Closing Out Our 20th Year with Mags, Shirts, and More
We’ve been celebrating No Depression‘s 20th anniversary all year long, as you know, and now that we’re within spitting distance of November — which means guitar-pick-throwing distance from December 31 — we thought it was a good time to both celebrate what we’ve pulled off this year and look forward to the magazines we’ll be making in 2016. The first most obvious way to celebrate is to announce that we now not only have copies of the 2015 ND print magazine for sale, but also T-shirts, bundles of archive issues, and gift cards. After all, once the Great Pumpkin wanders back into its patch this weekend, it will officially be holiday shopping season.
But before I get to details about the things we have for sale, I thought a little story was in order. I’m a writer and editor, after all, not a salesperson.
One night late last month, it was late and dark and I was sitting at a bonfire nursing a sweet red wine buzz after about a week of music festivals — first Americana Fest in Nashville, then this one, FreshGrass Festival in Western Massachusetts. Next to me was ND copy editor Stacy Chandler, who joined ND as a part-time administrative helper about eight months before FreshGrass LLC, purchased No Depression. Seated on the other side of Stacy was FreshGrass and ND tech guru Dave Champine and his wife Shelley, our community manager. We shot the shit while our boss Chris Wadsworth stood on the other side of the fire with his guitar, part of a sizable jam session that included a circle of people I don’t know, as well as legit pros like Frank Solivan, Alison Brown, and a whole Japanese bluegrass ensemble called Nessie Expedition, who absolutely slayed earlier in the day, during the festival. Peter Rowan was somewhere around the fire, just hanging out. The bassist from Nessie Expedition was having technical difficulties, so Chris’s dad, Jack, hauled his washtub bass up the hill to hold down the low end. There were maybe a dozen players in all.
Drop the phrase “a dozen musicians playing at once,” and you might think chaos had ensued. Artists and fans in other genres might have called that size of a music crowd “over-produced” or “ambitious,” but we in the roots scene know that this is just how real music actually happens in the natural world. Trailblazing stars or backyard nobodies, it doesn’t really matter. If you can call out a chord progression, if you can follow along, you’re welcome.
20 Years of ND
Indeed, the FreshGrass Festival seemed a natural punctuation mark in what has been a year of major progress here in the land of No Depression. After all, it’s our 20th anniversary. Though we’re not even going to try to pretend that the No Depression of 2015 is the same as the No Depression of 1995 (or 2005, for that matter), it’s not lost on us that there are few magazines these days who can even talk about being around 20 years. And, as is our nature, from the legacy that was handed to us by the mag’s original founders, we are inclined to both honor our past and find ways to keep it alive and relevant as the world evolves and changes around us.
So, to honor 20 years of a magazine dedicated to preserving and promoting the past, present, and future of American roots music, we’ve been doing our damnedest to get back to our own roots.
For many months, we shared Throwback Thursdays with you, highlighting some of the finest articles from the original print magazine. We’ve also shared countless #ND20 photographs, wherein artists across the roots music spectrum — Jason Isbell to Jim Lauderdale, Rhiannon Giddens to Emmylou Harris — posed to congratulate us on our 20 years. We also, you may have heard, brought No Depression back into print. And as the year comes to a close, we’ve already begun planning and assigning writers for the spring issue.
True to the stripped-down nature of the music we cover, our first magazine since No Depression went out of print seven years ago is just the basics: in-depth longform articles, shorter feature stories, essay, photography, and illustration. There’s no ads, no filler. Aside from a few stock photos of artists, you won’t find anything in that magazine anywhere else in the world. It’s a relic, a collector’s item. It’s more like a book, really. And with it, we set a bar that all future issues will have to meet.
Nonetheless, the creation of the magazine was about as stripped-down as possible. Echoing the makeup of our company (we have seven people on staff — one person for each “department,” from design to editorial to sales, tech, and social media), the magazine was made with the most barebones staff possible: one publisher, one editor, one copy editor, one designer, and a small collection of professional writers and visual artists.
The Way It Happened Was This
Starting in January, Chris and I worked together to decide what artists’ stories needed to be part of ND’s first print magazine in seven years. I personally assigned and edited every word in its 144 pages, and Stacy copy edited, fact-checked, and proofed. I hunted down all the photographers and illustrators, made sure we had the best mix possible, and worked with illustrator Dylan McConnell to make sure the cover art represented the theme we’d settled on. Chris and I both called on our friend Jason Verlinde at Fretboard Journal, who shared ideas and time-tested tips. Once all of that was in, I worked closely with designer Andre Mora to determine a visual context for all of this, and to make sure every word, punctuation mark, and font style on every page looked as perfect as possible.
All of the editorial work took about six months, because I was, at the same time and with the help of Shelley and Stacy, managing the day-to-day operations here on the site, with an ever-growing collection of columnists and ND Roots correspondents. We were also meeting weekly as a full crew to consult with Dave and our designer Dale Geist on how the site could reflect the progress we were making on the print magazine. After all, the website needed to be able to reflect all future issues of the print mag, just as the design Andre landed on for the print mag was going to have to be usable for future issues that might have different themes.
Finally, in the middle of August, Chris and I signed off on the final proofs of the magazine and Andre sent the files to our printer. The magazine was sent out into the world during the first week of September. By now, everyone who backed us on Kickstarter — all over the world — has received their pre-ordered copy.
Fun with Shipping
We learned during that whole initial shipping process that the place that was going to be doing the shipping was going to send things out once orders reached a certain number. Uninterested in making anyone wait for their magazine, and figuring we might be able to save you guys a little cash in shipping fees if we sent things ourselves, we took the reins of shipping and fulfillment.
More specifically, Dave and Shelley took it over, metamorphosing a room or two in their brand new home outside of Austin, into the ND Order Fulfillment Center. (Yes, in the middle of redesigning the site and publishing the magazine, two-sevenths of our staff moved from their longtime home in San Francisco to a new one in Texas.) Almost immediately after moving into their home — which they did mere days before meeting the rest of us at FreshGrass Festival — Dave and Shelley started sending out T-shirts and magazines.
Now, a month or so later, they’ve got a pretty solid system down, so we thought it was time to mix things up a little bit and throw a little more on their plate.
Introducing Year-End Bundles
It wasn’t all fun and games for us while we were at FreshGrass Festival. We also sold magazines and shirts, and learned that people really liked getting to wear a brand new No Depression T-shirt, modeled after the art that appears on the cover of our 2015 magazine. So, with shirts left over after fulfilling all the Kickstarter orders, we decided to offer them for sale on our site.
Considering the end of the year is loaded with gift-giving opportunities, we figured we may as well get in the giving spirit too. So, to close out the celebration of our 20th year with a bang, we decided to offer a 20% discount for anyone who wants to buy more than one thing from us. Not only do we have copies of the 2015 print mag and its corresponding T-shirt, but we’ve gathered together a couple of limited-edition bundles of the original print mag, in case you want to give your favorite roots music fan a big dose of rootsy music goodness for [insert your preferred gift-giving holiday here].
The most interesting thing about the archive bundles is that there are only 25 of each — meaning once we sell these bundles, the mint-condition, direct-from-the-publisher issues they contain will be gone for good. We’re pulling them out of the vault to offer them as a final celebration of our 20th year. In them, you can read about artists who have come to define this music, from the pages of the magazine that broke their stories.
And, because no gift-giving holiday would be complete without a gift card from your Uncle So-and-So who doesn’t really know what to get you, we’ve got gift cards for sale too. Those can even be saved and redeeemed for future issues of No Depression in print. (I mentioned the next one is coming in Spring 2016.) Check out what’s available.
Or, just enjoy the end of the year. As we head toward it, we wanted to thank you sincerely for helping us make this a banner year for No Depression. We know well that we wouldn’t be here without you.