By Tyler Hayes, who runs the music discovery site Nxt Big Thing.
UNCOOL is a newly formed music publication. Headed by David Greenwald and Daniel Siegal, formally of Billboard and the Los Angeles Times respectively, the publication is aiming for a higher calling of music journalism with long form posts on a site containing no advertising. Everything about the venture sounds wonderful including the optimism that the site could raise a little over $55,000 on Kickstarter to fund the first year of operations. With just over 24 hours left at the time of writing, the campaign has raised just shy of $9,000. The funds would, of course, be used to cover the sites costs, but ultimately the main objective is to pay writers a quality wage for quality music writing.
The thought and frustration is that too many sites (music specifically) are trying to cash in on sensational posts, only concerned with page views and twitter followers. UNCOOL wants to be uncool in this way, shunning corporate and biased sponsorship, in favor of a utopian dream. With funding looking unlikely, and so low, the obvious first question, is this even possible? Can a music publication, or any publication, survive solely on donations and contributions from readers? According to David Greenwald, "A relatively small number of people want to pay for journalism in general and music coverage is a particularly tiny niche within that," though he doesn't think that UNCOOL's failure or success is indicative of the state of music journalism.
There is at least one example of a writing publication blossoming, however, with The Magazine. An iOS only app/magazine hybrid, The Magazine charges $1.99 on a reoccurring basis, every other week, and delivers a handful of articles in each issue. Completely funded on its own terms from sales of the app, The Magazine founder Marco Arment has been successful enough with a group of thoughtful and intriguing writers that he's able to pay very competitively for each piece. And like The Magazine, UNCOOL has an A-list of contributing writers that have done time with Pitchfork, Entertainment Weekly, Spin, and Rolling Stone. The difference seems to be in starting from scratch versus having a built in user-base/readership from the beginning. Arment is the creator of the wildly popular app Instapaper and though The Magazine was a new and separate entity, he, arguably, had the following to get the publication off the ground, something Greenwald admits may have helped the music site.
What happens on Wednesday Jan 2 at 11:59pm EST, when the timer goes off and presumably the publication hasn't reached their ambitious goal? Greenwald was emphatic that they wouldn't turn to ads, that advertising wasn't even a possibility, rather "This project [that launched] as a Kickstarter campaign to ask people to put this idea to a vote: do you want to support longform music journalism from some great writers? If the answer is no, we'll bow out gracefully."
Visit UNCOOL's Kickstarter page to make a last minute donation, or see the final tally.