The BYCombo mission

BYCombo is a nonprofit incubator of self-sacrificing rock bands. We’re here to launch the interdependence revolution, a movement devoted to bringing forth this century’s most historically consequential rock music!

Of course, indie-pendence is the dominant ideology in rock today. So why is inter-dependence needed as an alternative? Here’s why…

Tools… are rules

Indie rock loves to help the underdog, which is why it’s all about lowering the barriers to entry for artists. To do this, it provides them with tools to build a fanbase on their own: distribution services, streaming algorithms, social media analytics, and so forth.

These tools of empowerment aren’t free, though— they cost the artist’s time and energy. And yet, since they’re available to every artist, they don’t give any meaningful boost to those who use them; they merely set back those who don’t. But… this is how rules work! Which is to say:

By expecting artists to empower themselves, indie rock effectively requires them to do so. Each tool of empowerment then becomes yet another rule to follow.

A plea for a truce

Hi, I’m Bennett from the Bobtail Yearlings. Let’s be clear, the best artists don’t waste time and energy on empowerment; it comes to them naturally, as a byproduct of building up their talents. So I’d rather not be indie-pendent at all! I want my band to be inter-dependent: to have a label help us build our fanbase— and, in turn, have this label depend on us to make the best art.

By not using indie rock’s tools, however, I’m seen as lazy and incompetent— and then my band isn’t charitably supported as an indie artist would be. But charitable support is such a winning advantage, no other artist can hope to compete unless they’re indie as well. In turn, this means a label can stay competitive only by signing indie artists. So here’s my dilemma:

To make the best art, a band must be interdependent. This sets them back, however, since every artist today is expected to follow indie rock’s rules— and thus, to reap the benefits of using its tools.

Now, rule makers and rule followers may see some poetic justice here. Rules exist for a reason, after all, so rule breakers really can’t complain about being penalized. Yet breaking the rules is what it truly means to be creative! So let’s not shut them out either.

Return of the rock martyrs

The thing is, rock was interdependent once. But as trust eroded, each side took unfortunate yet necessary steps not to need the other. Indie artists now build a fanbase on their own, to show they can walk away from talks with a label. This leaves them with less time and energy to make art, of course— but their fans charitably support them to cover this weakness.

Well, then, can’t an interdependent band just promise to make the best art instead? Sadly, no. In a world of charitable support, all art is subjective; and in a world of mutual distrust, nothing subjective can be a deciding factor. So, in turn, indie labels now just weigh the objective size of an artist’s fanbase, rather than their talents. What a mess! This leaves only one solution:

To revive interdependence, a band must spend all their time and energy— for untold years of their lifetime— on a demo that objectively advances the art form and couldn’t have been made for any less effort.

So rock is waiting for… a self-sacrificing martyr. But martyrs are the ones who make history! Which is why I spent 25,000 hours— twelve full-time years— on Yearling’s Bobtail. And, of course, it was by not building a fanbase that I was free to code and illustrate the audio webcomic. Because surely even the indie labels love it when a creative work needs to break the rules!

Who gatekeeps the gatekeepers?

Well… not so fast. As barriers to entry are lowered, the applicant pool gets flooded, overwhelming the indie labels and other gatekeepers. This makes them insist all the more firmly that artists use indie rock’s tools, which serve to keep every work bite-sized and uniform with others.

It’s worse than just that, however: Because these indie gatekeepers stay close to their local scenes, they’re seen as the “good guys.” So whatever they like is assumed to be the best of what’s out there. But… studies show that it’s human nature to dislike creativity!

Creative ideas are unfamiliar, and this makes us uncomfortable. Now, the corporate “bad guys” just ignore this discomfort, since it’s all unfamiliar to them. But the good guys pride themselves on their hard-won instincts, so they interpret the discomfort as a sincere warning from their gut. Ironically, then, as Frank Zappa noted, this makes them worse at discovering creativity!

But worst of all, any band who breaks the good guys’ rules is technically a bad guy as well— and indie rock is here to shut out all the bad guys! So this is the heart of the problem:

A morally perfect ideology is obliged to lock its rules in place. As such, indie rock can never allow the next generation to start a revolution of their own— especially if what they’re asking for is interdependence.

A hundred Yearling’s Bobtails

But the situation isn’t hopeless: Some fans agree with me that indie rock has made music worse! This is the first step toward reviving interdependence, because budding entrepreneurs see our discontent as their cue to disrupt the rock market. And industry executives in genres that never went indie— like hip hop— can jump in and lend their expertise.

So, plenty out there would love to hear a demo that advances the art form— they’ve just lost faith that any artist in rock still has such ambitions, given how far indie rock has lowered the barriers to entry. The final step toward reviving interdependence, then, is for an alternative counterculture to willfully raise these barriers. Well, BYCombo has some great news!

Interdependent bands can now restore the public’s faith by paying a steep cost of entry: To have their demo shown in BYCombo’s registry, each band must sacrifice a serious chunk of lifetime.

Picture a hundred BYCombo bands. By breaking indie rock’s rules, they’ll be making the most creative and most disruptive works of our time. This will be the next revolution in rock history!

© 2023 BYCombo