Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Start-up Journal: Follow Your Passion.

The latest issue of JUMP hit the streets last week and I think we have made a world of progress. The design is cleaner and more interesting, the stories are tighter and more random, and we have reader service stuff that makes the mag valuable.

In my publisher's note, I suggested everyone "start a fucking band." Since we started the magazine, I've had numerous people tell me they were in bands during high school or college. And now, they have crappy jobs. In an era when money is tight, jobs are scarce and Philadelphia has few jobs where people actually produce anything, the arts, I think, may be the only hope for the future of the city.

That sounds awful but it's meant to be a positive. We have an awesome and burgeoning music scene. Rather than be known as a place with high crime or political corruption or crappy schools or shitty sports fans, we should be known as a music town.

My young friend Kevin Brosky took issue with my suggestion that everyone start a band. He says that I make it sound so easy, when it's really not. Of course, he is right. But I can't help wonder whether he was troubled by my suggestion because he knows that he's working a job that isn't where his passion rests.

I hope I pissed off a lot of people in a similar fashion. I want people to recognize that as the country deepens into the financial shithole we're digging, we really should be retreating to what makes us most happy (for me, it's baseball, Mookie and music). Quit focusing on the miserable stuff you have to do to pay the bills. Focus your energy on your passions.

Anyway ... here are a few things I learned during the production of this issue:

• Selling ads during the summer is dreadful. When businesses are slow, the last thing anyone wants to talk about is spending money (even while they know that they want to be a part of the fall issue, as it will reach a large audience).
• I need to sell ads for multiple issues well before summer.
• Free labor is unreliable labor. We had a lot of stories fall through for this issue and many of them were for random reasons. We need to get to the point when people are paid for their work. I'm hoping to begin paying for content creation starting in 2012.

• When people look through the magazine, they are impressed. But we still have a branding issue. Some people still don't know what we are.
• We are getting there, though. Today I spoke to a club owner who, eight months ago, told me that he wouldn't advertise in print anymore. But today, he said he liked the mag (he didn't say he'd advertise but I think it's coming).
• I've spoken about the mag at various events and afterward, I'm flooded by people interested in the project. Clearly, we are tapping into something.

• I'm unbelievably proud of the product we've created. Our content in this issue ranges from stories about popular bands to urban bonfires, from black radio to Internet radio, from hip hop and jazz to choral music and chamber music.
• Our web hits have been going crazy. Even on days we don't post, we get 300 or 400 hits. That seems to be people reading the recent issue's content (most likely directed to us via facebook).
• The cover story about Patty Crash has received the most hits. Number two was a surprise: a story about the 150th anniversary of the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club.
• We wrote about Joe Hardcore in the summer issue. When his annual hardcore festival happened in August, the page hits skyrocketed (679 hits on that story on one day alone). It's the most viewed story on the website. I'm not sure how to capitalize on that.

There are days when I don't want to do the magazine anymore. The work is labor intensive. Editing stories eats my life. Doing design is fun but a challenge. Selling ads is awful. Distributing magazines takes forever. And I'm never sure how the magazine is being received.

But the rewards are awesome. Last night, for instance, I ran into a kid who said, "Oh, you're the JUMP guy?" Then he told me how much he loved the latest issue. I went to the opening of a new music venue the other day and people knew the mag, and they liked it. I've hand-delivered mags to advertisers and they are pleased.

What makes me most happy is that we are covering stuff that no one else does. We are educating the region on the awesomeness of the Philly music scene. And we are doing it without selling our souls (no sponsored stories, no concessions to advertisers, etc).

We are still short of our financial goals. For this issue, I put in around $1,500 of my own money into the project (plus countless hours). But I look at this as my contribution to the local arts scene. I have no musical talents. But I can organize a crew and put together a magazine.

I'm not starting a band (not now, at least). But I'll write about you if you do.

This is my passion, my distraction from the bullshit of the world.

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