A tip of the hat to Kyla and Peter
This time last year, we had about sent the last print edition of No Depression to press and begun licking our personal and collective wounds. I’m not going to look at the calendar; I could be some weeks off, but it hardly matters.
For my part, I began the process of withdrawing from the business. I think I’ve been clear about why: There wasn’t room in any economic model I could understand for me to be a part of the internet projects Kyla envisioned, and it seemed clear to me that Kyla could and should be empowered to try. And I had the sense that, with the Buddy Miller piece, I might have said finally everything useful I have to say about music. I’m still not sure about that, but the impulse hasn’t altogether died, and so we’ll see.
Last fall, as the website was slowly coming toward is launch, Kyla sat on a panel at the Americana conference in Nashville. I wasn’t there, but either Kyla or somebody else told me that a question had come up about why ND hadn’t moved in this direction earlier, and her answer was something like, “Have you ever met Grant?” And everybody laughed. I’d have laughed, too, had I been there.
I was a little tickled by that, in part because the earlier iteration of the website had been somewhat more my vision than it had been Peter’s or Kyla’s, and I tended to monitor its numbers almost every day — when our host made them available, and at some point that hosting entity made clear to us that our numbers were not their priority. Gee, thanks.
I don’t mind being the resident curmudgeon, obviously.
With closure of the website Kyla and Peter labored so long and at such expense to create, I am saddened, for I really wanted them to succeed. They are, after all, my friends, and ND was a brand I helped to create. It is my legacy, too.
The larger issue, for me, is this: The internet has been sold to us as the great equalizer, the harbinger of great and democratic expressions of ideas and such.
What it seems to be, instead, is a monument to the new amateurism, and a testimonial to the power of big business to reinvent itself.
Kyla can explain the details, but suffice it to say that web advertising for a niche site like ND doesn’t pay nearly what print advertising paid when ND was a niche magazine. The great illusion is that without printing and distribution, the web is less expensive to produce. It’s not. My best guess is it’s about the same, what with the constant changes in what people can get and expect to receive online. But in no way are niche sites like ND able to pay contributors what they were able to pay them in print, and most of them — apparently (I’ve not been out hunting work, yet) — don’t pay at all.
The businesses making money on the web are (a) selling something and/or (b) able to attract millions of unique readers each month. Not tens of thousands, as I gather ND was able to attract.
Which leads to a certain kind of blandness, and consigns specialty sites interested in, say, roots music, to, well, to I don’t know what.
I’m tired of being sad. I’m tired of mourning the magazine I was once privileged to be a part of. I’m tired of being confused by the new media environment.
I’m mindful of something Billy Joe Shaver said one time: you can’t quit, because there’s nobody to turn in your notice to.
And I’m not quitting. Nor, I hope, will Peter and Kyla quit.
I wanted simply to take a moment to acknowledge how hard they’ve worked this last year, and against what considerable odds they’ve labored.
To thank them for having tried.
(And if this makes no sense, please understand that I might have managed three hours of sleep last night, for no particularly good reason. So if I seem more blithering and idiotic than usual, that’s my excuse.)