Feature; graduate class exercise (non-submitted)
It’s hard to find a marketing strategy better than a free sample. For music lovers in the early 2000’s who may have been looking for something new to catch their interest and keep them in the know, Paste, a magazine that started showing up on newsstands in 2002, was the perfect new something. And it came with a perk that not all other music magazines boasted, the ideal marketing move: a free sampler CD. When I was in high school in Metro Detroit, I found an issue of Paste at my neighborhood CVS some afternoon and even though I had no idea who the band on the cover was, I saw that free CD and immediately took the magazine home. The sampler is still in my car, and the magazine, while now online-only, is still in my daily music news rotation.
Tyler Kane relates. Paste’s Assistant Editor and frequent contributing writer also hails from the Detroit area, rich in musical history and under-the-radar bands and artists. While he was in college, he discovered Paste in the same way I had: eyeing a free CD attached to the front of a magazine at Barnes and Noble. He played in bands all through his high school years and kept his ear to the ground, reading tons of music literature and dreaming of the day he’d end up a popular touring musician. “That obviously didn’t happen,” he says in a discussion we had via e-mail. “My interest in publishing came secondary [to music]. I loved reading magazines or music books as a kid, but never really put two and two together until I started writing for blogs or the school paper in college. That’s when I started become aware that, hey, maybe this is a thing I can do for a living.”
Paste was founded as a quarterly print magazine in 2002 by now-editor Josh Jackson, Nick Purdy, and Tim Porter, before evolving to a bimonthly and eventually a monthly in August of 2006. In October of 2007, the magazine tried what’s often referred to as the “Radiohead experiment,” wherein it offered current subscribers the option to name their own price for a one-year subscription. The subscriber base grew exponentially, but as the economic downturn took its toll on the whole of the magazine industry, Paste converted to online-only in August of 2010 at pastemagazine.com.
Tyler started working with Paste in 2011 as an unpaid intern, a position he held for eight months until being promoted to his assistant editorship. Before coming to the magazine, he interned and freelanced with Detroit Metro Times, Performer Magazine, and worked as an editor and designer for The Marietta Daily Journal of Marietta, Georgia, as well as having experience with his college’s newspaper, the Eastern Michigan University Eastern Echo. He cites his various internships as the number one tool he utilized to get to where he is now. “I was reluctant to intern, but I would be nowhere without my experiences – and some of them pay.” Today, his primary role with Paste is to act as news editor. “I’m basically on-call for breaking stories across our 10 different sections: music, TV, film, books, movies, games, design, drink, geek, and tech. Every morning, I wake up and take pitches on news stories, assign them out, and edit/post them throughout the day to our site - overall, anywhere 12-20 pieces of content a day.” Tyler is also the editor of the “Best of What’s Next” music feature section, holds website editor responsibilities, and regularly communicates with publicists. His favorite part about working for the magazine, however? “My role as a writer.”
When it comes to writing feature stories, Tyler feels like that’s when he’s really in his element. “I work on maybe four cover stories a year and pretty much get my pick of who I interview. [This is] the most fun I have on the job, but this part is always after-hours (as so many other things are), and always a labor of love.” But he doesn’t take his writing opportunities with the magazine for granted, and offers some advice for writers looking to make their mark on the magazines they love. “[You should] write for free, even if your friends say that’s stupid; I would not have this job if I didn’t write free clips. Anyone who tells you it’s stupid is not looking at the long-game. Until you have clips, you are just a college grad to employers. If you get luck and start with paid clips, more power to you. I couldn’t.”
It seems that writing for free and interning his heart out is what kept him on the path to an editorship of an evolving magazine that’s held up through major industry changes – and he’s never been afraid to ask for advice. “The best gift an editor can give you is a page that’s marked to shit. Brian Smith, my former editor at Metro Times, ripped my piece to shreds and I am a better (and more humble) writer for it. He made me do six rewrites once on [one] artist profile. I was so mad at him, and then, my piece was great.” So, feedback for budding writers is necessary for breaking into magazine writing? “If you’re not asking for this feedback (over and over), you’re doing it wrong,” Tyler says. He goes on to say, emphatically, “This is your life now. Work at a bar, or a Target or a Starbucks or whatever, if you need to make ends meet – I did. Expect to make this your life during waking hours for at least two years to get anywhere sustainable. It doesn’t sound like fun, but if this is something you care about, it just is fun.”
His hard work and appreciation for the fun of music writing paid off. As an editor and writer, Tyler has been able to see how Paste has evolved, even though he began his work with the magazine after the switch to strictly digital. “I think our recent site redesign (which launched in early March of this year) shows our evolution. We’re a company that survived the transition, as bumpy as it’s been, from print to digital. We started as just a music magazine, now we’ve evolved to 10 coverage sections that we’re all pretty geeky about. Obviously, there are changes in the way we present content because of the format, but I think the overall goal [of the magazine] remains: inform, entertain, and engage our readers.”
Tyler has lived around the country while writing and working for free and finding his way into a music-oriented publication, starting out in our mutual home of Metro Detroit, down to Georgia, and now in the Pacific Northwest. He was able to watch Paste change and grow from a print magazine with innovative marketing ideas into an online magazine that covers more than just bands you may not have heard of yet, and even though he didn’t fulfill his high school dream of being in one of those bands, he gets to write about them. When asked what really sets Paste apart from its competitors and what makes it matter to him so much, in particular, Tyler doesn’t miss a beat. “Our coverage areas [other than music], and our commitment to those areas as well as music. Our unsaid philosophy: support good art rather than bash the bad. And our epic beer tastings at the office.”