DIY is a pretty simple concept. Do it yourself. Whether that means household maintenance, publishing, bicycle repair or home recording, you take out the middle-man and get rid of the profit motive. Reduce, reuse, recycle. In a hyper-specialized world, it’s easy to forget how much you can do yourself.
Photo by courtesy Estudio Primate
Estudio Primate is a local music entity in Santiago that supports Chilean bands in a musical market that does very little to promote new or lesser-known music. Part recording studio, practice space and promotions, Juan Manuel Mendez and Nícolas Moreno started the studio to give a boost to Santiago’s music scene. It is located in the heart of Santiago’s Bellavista barrio and boasts 20 practice rooms and a secured recording studio with all the necessary pro software and equipment.
"I’m looking for new, talented bands and we work as if we are everything: agency, label, management, booking...everything," Mendez says.
According to Mendez, there are a lot of obstacles facing Chilean bands. Many don’t have promotion skills and hiring a manager is expensive. Radio doesn’t help much, as most stations play artists who are already well known. He adds that although many radio execs would deny it, interviews and airtime don’t come free. Same goes for large music stores. If a country with a small listening population is not treated to more of its own home-grown rock, there is little hope of an international audience.
The days of brick and mortar locales seem to be coming to a close anyhow. Nielson SoundScan, the sales source for Billboard music charts, says that sales of tangible music media have dropped 45% in the US since 2000, the best selling year to date. Internet sales on sites such as iTunes continue to climb. PricewaterhouseCoopers, an agency that predicts trends, sees physical music sales declining by half between 2009 and 2013 worldwide. This same figure goes for Chile.
Mendez also credits years of government restrictions on expression as a direct and important source of limitation. Combine this with a bundle of regulatory hoops one must jump through to start a new music venue and the live music scene gets limited even further. When it’s more profitable to open a cheap pub and throw out popular pre-recorded reggaeton, where is the incentive to try something new?
That’s where Estudio Primate comes in. Although its primary service right now is as a recording studio and practice space, there are plans in the works. They currently present shows featuring one or more of the bands that practice in their locale. In 2007 they hosted the first Ciclo Primate at La Batuta in Plaza Nuñoa, which was a presentation of two bands per week in the cold month of August.
Early this June they put on “Festival Primate,” an event that showcased Chilean bands, "Amongelatina," "Yeti," "Maraca," "Elso Tumbay," "Sintra," and "Jirafa Ardiendo." Between sets the audience could browse the side room housing local independent designers of clothing, accessories and comics. The studio also began "Sesiones Primate" this month, modeled after the Basement Sessions (a UK music TV show, featuring intimate live performances), to disseminate more Chilean rock and pop music. They are expanding into recording for local film schools as well, and planning more festivals.
Mendez and Moreno see the studio as growing into a one-stop center for Chilean rock artists. Not only do musicians come to them for rehearsal time, the studio actively seeks to promote emerging artists in Santiago. They are building alliances with online music distributors to avoid the costs of CD production and the industry wrangling, while erasing international borders.
The studio of the future will be part promoter and manager of new talent as well as a rehearsal and recording space within the two large homes the studio occupies. Eventually, they envision full outdoor festivals with a variety of stages showcasing an abundance of local acts. Much like the name Primate evokes, it is an evolution, each step leading to the next act. That’s about as organic and DIY as it gets.