Arts & Culture

The alt weekly returns … in print! But will it survive?

How can music media, printed or even online, survive in 2016?

That was the crux of the second discussion known as Music Mondays hosted at Live! on Elgin on June 6. Presented by the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC) and local music media outlets, the discussion featured four industry activists on stage, and a back-and-forth chat between speakers and anyone who wished to chime in.

A handout of questions encouraged about 50 music enthusiasts to discuss the viability of a printed music publication in 2016. One such question summed it up: “Why print when publishing online is free/cheaper?”

Luke Martin, the founder and manager of a forthcoming printed music publication, wondered instead how the fourth largest city in Canada hadn’t maintained a printed listings periodical.

“When it was around, the Ottawa Xpress was an essential thing,” he said speaking about the alternative weekly print publication that ran from 1993 until 2012. “If you liked music, art or theatre, or if you wanted to know who was coming to town, you picked up the Xpress.”

“Whenever I go to another city, the first thing I do is pick up the alt weekly,” he added.

This week Martin, the owner of Capital Rehearsal Studios and an Ottawa musician for over 20 years, will launch the monthly print publication titled Ottawa Beat with editor Adella Khan. The move was greeted with delight from spectators, musicians, and even other music media publishers.

“Ottawa’s music needs to be written about,” said Matías Muñoz, founder and editor of Ottawa Showbox, an online publication that began — in the same month that Xpress went under — to publish online music articles, reviews, events and more. “We have an incredible scene here that needs to be exposed, and our job is to get more people listening and involved.”

A report out in March 2015 titled Connecting Ottawa Music recommended the continued support within the music community as well as investment in music labels and PR infrastructure. The speedy formation of OMIC was one of the first recommendations that came to fruition in just four months.

Alongside Martin, Khan and Muñoz was Jill Krajewski, a freelance music writer who contributes regularly to Apt613, Exclaim! and AUX. Both she and Muñoz respectively curate Apt613’s Weekend Roundup and Ottawa Showbox’s Weekend Music Picks. They both admitted that even with their online listings it was still difficult for a consumer to know about everything the city had to offer on any given evening.

“The only thing gluing this city together was Xpress — that was my bread and butter,” piped in a participant in the back. “When that went down I didn’t know what was happening.”

Ottawa Beat will populate monthly concert listings through Just Shows, an online database of national concert listings based in Toronto. The Beat also plans to pay its writers from ad sales to local businesses that have also missed the alt weekly.

“It’s basically impossible to advertise a local business in a daily newspaper,” said Martin. “And depending on the weight of daily events, the impact of the ad could be nil.”

Facebook and Google ads may offer the best data for targeting demographics, but the mix of national and global advertisement can overshadow local efforts. The ads in Ottawa Beat, Apt613 and Ottawa Showbox always aim to feature local music businesses like recording studios, music festivals, and records stores.

Beat editor Khan is unconcerned by doubts that arise at the thought of starting a printed music publication in 2016. The question is constant: Will it survive?

“I think we just have to try,” she shrugged, “or we won’t know.”

At the time of writing, http://www.ottawabeat.com/ is a work in progress. Check out their instagram site in the meantime: www.instagram.com/ottawabeat.