Posts Tagged ‘She and Him’

Paste not Waste

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Paste Magazine‘s recent entreaty for reader donations is the first I’ve seen of its kind. As a writer and editor, I’m well aware of the economic climate’s effects specific to the publishing industry. As the number of unemployment recipients grows, full time employees receive dramatic pay cuts and formerly reliable freelance-friendly outlets cut their entire freelancer budgets, publishers and contributors alike wonder, “What’s next?”

It’s a daunting and tricky time, to be sure, and several questions have been repeated. Is print dead? What differences will the future hold for books vs. magazines? Will niche publications be the only to survive? Where is the balance between print’s tactile satisfaction and web’s immediate conveniences and opportunities? And so on.

Paste (a 6-year old, musically-focused print publication that includes a sampler cd of new music with every issue and has a solid, complementary online presence) has chosen to appeal to readers in an honest, simple tone on their website. The Save Paste FAQ sub-page even rhetorically asks questions like “Will my donation line someone’s pocket?,” “Is this just a temporary fix?,” “Why weren’t you prepared for this?” and “Isn’t print dying? What makes you think you will survive?” In addition to tone, though, and quite interestingly, Paste also offers paying supporters an exclusive, musically sweet offering: access to a growing list of songs donated by musicians also supporting the cause – from Arrested Development and Neko Case to Josh Ritter, She and Him, Matthew Sweet, Cowboy Junkies and The Decemberists.

While the publishing industry wonders what next, and so many cower and wait for the storm to blow over, it strikes me as the ideal time for innovators to rise. I’m personally quite ready to see the new leaders emerge. And while I don’t think Paste‘s latest move is necessarily the wave of the future – more so, it’s a sign of the times – it is interesting to watch. Obviously, publishers have to change now – Paste‘s moving and shaking provides a soundtrack.

As a friend of mine pointed out, it’s all about determining a value for your product in the open market. These freebies are not, in true terms, free, and really deserve to be renamed – “taste-testers” or “feelers” anyone? In a time when a band like Radiohead offers a “pay-what-you-wish” album or an independent music magazine offers 75+ songs for as little as a dollar donation, it’s not only time for the industry to change; it’s also time for the language we use to evolve.