This editorial originally appeared on LamplighterNJ.com in July 2014
I was fourteen years old in the winter of 2004 when my brother, two friends, and I decided to start a punk rock band called Waking Dream. For the record, fourteen is young enough to find nothing wrong with wearing your own band’s t-shirt to your own band’s first show, and it’s young enough for your father to think it his responsibility to give that band an embarrassing pep-talk onstage before that show.
Back then, the only tools we had at our disposal were point-and-click website builders and the obligatory attendance of our parents(chauffeurs) at those shows. Needless to say, that didn’t get us very far. So a year or two later, I put down my bass and picked up an electric guitar to form a new piano-driven rock band called Beyond Repair. Fortunately, we were able to progress a little farther than our previous project had allowed, thanks to the last few flickering embers of Purevolume’s once indomitable popularity and the eventual emergence of MySpace, which had both made the digital climate friendlier for local, unsigned musicians such as ourselves. In 2007, when our style became noticeably more aggressive, we changed our name to My Eyes Fall Victim. At some point after that, Mark Zuckerberg happened, and MySpace, a social network that had placed heavy value on the importance of undiscovered bands, was dethroned by Facebook, a social network that didn’t. Seven years later, My Eyes Fall Victim still exists, and so does Facebook.
Now, while that introductory paragraph may seem to serve no purpose other than allowing me to wax nostalgic all over your computer screens, my true intention was to walk you through my experience with all the evolutionary stages of web promotion available to local bands up to this point. But hold that thought until I circle back to it.
After high school, I was accepted into William Paterson University’s music program. In my first semester, I was placed in a class called Creative Non-Fiction, during which I rediscovered just how much I had always loved writing. This epiphany, paired with my general distaste for the university’s music program, led me to switch my major to English. From then on, I was writing whatever I could put my pen to: short stories, short films, YouTube sketches, drunken blog rants, and, after meeting our editor-in-chief Patrick Boyle in a literature class we shared my senior year, music reviews for Lamplighter.
Again, the previous paragraph will probably appear to be nothing more than another personal walk down memory lane, but what I’m trying to say is that I get it. I’ve been there as a musician. I watched Victory Records podcasts on my 5th generation iPod Classic and I read Artist Development on my lunch periods in high school. I’ve been guilty of Googling ways around Facebook’s event invite limits, and I’ve made the conscious decision to save that new shirt from Hot Topic for the show on Friday night. I’ve also been there as a reader. I’ve seen Pitchfork influence the entirety of indie-anything music and I’ve watched Alternative Press change from a legitimate source for well-written reviews to Ronnie Radke’s personal RSS feed. Now I’m here as an observer, watching as my fellow independent musicians realize that MTV and the evil record labels can’t be blamed for those meager TuneCore payouts every month.
I’m still here now, and I get it. I see the cracks and the voids in our little scenes. This is where I circle back to that part about web promotion: the internet is not a welcoming place for musicians anymore. No longer are we the “cool” crowd, targeted for our ability to bring consumers along with us. We are the targeted consumers now, as evidenced by Facebook requiring payment to place our status updates in 100% of our fans’ news feeds. That doesn’t sit well with me. I want musicians to be “cool” again, and not because they have big, open wallets. As a musician and as a writer, I want to publish pieces that promote the best alternative musicians the Garden State has to offer, while also giving our state’s readers the engaging content that they deserve. That’s why I applied to be Lamplighter’s music editor back in the spring of 2012, and it’s why I think you should donate to our Indiegogo campaign now.
The $8000 budget we are asking for will manifest itself in t-shirts, stickers, postcards, annual website fees, and two issues of our magazine. This budget also allows us to run local events with both cheap admission for the fans and substantial guarantees for the performing artists, policies that we strongly believe in. But more importantly, every dollar we receive is a vote of confidence in our mission to promote all things Jersey. This is as much a campaign to keep Lamplighter alive symbolically as it is an effort to keep us afloat financially. Whether we reach our funding goal or not, our success will be measured not just by the dollars we raise, but by the funders we connect with. We can print the best-looking magazine that money will buy, but it will mean nothing without the support of the community for which it was printed.
I know the scene has problems, and I could write volumes on the disconnect that currently exists between local artists, venues, promoters, record labels, and fans. These were the people who used to come together to celebrate music simply because it gave them joy. I can recall so many nights, both on and off the stage, willingly sweating beside dozens of other kids at venues that have since been shut down. I want to bring that sense of community back to New Jersey’s music circles. I want our bands to feel like real artists and not just moneybags for profiteering promoters. Lamplighter may not be the cure-all for this broken scene, but we’re doing our part to create a smooth and fluid channel between New Jersey’s alternative artists and the residents who want to read about them. We’re filling one metaphorical pothole at a time. All I ask is that you chip in for the asphalt.