Since I left my position at Substream Magazine in October, a lot has changed. Both the publication’s Marketing Director (Nici Arsenault) and Managing Editor (Drew Wille) have also effectively left the company. In my 6 months there, those two, myself, and owner Jason McMahon were the only staff outside of the magazine design team. Of that team, I know of only one who worked on the last issue. That left McMahon with Matt Bryson, who I have never met and handles Sales & Advertising, to man the ship.
Things didn’t look good for Substream after I learned Drew left. She did a lot of work for the company. Hard, thankless, work that allowed us to write about music we loved on a bi-monthly basis. Her leaving seemed like a bad sign. 1 Then a curveball. Former Editor Scott Heisel announced that he had taken up residency as Editor In Chief of the publication. A wise poach for McMahon, but an interesting position for Heisel.
Obviously, Heisel’s experience at the biggest state-side alternative music magazine is a major plus for Substream. The sales numbers for the Columbus music rag is not what McMahon or any of us hoped they would be last year. A major disruption in magazine distribution channels may have something to do with that, but anyone who subscribes to Substream knows that there is a lot of work to be done for it to compare to competitors like AltPress. It’s a simple matter of quality control and man hours.
So, that side makes sense. Heisel can do a lot to improve the tone and content going in. He’ll tighten things up and attract some good writers to the publication. I see the number of print pieces written by college-aged contributors and interns falling in favor to some more experienced freelancers from Scott’s contact list.
Now, what’s really in it for Heisel? Like I said, Substream wasn’t selling incredibly well last year. The numbers were fine, but not enough to pay myself, my colleagues, or the magazine’s contributors very much. I can’t speak for the others, but I made more writing articles for the magazine than performing my actual job as Digital Content Editor. We all worked hard to bring the magazine up to a level where pay would improve, but after 6 steady monthly payments of $200, I couldn’t invest the time. 2
Unless Substream has received some seed funding in the past few months, I’m assuming Heisel has taken a pay cut from his salary at AltPress. Not ideal, but I think that’s probably a fair exchange for the control he will have over this publication. Since the three editors presiding over the content in my time there left within a short amount of time, Heisel will be able to fill and control that void entirely by himself or with the help of those he can wrangle together to create the tone he desires. For someone as sure as Scott, I think that is a welcome change to the way Alternative Press operates. It seems like a good fit.3
Despite the way my relationship with the company’s owner ended, I still have faith in the publication. I worked with a lot of great writers there and brought on a lot more with great potential. It’s my hope Scott can pull things together and propel the magazine in a bigger direction. I think it has room to be larger than the Warped Tour scene. Maybe he sees that too. I wish him and Substream the best of luck.
Here is a copy of the greeting email Heisel sent around the industry today:
Subject: Starting my new career!
When I parted ways with Alternative Press last December after a 10-and-a-half-year run with the company, I honestly wasn’t sure what I would do next. Many of you sent me very supportive emails and I felt positive toward the future, but I didn’t know what that future would hold. Thankfully, Substream owner Jason McMahon wasted no time in approaching me, and after many conversations with each other, it’s clear his passion and enthusiasm for covering underground music matches my own.
For those unfamiliar with Substream: The nationally distributed bi-monthly magazine was founded in Columbus, Ohio, in 2006 and has been on the forefront of breaking new bands ever since. Substream was the first U.S. music magazine to put massive crossover artists such as Twenty One Pilots, AWOLNATION and Owl City on the cover well before anyone else was paying attention. In addition, Substream was first on now-huge acts like Paramore, A Day To Remember and Of Mice & Men back when they were still on the side stages of Warped Tour. More recently, Substream has taken risks on promising young bands like letlive. and Beartooth, proving their commitment to discovering and sharing the best new music the underground has to offer. Fans continue to respond positively to Substream’s commitment to new music discovery, which is why the magazine can be found in Barnes & Noble, FYE, Hastings and Books-A-Million, among other retail locations, and their subscriber base continues to naturally grow each month.
I am honored to be stepping into a magazine with such a keen ear and vision for the future. The potential in Substream is endless, and I hope to bring as much of it out as I possibly can.
All editorial pitches can go directly to me, as I am in charge of all content. However, I’ve CCed Substream owner Jason McMahon on this email in case you haven’t met him yet. He would love to speak with any of you regarding Substream as well.
Lastly, if you are interested in advertising with Substream, you can view our media kit and rate card here. Any further advertising questions can be directed to our ad rep Matt Bryson at email@example.com.
Thank you for your support throughout my career, and I hope you continue with me on my journey by supporting Substream!
Editor In Chief, Substream Magazine