Mark and Wendy Redfern of Under the Radaris creating a print music magazine and a music website
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When we (Mark and Wendy Redfern) first met and fell in love in December 2000, we had no idea we’d be launching a music magazine within a year. And when the first issue of that magazine, Under the Radar, was born in December 2001, we had no idea that 15 years later it would still be going as a legitimate business. If we had known, we would have planned things very differently. But when we started Under the Radar neither of us had any experience in magazine publishing. We were simply both music lovers looking for a creative outlet—Mark, a writer eager to interview his favorite bands and Wendy, a photographer longing to do photo shoots with her favorite musicians. Our first issue was all black & white on bad quality paper and we only printed 1000 copies to give out at shows and record stores across Los Angeles, where we were based at the time. By issue 2 we had proper distribution in some stores, including some Tower Records across the country, and by our third issue we actually had some color pages and nationwide distribution. Around issue 5 we were both laid off from our day jobs and decided to take a chance and make Under the Radar our full time careers.
Over the years the quality of our writing, photography, layout, and paper got better as the distribution got bigger. For the last 15 years we’ve gotten up close and personal with big musicians and helped to break exciting new bands who then went on to bigger and better careers. We were the last ever magazine to interview Elliott Smith before his passing, but the first ever national print magazine to interview Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes before each artist became hugely popular. We’ve reviewed tens of thousands of albums (and films, books, comic books, TV shows, DVDs, festivals, and concerts). We’ve put out cool special issues dedicated to the intersection of music and politics and pairing musicians and comedians together for joint interviews. And somehow we’ve been able to just about pay the bills and stay afloat while doing the thing we love.
But keeping a truly independent print music magazine and website going in 2016 isn’t easy and now we also have our three and half year old daughter, Rose, to take care of. When we started in 2001 there were many other American print music magazines we were competing with and we’ve outlasted most of them in print (including Paste, Filter, Spin, Devil in the Woods, Death In Taxes, Resonance, Rockpile, The Sentimentalist, and others), but it’s gotten increasingly challenging. When the Borders bookstore chain closed all their stores and went out of business in 2011, for example, it dealt a blow to the distribution of most independent print magazines. The majority of our advertisers are independent record labels and the music industry has been in decline for years, meaning they have less money to spend on ads. That’s also coupled with the trend for advertisers to move away from print to web ads. So that must mean we are selling a bunch of web ads to make up for less print ads, right? Well not exactly. These days advertisers often prefer to place their ads on Facebook or via Google Ads, rather than directly on websites. We make some money from the Google Ads on our website, but it’s a fraction of what we would make from directly placed ads and print magazine ads. And sadly, now many block these ads too, so that is on the decline as well.
Under the Radar has always remained a company 100% independently run by us (Mark and Wendy, and now Rose), unlike many other music websites and magazines that are owned by bigger corporations. This allows us the freedom to interview the artists we are passionate about and to keep advertising and editorial completely separate. We don’t interview bands or write favorable reviews because some corporate entity or advertiser is telling us to. We don’t run editorial that’s secretly (or not so secretly) an advertisement. But on the flipside, we are all too often barely getting by, only just raising enough money to print each issue and with no funds to truly grow and improve the business. We want to continue writing about and photographing the artists we love, as well as doing much more with Under the Radar and getting the business side back into a more viable state. That’s why we’ve decided to turn to Patreon for support. For those unfamiliar with Patreon, it is a crowd funding platform that allows people to support creators in a more sustained way with a regular monthly donation, rather than just supporting one project at a time.
So what would we do with the money?
Firstly, we’d use to it to simply keep the lights on. If we had a more steady monthly amount we could depend on then it would help us continue to print at least four print magazine issues a year and to more timely pay all the writers, photographers, editors, and copy-editors who contribute to Under the Radar, as well as literally helping us keep the lights on by helping us pay our regular monthly bills involved in running any business.
But then there are many ways we’d love to grow Under the Radar. We’d like to do podcasts and more video content. We’d like to reprogram and redesign aspects of our website, both to make it more mobile responsive and also to improve user engagement in other ways. We’d love to get back to printing five issues a year and/or having more pages per issue. We want to have more events, such as the well-regarded ones we do at SXSW every year (in fact funding SXSW events has become increasingly harder too, so the money could also help with that). We’d like to review even more albums and interview even more bands. We want to expand our non-music coverage (cinema, TV, comic books, etc.). There’s so much we want to do, but alas currently the day-to-day operations of Under the Radar are mainly handled by just us (Mark and Wendy), along with our ad sales person Mark Nockles. The rest of Under the Radar’s many editors, writers, photographers, and other contributors work on a freelance basis. If we are to not just maintain Under the Radar, but also grow it, we need more help and that takes more money.
Here are more specifics on our hopes and dreams for Under the Radar and what we would do with the money to help achieve those goals:
1. Podcasts: We would be able to invest in the recording equipment and software to begin producing weekly or monthly podcasts where we’d interview musicians and filmmakers, among other things. Our writers often conduct lengthy interviews, but only a few quotes get used in the magazine article and we could present some of the full interviews in podcast form, as well as doing new interviews specifically for podcasts. Mark used to interview several bands per issue, but doesn’t have the time anymore due to the time it takes to transcribe an interview and write an article. Mark would love to get back to interviewing more musicians and actors himself and it would easier for him to conduct interviews for podcasts.
2. Video content: We would like to finally be able to not just dream of the interesting and cool video sessions we have tons of ideas for, but actually be able to produce them for you to see and enjoy. We have lots of fun ideas for filming sessions with bands in unique locations and situations, but don’t have the funds to launch them. Mark went to film school and Wendy went to photography school, and we also have lots of filmmaker friends, so we have the talent to pull off cool video sessions, we just need the money.
3. Website upgrades: Our site is not mobile responsive! This is unacceptable! This needs to change as soon as possible. We understand we are living in a mobile world, but when we first created the website, that was not the case. We have designs in place and a plan. We simply need to be able to find the funds to make it happen. Sadly, this has been on our back burner as our day-to-day financial needs have always had to come first. We’d also like to make other much needed improvements to the coding and design of our website. For example, for some reason we can’t embed Facebook videos on our website and only certain Instagram videos can be embedded.
4. Events: With resources in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Virginia, London, and elsewhere, we’d love to curate more live events where our readers can enjoy the music together. Also, there is a great opportunity here to continue on our hopes of raising awareness and benefiting charitable causes. More funding would allow us to increase our bandwidth to achieve some of these goals. We’ve long dreamed of some sort of Under the Radar Music Festival and maybe we could build up to that.
5. Do more for our contributors: Over the years we have had so many of our contributors work with us mainly out of the kindness of their hearts, with little financial benefit, and frankly, they are worth so much more. More funding would allow us to pay our writers, photographers, and editors more and in a more timely manor.
6. Filling in the advertising gaps: The honest truth is that, sometimes, we simply can’t raise enough ad money to print an issue, but we print it anyway and deal with the consequences later. Over the years we’ve cut back on the number of pages per issue and the quality of the paper stock, but there are really no more such cutbacks we can make beyond abandoning the print aspect of our company altogether. The cost of a print magazine is one of the main reasons why we find it so hard to save up for these bigger projects. So, some funding might go toward filling in the gaps when raising money for our print issues.
We vow to use any and all money brought in through Patreon to benefit these areas of the business.
More info on Under the Radar:
Under the Radar has been printing since 2001 and was an early supporter of such artists as Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, Rilo Kiley, Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara, Bright Eyes, The Postal Service, The Shins, Interpol, TV on the Radio, Deerhunter, Grizzly Bear, CHVRCHES, M83, Courtney Barnett, Savages, Mumford & Sons, alt-J, Tame Impala, and Florence and the Machine, among many others, and still continues to break new artists with each issue. Most issues also features an interview with a notable actor or director from film or TV.
Cover artists have included M83, Amanda Palmer, Father John Misty + Wolf Alice, CHVRCHES, Tame Impala, St. Vincent, alt-J, Future Islands, HAIM, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia, Phoenix, Charli XCX, Grimes, Animal Collective, The Horrors, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Aziz Ansari, The National, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe + Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock, Sufjan Stevens, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold + Joanna Newsom, Tegan and Sara, Jenny Lewis, She & Him, Bat For Lashes, Flight of the Conchords, Feist, Belle and Sebastian, The Flaming Lips, and Elliott Smith (in his final interview).
Our website is updated daily with the latest music news, as well as interviews and reviews (of albums, films, TV shows, DVDs, books, comic books, and concerts).
Every four years we do our special Protest Issue, which examines the intersection of music and politics and for which we do photo shoots with musicians holding protest signs of their own making. Then we auction off the autographed signs for charity. In 2016 all the profits from our Protest Sign Auction will be donated to the American Cancer Society.
Finally, there are rewards galore for those who donate enough money per month. Find those in the rewards section.
Many thanks in advance for supporting Under the Radar and keeping truly independent music journalism alive.
$65 of $250 per month
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We'd like to be raising $250 a month within the first two months. This would simply help shore up our business and keep the lights on.
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