I’m a massive fan of punk. Specifically, the DIY punk scene.
If you’re wondering what that is, it’s basically a community of people who have built a really strong following through a shared passion for a certain type of music – and who do everything themselves, from promoting gigs, to recording and releasing music, to designing merch, flyers, zines, and everything in between.
The DIY ethos means everyone involved in the scene supports each other, and as a result, it’s thriving, with absolutely no need for massive marketing budgets, endorsements, or sponsors. It’s genuine. And that’s what makes it so special.
Earlier this year, I attended one of the UK’s biggest DIY punk festivals. The event was split across 7 venues in Manchester over 3 days (plus a warm-up show), and featured musicians, comedians, poets, and podcasters from around the world. Despite there being so much going on (and plenty of opportunities for something to go wrong) everything ran perfectly.
It’s clear to me that the reason it was so successful was due to the hard graft put in by the organisers, volunteers, and artists involved who wanted to create a space where like-minded people could come together and share what they love. Astonishingly, the bulk of the planning is done by just three people. In their spare time. In between working full-time jobs.
Putting on a festival of that scale is no mean feat. Many events companies couldn’t pull it off as smoothly, even with the backing of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and a huge team behind them.
As much as I hate myself for this, it got me thinking about how businesses with smaller marketing budgets or resources can maximise their potential.
A lot of it comes back to the importance of curating content that resonates with your community and sticking to your core values.
One of the things that constantly amazes me is how much content some DIY artists put out. Not just singles, EPs and albums, but live recordings, music videos, and social media posts. And it’s not just quantity, it’s quality. The passion for what they do really shows. And as a result, people engage with it like crazy.
So don’t ruin your social media accounts by posting dry, boring, and constantly product-focused content. Have some fun with it, after all, social media is where people come to be entertained.
And don’t use AI to write your copy, it’s not going to have any personality. If you’re a small team, there are free tools like Canva you can use to create nice-looking images. In a world where so much content is consumed on mobile devices, nobody cares if videos are filmed on a phone. Keep people excited for what’s coming next. Tell your story.
If bands with little to no money can produce well-executed and creative social media content, you really have no excuse.
The programme for Manchester Punk Festival was great. Not only was the content well worth a read, but it looked really nice too – with the same designs featuring on the 2023 festival merch, wristbands and on-site creatives. It was emailed to me a few days before the event, so I could start investigating some bands I’d not heard before and begin planning who I was going to see. It was also full of interviews, articles, and information about upcoming releases and gigs. And because it was so well designed, individual pages from the programme could be easily reworked and shared as social media posts, too.
By having such a well-planned and well-executed programme, creating supporting content for other channels was made way easier. The designs were cohesive and the branding was strong, so I could easily identify the posts in my social media feeds.
This underlines the importance of having a content plan and a solid brand identity. Not only does it mean you’re not scrapping around for something to post last minute, you can repurpose the same content many times over, either by tweaking the messaging or changing the format in which it’s being delivered to maximise its impact across as many channels as possible, with minimum fuss.
And just because the festival is over for another year doesn’t mean the sense of community has dropped off a cliff.
In fact, in the past few weeks, photographers, videographers, and reviewers have been releasing content – so I’ve been reliving what a great weekend it was, and engaging with it. Many of the people creating this amazing content are not officially part of the festival, but they do it out of love for the scene. And so, Manchester Punk Festival is getting a lot of exposure for free.
If the content you’re putting out is good enough, you should be able to benefit from user-generated content, too. And if people do show support, be sure to thank them for sharing, liking, and commenting to make them feel part of the community.
Mutually beneficial partnerships are a great way to increase your reach and tap into new audiences. If you’re in a position to collaborate with another brand that shares your values, it’s a win-win. Manchester Punk Festival collaborated with Signature Brew – a brewery which has been working with independent artists and music events since 2011.
When it comes to seeking out collaborators, don’t expect people to do it for free, but also, bear in mind that paying someone to promote your brand can make it come across as less authentic.
Another big part of DIY punk is activism. Many gigs and festivals raise money for charities or are outright fundraisers for a specific cause. A festival I attend in London each year, Wonkfest, has a collection point for a local women’s refuge that’s usually overflowing by mid-afternoon.
In a world of greenwashing scandals and corporations making donations just so they can benefit from tax relief, if your brand is going to stand for something, it’d better be able to back it up. There’s no point in picking a charity or cause to support if you’re just treating it as a PR exercise, and your community won’t get behind it either.
So, that’s my musings on my favourite musical genre, and how you can introduce some of what makes this niche community so special into your marketing strategy.