An award winning media company committed to sharing the perspectives of people of colour from marginalised genders

The rise of DIY musicians

24 Feb 2016

Whenever I find a track that really grabs my attention, I tend to do a thorough background search on the artist and producer to find out everything I can about them. This is so I can reaffirm the influences in their beat-making or flow, however most of the time this information is difficult to find because these artists tend to be so young or new to the game. Although frustrating, it’s signalling a change in the way music is being made and released; keeping the audience, or at least myself, wanting more from these musicians.

For a young and budding music producer, social media platforms such as Twitter and Soundcloud help speed up accessibility, providing a free arena for musicians to put out their music autonomously. Anyone from labels to journalists can have a listen and repost a track from a relatively unknown artist, promote and share what they like, potentially garnering some wide-spread attention. Scotland’s finest, Sam Gellaitry is a clear example of this. He’s been releasing music for the past two years at least and is an affiliate of the music collective ‘Soulection’. His rise to fame is owed to sending over beats he released on Soundcloud. Now he’s signed to XL Recordings and released two EPs, Short Stories and Escapism – he’s still only 18 years old.

With this new age of DIY musicians, it’s interesting to see that many have been influenced by the hard hitting producers such as Dilla, Timbaland and Flying Lotus and you can hear this in the production of their tracks. Tom Misch, a 20 year old producer hailing from South London, is an undeniable predecessor of the late Dilla. He’s been making beats for a while and has produced for the likes of Goldlink and Jaden Smith already, as well as releasing EPs (one of which made it to our Albums of 2015 list) . With moves like this being made, it’s affirming and reassuring to see that age is being seen less as a prerequisite for making an authentic classic 90s sound which was, and still is, so popular.

In a recent interview with FACT, Timbaland stated that “we don’t have producers anymore, but instead, great programmers”, and to an extent this is true. Anyone of any age can download cheap music software and make a beat, and let’s be honest, a lot of it is awful. However, if Timbaland were to have a look at the Instagram pages of Sam Gellaitry or Tom Misch, he would see that these young producers are using instruments such as keyboards and guitars to make these beats, and in turn are producing great music. Furthermore, when Timbaland was at the top of his game producing track in the 90s, he did not have access to the type of software that is available today.  He had to produce tracks a certain way, but now with the change in technology, it only makes sense that the definition of a producer is changing too.


Budding musicians are starting off at a very young age. Little Simz, a 21 year old London-born female artist who has adamantly released all her music independently so far, has been acknowledged by Kendrick Lamar as one to watch and last month was listed in Forbes’ ‘30 under 30 Europe’. There are a fair few MCs putting music out who struggle to gain attention on the scene with so much competition. This is not the case for Novelist, who recently departed from his group ‘The Square’ and has just continued to show progress. This was most evident at his recent 19th birthday bash on Radar Radio. He was able to bring out P Money, Jammer, Skepta, AJ Tracey and so many current popular grime artists to do a set. Impressive and necessary, he’s shown that the younger generation have a lot to offer and are helping to keep good music going.

The most important thing about these artists and producers is that they are not successful relative to their age, but that they are successful and have been recognised because of their talent. Being young is beneficial of course, because it means they have a bit longer to achieve so much more as long as they keep doing what they are doing.