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Hoard posed the questions, which came in a formulaic email that was presumably sent to a host of online publications, and LAS Managing Editor Eric J Herboth dutifully answered them. This all went down during the first week of February, 2001, and it goes without saying that these comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or values of the staff of LAS as a whole. Some of us presumably really like MTV, and perhaps Milli Vanilli as well.
It remains to be seen if our input, or anyone else's for that matter, will actually see the light of day in an article, but we thought we would post our portion (edited for boringness) of the interview here. Just for shits and giggles. Tell us what you think. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and comments, which we may post at a later date in a follow up article of our own, should we chose to write such a follow up article of our own at a later date.
Salon: What (if you know) are the costs of running a web-zine as opposed to a real (paper) 'zine? Would you be able to do what you do without the Internet? Would your 'zine / publication exist without the web?
LAS: Well, basic costs include web hosting, and bandwidth usage, the domain name - things like that. There are also infrequent expenditures on site design and identity development, promotional type things, et cetera. After that there are payroll costs, which we keep to a minimum, and mailing costs associated with sending out materials to our staff. Print magazines have a larger upfront cost for printing, binding, distribution, et cetera, but they also have a much larger revenue base since the marketing world is, for the most part, still operating with this archaic belief that it is better to advertise in print than on the web. We could certainly do the same thing we are doing in a print format rather than online, but with far less interactivity and less content - the logistics of publishing a print magazine every Monday dwarf those of updating a website every Monday. I don't know if I would be doing this in a print magazine - I probably would have run out of patience by now.
I must say that I certainly hope referring to print magazines as "real" was simply a poor choice of words and that you are not implying that online magazines are "fake" or less important.
Tell me a bit about your balance sheet (the figurative one, if there's no real one). What do you pay for contributions, layout, etc. as opposed to what you bring in via ads?
So far we are operating in the black, just barely. We actually only recently began paying for contributions - before that we were all working here for free. I personally contribute upwards of 80 percent of the content, so that cuts to the chase on most payment issues. Our feature writers are paid on a per-case basis, if at all. Some features require a lot of work and research, others require very little at all. I have found that writing for online magazines is far easier and not terribly less lucrative than writing for small local or regional magazines. Ad revenue varies but our rates have always been some of the cheapest on the web, especially considering our diverse content, broad readership and the amount of traffic our site gets.
Do you think the Internet has facilitated a boom in music 'zines? Do you think that the web has opened up opportunities for amateur critics who wouldn't have otherwise made themselves heard? How so?
I think the Internet has made it easier for people to slop something together and post it on the web, often times in a faceless and sheepish manner. Most music magazines are full of scenester snobs who really aren't that knowledgeable about music, simply about one small niche or genre. The web has definitely facilitated amateur critics since it is so DIY in nature - you don't need to get your foot in the door with a print magazine or an editor anymore. You can just purchase a URL and do up your own magazine.
What do you think the proliferation of 'zines / web sites says about music? Is it that there's simply more music to cover? Is it that tastes are becoming more diverse and fragmented?
Tastes have always been diverse and fragmented, but before there was simply no one covering a lot of the music that was out there. So much of the truly challenging and innovative music was underground and assholes like SPIN and Rolling Stone didn't want to touch it, primarily because they operate first and foremost at the behest of advertisers, which are by and large corporations. I mean, look at the shit they are covering - Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Creed. The only magazine that came close to having any integrity was MaximumRockNRoll and they alienated so many people with their hardline stance on music/scene politics. There have always been bands out there - from the Notwist and Ink & Dagger to Dälek and DMS and God Speed You Black Emperor! - that no one in the mainstream media "got" at all. Or cared to get, because no one was going to pay them to do it. And if they didn't get it they didn't cover it. There isn't more music to cover - there are just more people covering it.
The fragmentation is also bad though, because you look at places like Buddyhead or whatever and all they do is cover the same bands over and over again. From time to time it may be a different band with different people, but it is all the same stuff. It is all so scene specific. That turns a lot of people off. Actually, before I started putting LAS together I tried writing for some of the other magazines, but the people running them were so stuck up and full of themselves that you had to pass some kind of "cool" test first, regardless of your writing skills. Rocket Fuel wasn't going to do an article on deforestation. They were going to do an article on the fucking Get Up Kids. 99 percent of the magazines out there aren't magazines at all - they are fanzines. Just like the teen bubblegum magazines that used to cover Tiffany and New Kids on the Block. Tunnel vision. Blinders on. The only magazine with a concentrated music section that came close to being as diverse as LAS was Pillowfight. But they were still a music-only magazine. And now they're dead anyway. I totally respect all of our peers out there but the scene "zines" are just so one-dimensional. I hope it isn't a reflection of their personalities.
Do you think the proliferation of these sites has changed rock criticism? Does it make the major rock papers (Spin, Rolling Stone, Village Voice, etc.) more likely to consider more independent, lesser known bands or minority critical viewpoints?
I know for a fact that SPIN and Rolling Stone aren't more likely to consider anything, because it goes back to the money behind it. Sure, their online sites often feature works by independent writers and they often cover more independent or diverse music, but we will never see that in the print magazines. What do they call it - the Good Old Boys club or something? They're dinosaurs and they are run by the MTV culture. They are just the fine print from MTV, what can't be fit into a 30-second commercial. Whatever MTV is jocking is what SPIN and Rolling Stone are going to cover. When I was in high school they at least still had the College Album chart in the back of Rolling Stone. Now it is all bullshit pop music that they will be dissing in two years. They're all flakes. They were all over Milli Vanilli and New Kids on the Block, Vanilla Ice and all of that. Now they are right back in the same place again, just with different faces. SEE ALSO: www.salon.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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