pia Barnett

You mention that you talk to everyone before adding them to the site- what is your process for creating a listing?

I write them or they write me, they send me a little blurb and their preferred contact info, and then I put it up. Pretty simple. It’s extremely rare that I don’t list someone; I just want to be to be sure it’s consensual.

Have you encountered any challenges in sustaining the site?

I get burnt out. That happens a lot, but so far I always come back around. Good friends and supporters of the site are real big sweethearts sometimes.

Do you have any favorite testimonials from folks who have used the site?

“I’ve actually met every single one of my good friends from DoDIY. You’ve changed my life.” Or something like that. I’ve heard that one a few times and it’s cool.

Being the keeper of all listings for 8 years, do you notice any trends? (E.g. Spaces tend to shut down in one area of a country more than others, more house venues than independent spaces in another area)

I don’t think I’ve really noticed any trends over the long term (that I can think of at the moment, at least), but I definitely see weird things happening in certain towns over the course of a few years. They always seem to bounce back though. I’ve been around to see almost every single DIY space in Boston shutdown by calculated and fierce tactics from police, a town in Florida where it became common that house-shows were for only open to folks who were 18 or older, and lots of huge/public arguments over rape accusations and bros and homophobia and transphobia and racism and all of those other things that are so prevalent everywhere. But, mostly, just cops, cops, cops; they’ve never liked creativity, especially when it’s subversive to standard capitalism.

"But, mostly, just cops, cops, cops; they've never liked creativity, especially when it's subversive to standard capitalism." Illustration by Pia Barnett

“But, mostly, just cops, cops, cops; they’ve never liked creativity, especially when it’s subversive to standard capitalism.” Illustration by Pia Barnett

What has your experience been like expanding to international DIY spaces?

It’s been slow. I’ve actually spent a great deal of time cataloging venues, spaces, and people around the world (I have a personal list that probably holds tens of thousands of contacts/ideas/etc that I’m hoping to do something with some day), but it takes so much time to sort through it all to see what’s relevant to DoDIY. I’m trying. I’ve talked to folks in some countries who think that DoDIY is cool, but wouldn’t be that relevant to their own country. And, other places, it’s real hard to find those communities, since, by nature, folks who host DIY events aren’t normally super public about it. Mostly though, I just wish I had more time. Either way, the international listing are growing little by little and that’s good enough. I don’t have any grandiose plan to actually catalog every DIY space in the entire world anyway; that’d be ridiculous.

How did your zine Building emerge from this work?

Over the years, people have asked me lots of questions, both in person and via email. For some, DoDIY has become many folks’ introduction to hosting events in nontraditional spaces and, for others, it has even been a first glimpse at the entire ethos of “doing it yourself.” Besides that, I’ve done a great deal of traveling around myself, spending quite a bit of time within many different sorts of “DIY” communities, and saw a need for something like the zine. So, I did it.

What is your vision for the future of the site?

Complete dismantlement and destruction of all authority. Or… maybe just that it stays alive as long as it’s still relevant. I always have ideas for ways that I could expand or improve the site, but just never get around to it. Plus, it’s a delicate balance, making sure that the site doesn’t get TOO big, as that could lead to unwanted attention for some folks and an influx of mainstream bro bands getting all up in people’s faces.


Care about supporting a resource like this? Help DoDIY.org thrive by donating here.

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