The BYCombo mission

BYCombo is a nonprofit incubator of self-sacrificing rock bands. We’re here to lead 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?

Hi, I’m Bennett from the Bobtail Yearlings! Let me explain…

Tools… are rules

Indie rock roots for the underdog, and so its mission is to lower the barriers to entry for artists. As such, it provides them with tools of empowerment⁠— social media analytics, streaming platform algorithms, and so forth⁠— that allow them to bypass the labels and build a fanbase on their own.

Except… here’s the problem: These tools only offer an advantage over other artists who don’t use them⁠— and today, most do. So there’s no longer much benefit; from here on out, their main purpose is to punish any holdouts. But wait… this is how rules work! By encouraging artists to use these tools, indie rock has now made it the rule to do so!

And these tools aren’t free; they cost time and energy that could be spent making art instead. So if you’re a band trying to make the best art, you won’t bother with them⁠— leaving you worse off in this new Age of Empowerment! Yet from what I’ve seen, few others sympathize. Well, okay… then how about a truce?

Yes⁠— since rules are made to be followed, bands who refuse to use indie rock’s tools can’t complain about being punished. But⁠— breaking the rules is how rock history gets made! So let’s not shut them out either.

The outsider’s dilemma

Here’s the curious part: Ever notice that the best rappers don’t worry about empowerment? It comes to them for free, if they just build up their talents. For example, Eminem didn’t have a real fanbase before he was discovered by Dr. Dre; his self-released EP sold all of 250 copies. Why does hip hop work so differently from indie rock?

It’s simple: While indie rock was founded by underdogs, hip hop was founded by outsiders. What’s the difference? The public doesn’t root for outsiders. So as a minority myself, I’m drawn to hip hop’s inter-dependent way of thinking. I’d rather be an “Eminem of rock,” and have a label advocate for my band⁠— while having this label, in turn, depend on us to make the best art.

By not using indie rock’s tools, however, I’m seen as a hobbyist⁠— 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. Which means the labels can only compete by signing indie artists⁠— who work hard not to need them. What a mess! And yet the future is clear:

As indie artists grow further empowered, labels will soon have no reason to exist⁠— unless they get back to signing interdependent bands, who do need them… as it’s the only way to make better art!

Return of the rock martyrs

And that’s the funny part: Rock was interdependent once! Well then, can’t a band simply promise to make the best art, as before? Sadly, no. In a world of charitable support, all art is now subjective; talent predicts nothing. This means an indie label’s only trusted measure is the objective size of an artist’s fanbase. Good grief… Can we fix this mess?

Yes! See, indie rock has a glaring weakness: It doesn’t actually separate the best artists from the worst. It picks “serious” artists over “casual” ones, in the faith that this amounts to the same thing. My solution, then, is to show that indie rock’s rules, taken to their logical extreme, will force us to dismiss all our best artists as hobbyists! Here’s how it works:

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

But who’d volunteer to be the first of these new martyrs? A hungry outsider, that’s who! 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. Indie rock’s basic assumption is that all artists face the same hurdles⁠— so if you just clear a path for the underdog, you’ll still help the rest. Except… an outsider’s hurdles aren’t the same. To compensate for not being the one you’re rooting for, they need to work much harder, to be much better. But then… this makes them the underdog’s biggest hurdle!

So even as the outsider builds up objective strengths, hoping to win over an unfriendly public⁠— all the while, indie rock assures victory for the underdog by keeping its criteria subjective! This explains why it favors music that lacks well-crafted hooks, for example, and why it refuses to examine its natural bias against creative invention.

Suffice it to say, then… the indie labels rejected my demo. They also ignored later projects of mine that promised to help their underdogs: Bobtail Method, my songwriting book, and Bobtail Dominoes, my musical tile game. So even altruism is a losing strategy for the outsider! And now I finally understood:

A movement that’s kind to the underdog must be cruel to the outsider. In other words, indie rock will never sympathize with an outsider’s need for interdependence⁠— because it means to shut them out!

Worst of all, if the major labels are “bad guys,” then the indie labels are “good guys.” Well, who finally put the good guys in charge? Millennials! It’s their greatest achievement, which they now protect at all costs. So anyone who questions their gatekeepers⁠— especially anyone from an older generation⁠— is a bad guy as well! And this gets at the heart of the problem:

As the first rock movement to believe its ideals to be universal, indie rock is also the first to lock down its rules for good. As such, there’s no historical precedent to show us how to resist⁠— or even to assure us that we can.

A hundred Yearling’s Bobtails

But if we can’t resist, then let’s revolt! How? We simply… wait. See, indie rock has another glaring weakness: It wasn’t meant to age well⁠— and so it won’t. After all, if an artist was charitably supported in their own time, why would future generations see them as the underdog?

Sure enough, Gen Z now sees what the older generations see: Indie rock is their hair metal⁠— which makes the next revolution their grunge! And this is the first step to reviving interdependence from the outside, because it’s only once the youth are discontent that budding entrepreneurs will try to disrupt the rock market.

These “Dr. Dres of rock” would love to discover bands who can promise to make the best art⁠— but how? Too many artists are coming in through indie rock’s low barriers to entry. The next step, then, is for an alternative source to willfully raise its barriers. And here’s where BYCombo comes in!

Interdependent bands can now earn the listener’s trust 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 to advance the art form.

Picture a hundred BYCombo bands, all of them breaking indie rock’s rules to make the most creative works of our times⁠— only to still be dismissed as hobbyists by the indie gatekeepers! They would be this generation’s Beatles, Sex Pistols, and Shaggs, rolled into one. This, then, is the final step to reviving interdependence⁠— the next revolution in rock history!

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