Over a year ago, my friend Dan and I got laid off from Brand X, the Los Angeles Times’ short-lived, shuttering alternative weekly. In many ways, our time there was a dream job: our editors trusted our reporting judgement and gave us the go-ahead to cover the stories we felt needed to be told. In our L.A. Unheard column, we provided the city’s first, and often only, mainstream coverage of local artists from Haim to Lord Huron — Dan even had a cover story on Kreayshawn weeks before she was popular enough to be sick of. We questioned the future of Coachella and applauded when the festival fixed its problems. We wrote about craft beer’s rising popularity, surprising art venues and dozens of other topics at the Internet’s ravenous pace.
Then they shut down the website. Working so fast, producing so much every day began to feel silly. We went out for drinks on our last night and talked about how we could keep going and how we could cover a broader range than just new music, one or two or three blog posts at a time. In the months since, laments over the state of music journalism have faced publications such as the Village Voice, SPIN (which won’t be printing a year-end issue), and many more, even making their way to Hipster Runoff, who wailed through his satiric fourth wall over the “broken indie machine.” The site Prefix has been offering new writers $2 a blog post — better than nothing, they argue. You’ve heard these horror stories from somebody — they don’t get any less depressing.
Dan and I want to do something different. Something removed from advertising and analytics data. A site that doesn’t have to put its “premium” content next to cat .gifs or post slideshows to boost page views. A site without three-sentence news posts. That something is UNCOOL, a website that will publish longform features, essays and criticism — and nothing more. We will not publish 3 times a day, or 10 — just once a week. Our hope is to be a regular source of the kind of great music story you see every once in a while in the New Yorker or even, yes, Pitchfork’s new cover stories, that you’ll come back and spend time with us with your Sunday coffee or during a weekday Twitter debate. We’re inspired by modern sites like One Week // One Band and The Classical, places that are open-minded and enthusiastic without sacrificing intelligence. We want to feature writing that’s funny and creative and personal without being
Thought Catalog indulgent.
We want to be reader-supported. We have the supply — writers and editors from Grantland, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, the Atlantic, the Paris Review and many more; the authors behind multiple 33 1/3 books; the next generation of Tumblr bloggers — and we’re going to ask you, in a Kickstarter coming in a few weeks, for the demand. I don’t want to run a single advertisement on UNCOOL ever. No beer. No shoes. Not even music labels. We will not be starting a festival or promoting a CMJ showcase or anything that requires us take money from anyone other than you (and we won’t be rude and ask you for cash to throw ourselves a party). That means we’re free. No conflicts, no nothing. We can write about music that’s hundreds of years old or an album that’s coming out next week; go to the Taylor Swift concert or dig deep into Swedish death-metal. Our work will be limited only by our writers’ curiosity and passion. We’re going to build a beautiful website and work with the best artists and photographers to bring you an experience that’s clear, simple and visually powerful.
We want to pay our writers what they’re worth. Serious journalism isn’t cheap — or at least we believe it shouldn’t be. That means hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands, for good, long work. We’re not expecting to raise New Yorker money, but we’re betting we can beat Prefix and a few other publications. We’re not looking for donations: we’re looking for (generous) subscribers. If we make more money than we anticipate, we’ll run more work and you’ll be building the foundation for a new kind of publication.
This is the beginning. We’ll be back in early November with our Kickstarter campaign — in the meantime, ask us questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter and Tumblr. Let’s talk about music.