Two music journalists from Los Angeles have launched a Kickstarter to fund a reader-supported, ad-free longform site. David Greenwald (Billboard, GQ) and Daniel Siegal (Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times) are behind UNCOOL, which landed on Kickstarter on November 8 and is seeking $54,000 by January to make the project happen.
“This is more about the fact that there is just not enough outlets that can pay writers a fair wage,” Siegal said. “We’re trying to find a model for sustaining that that’s not based on clickbait.”
If they are successful, Siegal and Greenwald will put the majority of the funding towards their editorial budget of $3,300 a month, which allows them to pay contributors a rate that Siegal said is comparable to legacy music publications. UNCOOL, he said, will largely consist of one big story every week, one of which will be the main feature for the month. Siegal said a writer has already pitched a comprehensive look at the small Brooklyn record label Captured Tracks that they are considering.
Rather than using a paywall, all of the content will be free for anyone to view on UNCOOL. But a $12 pledge gets readers a “subscription” that includes extra features in a monthly roundup email. The funding model is comparable to public radio stations that rely on pledges, or other community-based news sites like Voice Of San Diego, which confer member benefits to those who make financial donations. The model relies on audience support. “Part of the logic behind doing a Kickstarter is to see if the audience is there,” Siegal said.
The decision to go ad free would make UNCOOL something of a pioneer in its field. Most music sites — from Web-based ones like Pitchfork to websites belonging to legacy media like Rolling Stone — feature ads, while sites like Billboard have made a business of galleries, lists, and other click-through fodder.
UNCOOL is also a reaction against a write-for-free culture that music journalists regularly encounter. Music has long been a breeding ground for bloggers who used to trade on their passion alone. Some of the earliest music blogs (Gorilla vs. Bear, Pitchfork) have since become revenue-generating websites. But in the current landscape, the lines are blurred, and many sites pay their writers in concert tickets and exposure rather than hard cash. When there is cash available, it often comes in tiny amounts — recently, Prefix, an online music magazine, suffered from backlash when a job ad revealed that they offer writers $2 a blog post.
“I think there’s recognition among people out there that there’s got to be another way,” said Siegal. “And I hope that we can be at least one of the ways forward.”