Being on the overlap of the dying print industry and the struggling music industry, Decatur based Paste Magazine has had to face down the same squeeze most everyone else has. First they tried a “pay what you want” subscription model as a creative solution, and then earlier this year reached a breaking point and began a donation drive to have fans pitch in to keep the publication alive in exchange for rare songs donated from musicians. But some around the city have expressed contempt for Paste and how they have dealt with their struggles, epitomized by Chunklet Magazine calling out Paste on their website.
Now, I can completely appreciate the sentiment of harpooning other music publications, I do it all the time. In fact, I’m about to do it in this article. And I’ve even been critical of Paste on occasion myself. But this Chunklet rant is just so poorly executed and lazily put together, and that’s surprising because most of what I read from them is usually hilarious. If you’re going to throw down the gauntlet, at least do it with some style. Paste has plenty of elements ripe for satire, but very little outside of 5th grade humour is utilized here. This just reeks of nothing but vitriol jealousy.
As I’ve already admitted, Paste has plenty of imperfections, but there are far worse publications in the world. Compared to other national mags like Spin or Rolling Stone, I’d take Paste over them any day of the week. Regardless of the state of Paste currently, they were on the forefront of backing this Internet music revolution, and they were way ahead of the curve in that respect. They have backed some bands that I don’t think deserve the credit they receive, but they have also done a lot of positive things for the local scene. And right now with all of the problems the music print industry is having, they are doing their best to experiment and try different things in order to find a new paradigm of obtaining revenue. Even if the Radiohead model wasn’t extremely successful and this donation drive is only a temporary solution, they should be applauded for not just sitting on their ass waiting for the walls to crumble around them like everyone else. If the print industry is going to survive in any meaningful way, it is going to take pioneers like Paste to illuminate that path. The fact that so many people are willing to rally around Paste to keep it alive points to a widespread appreciation of the value of this magazine.
As much as the Chunklet stab seems to have gotten the most attention, they aren’t the only one attacking Paste. Stomp And Stammer’s Jeff Clark expressed his disapproval of Paste’s donation drive by saying “I hope they don’t go out of business, but if you can’t make it, you shouldn’t beg. It kind of compromises what you do.” Now this hypocrisy annoys me much more than the weak Chunklet swipe. The issues of objectivity and uncompromised music journalism is a subject that has been of great interest to me over my time as a blogger, and I’ve recently been working on a piece addressing these issues. Without going too far into this specifically, as I will hopefully post that up very soon, you would be hard pressed to convince me there isn’t a single publication in this state, let alone the entire world, that isn’t at least marginally compromised by the method in which it receives its revenue. It would seem to me that finding a way for your audience to pay the tab would compromise what you’re doing far less than the artists you are supposedly critiquing paying you off. I wonder if The Coathangers weren’t the heavily funded, PR and advertisement buying juggernauts they are if Stomp and Stammer wouldn’t have put forth this spooge-fest disguised as journalism. If that article isn’t compromised by something, the only way I can make sense of it is that it is satire and they agree with me that Scramble is the worst album to come out of Atlanta all year (seriously, at least the first record was funny, without the shtick all you have left is overconfidence and talentlessness). I wonder if that writer can even get a hard on without listening to that terrible band. But I digress.
What is really going on here is that the local garage punk community will stop at nothing to oppress any dissenting voice that doesn’t agree they are the greatest and everything else sucks. They like to purport that they are the little guys fighting against the establishment, but the reality is exactly the opposite. Now that Paste is weak, it is time for them to try and pick it off and continue monopolizing their influence. Look, I’m glad that scene has enjoyed so much success and I’ve got nothing but congratulations for everything they achieved, but the punk rockers currently dominate almost every local record label, represent nearly every band getting national attention, even have their own documentary, and have firm control over every major local publication except Paste, and now Paste needs to die?
We don’t all have to hold hands and sing “Cumbaya”, but I think there’s enough room to support a lot of different voices and opinions in this big city, and that is the only way a scene can remain healthy and vital in the long run anyways.
But, the pendulum is swinging back, and I’m not going to pronounce this garage-punk fad over yet, but it is most definitely on the down slope. Sure they will always have their crowd and the people that dig it, but just as that scene was a reaction to the mathy scene of days past, what’s happening in the city at this moment is a direct reaction to the oversaturation of shitty punk. You guys had your decade in the spotlight, you had your glory, and whining that you guys don’t have enough, like wishing Paste dead, is only going to exacerbate the growing sentiment that it is time for a changing of the guard. There is a vibrant pocket of incredible bands and enthusiastic fans that are embracing intelligent music and diversity of sound and this hi-tech age. The old guys may not be aware of it from their ivory towers, or maybe they just don’t care, but there is a serious movement going on in this town right now, and these ridiculously talented artists deserve their moment just as the punks did.
In the end though, as much as these punk journalists wish they could eliminate and drown out every other voice and be able to keep shoving Black Lips clones down everyone’s throat, they are on the losing side of history. The young kids who are the future audience of this city’s music scene don’t want to hear the same old thing over and over again. And thanks to the Internet and us pajama-clad amateurs, they have plenty of alternatives. When I started this meager blog, there were only a few others in the city, and now I can hardly even keep up with all the new local outlets. And I love it, there is so much diversity of opinion. It’s great that everybody can find a niche and a voice. We are a major metropolitan city and we should be able to support everybody doing something special. So punk rockers, you had a great run, but you don’t need to cry just because somebody else is getting some attention, and don’t be jealous just because Atlanta is also willing to support people that don’t agree with you in addition to you. I’m going to keep on reading both Chunklet and Paste, even if that is going to make Mr. Owings soil his panties, because there is enough room here for both of them.
- Posted by Davy Minor on July 16, 2009 at 8:49 pm