You may have seen our new Superfood x DIY ‘zine - either at the DIY Presents Superfood show at The Social last night, or in photos on diymag.com. I’ve put a few in this post too.

The ultimate guide to the band, it runs across 16 panels, hand screen printed on high quality stock - one side packed with exclusive photography, interviews, playlists, profiles and snippets, the other with a huge Superfood poster prime for hanging on your bedroom wall. We’ve only done a tiny number in print, which will be handed out at the shows (and a very small number for fans who can’t make it online), but you can read it all, as well as see exclusive additional photos and extras, on diymag.com too.

Not only a celebration of the three shows we’re doing, it’s also intended as the first item in a new strand for DIY. When we said we’d replace DIY Weekly with something, this is it - one off, pop up publishing.

We really felt that Weekly’s biggest strength was the ability to give more acts big impact than we ever could with just one magazine a month. When there are less and less print music titles around by the year, the space to really tell stories and do things that punch through becomes less and less. While we’ve always been ones to squeeze as much as we can into the monthly, there’s a limit to what you can do. Be it giving a new act their first cover, or giving more space to do something with an established act who there wasn’t room to do something big with in print, it felt like that element was really important to keep.

On the same hand, we love physical things. We want to be more daring, do things that are exciting, different and led by amazing design and gorgeous stock. Things that if you do with a periodical you’ll quickly grow to regret because they’d make your life an absolute nightmare to repeat each and every time, but on a one off make products that you really want to treasure.

By combining the two, we hope to create stand alone editorial ‘stuff’ on bands, events, labels and other exciting things we really believe in - each one designed from a blank slate to fit the story and, hopefully, collaborating with the relevant parties. From dedicated, themed zines to artist specific mini newspapers distributed in record stores, it could even go as far as one off editions of whole different genre specific magazines under the DIY banner or a huge, coffee table glossy. Who knows? We’re just going to play at whatever takes our fancy at let it be led by making amazing, engaging items that you want to keep forever and ever and ever (and ever.)

With the new website, we’ll be able to give each thing an online element too - somewhere that goes beyond these limited edition physical products, meaning they’re not so niche nobody gets to enjoy the hard work that goes into making them.

And obviously this all goes on alongside our existing monthly print magazine, which goes from strength to strength. Hurrah for that.

I think this could be really cool. Hopefully you do too.

A bit about the new DIY website

Launching a new website is fun. Or, more accurately, ‘fun’. Last night we had a database glitch that undid a full day’s work, less than 24 hours before we were due to launch. We’re having fun right now.

So, while waiting for things to click, fix, code and shape up, I’ve decided to scribble some words about the theory of what you’ll see when it finally goes live.

To those who just like ‘stuff about music’, and consume it page by page, it may be an evolution rather than a revolution. That’s good - we’re trying to find a better way, not pointlessly journey up a dead end. We’ve done a few long due things (fully responsive website, much improved image gallery system), but also some nice little tricks which are less about faddish technology site wide, and more about flexibility and craft.

That last word is the one that the new DIY has been built on. We got sick of slash and dash publishing - the culture of a nice template and a reworded press release in the same copy box in the same position. If ad blindness is a thing, content blindness can’t be far off with such tight restraints on web publishing. We’ve long wanted to be able to put some of the same care and attention into our web pages as we do into our print ones. Now we can.

The site that goes live won’t have all the bells and whistles - we’ve got a whole load of different base layouts and cover options to start from on their way - but we will by the time we’ve finished the ‘relaunch cycle’ (as ever, we’ve set a deadline then pushed it to the edge of its life). So in a few weeks there’ll be some even more impressive tricks to show off, but in technical terms, DIY’s article pages are now built on blocks. That means we can put them together in the same way a kid might with a Lego set. Like that kid, over time we’ll learn how to use those bricks to make some impressive things.

That means when we publish, we’ll be thinking about how the page comes together. What copy can we use? Are there images that would help? Some context? Pull quotes or standout copy to make it easier to understand what’s going on if you’re on a mobile phone about to step off the 9.28 to Liverpool Street? None of these things are revolutionary, but the level of control we have about how they appear on the screen will mean things will appear as we intend, rather than how the CMS limits us.

It doesn’t mean we’re going the same way some big publishers are, though. We want it to be easily readable. I worry that pushing in the direction of too much bloat (“I’m scrolling! That’s moving as I scroll! Oh, I’ve gone past all the text. Oh well. Next!) means that people stop reading and start playing with layouts. We’re looking for something elegant and functional while still letting us be creative and expressive.

Apparently home pages are ‘dead’. If that’s the case, then what we’ve done there will still make a massive change to the rest of what we publish. Personally I’ve been confused about how we all decided to structure our ‘online magazines’ back in the early 2000s for quite a while now. Everything was about sections - news, reviews, whatever. I don’t think readers think like that. I think they can do, sure, but more often they just want to read something interesting about a band they know, or one they don’t yet but will love. So, now, while the sections still exist on the menu bar - you can just go read a load of news if you want - the homepage is only very lightly divided by content type. Instead, we have what I call the Stream - a sort of Tumblr like run through of what we publish, highlighted in a way that showcases the piece itself, not the categorisation we’ve given it.

There are exceptions - basically reviews - but other copy needs to stand out on its point of interest. A good headline, great photography, a stand first that pulls the reader in. While I’m sure we’ll still publish articles with a list of live dates or a new video every day of the week, we’ll at least have thought about why someone would be interested, and attempted to highlight it. I disagree intensely with those who see reporting information those of us in the music industry are serviced to music fans has to be ‘churnalism’ by definition in any form, but equally I think we can find a better way with just a bit of care and attention. We’ll still attempt to be as quick as possible at bringing our readers the latest news, but within reason. Hopefully there’ll be no 30-word wonders with an embed code. We’ll try to look for the story, the context, or at the very least the awful one liner, and we’ll attempt to highlight some of the great photography and quotes from the artist we have in our archives alongside it where possible without relying on an algorithm to throw up a vanilla link. Where possible, editors will recommend what you see, not an automated system.

So while we’ve depreciated content type, we’ve added tagging - to group by certain key content types. Going to Reading & Leeds 2014 - we’ll pull together all the stuff we’ve written about it so you can plan your festival properly. At launch, obviously, those tags will be a work in progress. Over time they’ll build to a vital resource. It’s not something revolutionary by any means, but with the volume of stuff DIY’s varied platforms delivers week in, week out it’ll be far from just a bunch of faceless news stories too.

Personally I love web publishing, editorial theory and technology - but I think those things are all tools to doing something better. I hope that what we’ve done with the new DIY effectively gives our editorial team the freedom to think outside of tight confines and to concentrate on the individual piece of copy, video or whatever else they’re working on without so many limits. If we do that, I’m confident we’ll find a way to mix instant gratification with something that interests, entertains and engages - and it won’t just be about a shiny design or flashy web script*.

Fingers crossed.

* Semi interesting web design fact - we’ve tried to go against the trend and have the bare minimum javascript and bloat in the site that we can. One of the core factors for us is speed - especially when people will be viewing these pages on mobile signal. Function above flashy, but still (hopefully) with great design.

"Now, I would argue that you don’t really hate Mrs Brown’s Boys. You merely don’t like it. It’s not for you. It is neither your type of humour, nor your cup of tea. What has actually led you to hate it is that it is wildly, unimaginably successful. And where that success is concerned, you have to confront an uncomfortable truth. Mrs Brown’s Boys has been such a runaway hit simply because, of all the comedies that are "not really your sort of thing", it is very much the best. It’s terrifically written, performed by a cast clearly enjoying themselves, in roles they’ve honed to a razor’s edge in front of live audiences up and down the country. It’s good. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it is, and that means you have to hear an awful lot about it. So you now have to define yourself by your opposition to it, and your initial mild dislike is amplified many, many times over until it becomes full-blown hatred. You don’t hate Ben Elton’s sitcom The Wright Way, and that’s because it’s not as good as Mrs Brown’s Boys, so no one else really liked it either, and therefore no one is going to force you to watch it at Christmas. So just let the hate go, and replace it with the sweet nectar of bored indifference. How does that feel?"

I’m no fan of said TV programme, but the logic? Yeah. I see that every day. “Why are you covering X band who sells records that isn’t for me?”

Concentrate on what you love, or at least the things you might. Don’t define yourself by a hatred of the things that you never would.

There’s a piece in the Observer this morning about free music magazines, which a few weeks back I gave a couple of quotes about DIY for. That’s great - I’ve never really felt the medium was especially underground, but there’s a wider audience that will hear about titles that are away from the established old guard. As I’m constantly reminded, you have to build the brand. You can’t complain when somebody wants to cover the world you exist in. And (bar the title - fanzines(?) - whoever wrote that I’d love to have a chat to…) it’s generally a nice piece that I believe genuinely comes from a good place.

However, there’s one line that doesn’t describe the DIY I know. Not the quotes from my peers, obviously - they’re wise and sage people who know their stuff and speak sense - but one almost throw away aside doesn’t represent the publication my team and I work day in day out at putting together.

Now - and bear with me here - I love ‘zines more than most. Hell, I started a publication named after a bis song - how couldn’t I? They’re almost always brave, honest and inventive, often look brilliant and are born with a passion that it’s impossible not to admire. However, I think there is  a difference between a ‘zine and magazine, and certainly what we (and in my eyes, some of the others mentioned) produce is a magazine. If I was to give it up tomorrow, another editor would be appointed to take my place - and most likely it wouldn’t be me anointing my own successor. While current reviews editor Emma and I founded DIY, it isn’t just ours anymore. It’s a title that will continue until the day it can no longer afford to, with or without us. We have a central London office we turn up to before ten in the morning and leave after six at night. The last thing I did on Friday was work on a presentation for a media partnership with a major festival. We have to think about brands as well as brands, and square that circle as best we can.

Obviously we have a lot of ‘zine ethics going on beneath the surface (if it all came tumbling down you can be sure we’d be using our DIY callings the next month to put out something, in whatever way we could), but we do not see ourselves as in any way different in outlook, execution or ambition to our long established newsstand siblings. We just don’t charge - mostly because the distribution model looked a ball ache and the cross over would have been a nightmare for the long established website our print edition grew from. In 2011 when we started printing words and pictures on dead trees a free model simply made the most sense.

But that’s all in a word. You can argue that one until the cows come home, and really it doesn’t matter one jot. There are pure blood ‘zines that would put any traditional ‘magazine’ to shame. Both are brilliant and as time goes the line will become increasingly blurred. No. It’s this line which doesn’t describe DIY.

Indeed, though most of these magazines’ websites look good, most don’t bother with extra online content, and those that do – Fly, DIY and Crack – have nowhere near as much as mainstream publications.

With the greatest of respect, no. That’s just not right.

DIY’s website isn’t a poor relation of our print magazine, or our DIY Weekly tablet publication either. It’s sat at the top table. It has to be - for the first nine years it was the only thing we did. To suggest it doesn’t go toe to toe for copy with ‘mainstream’ publications’ online offerings is both ludicrously wrong and (almost certainly unintentionally, I concede) a flat out insult to those who have edited our online arm down the years.

From Emma, Karis and a cast of often under credited, brilliant people who sparked us in the early days, through to Viki (the true engine of DIY to this day; one of the best in the industry who constantly makes me look like a ham-fisted idiot in comparison), to current incumbent and all star blog boy superhero Jamie - none of them should look at their traditional peers and deserve to be told they’d come up short. Everyone who has worked in the DIY bunker has literally given their lives to the cause - slaving every hour they can and over thinking in those they can’t. They’ve, to a woman and man, given more than I could or should have ever asked. Each of them has grown up as part of our publication’s rich and tumultuous tradition of never, ever saying a major publishing house’s money is a reason we shouldn’t match or better them. We always have, and we’re damn proud of it.

Yes, it’s a labour of love, but it’s also our profession. A couple of us might have started as hobbyists in our late teens, but that was a long time ago and certainly isn’t the case now. If you’re trying to tell me our news editor Sarah or art director Louise wouldn’t be a prized asset to a Bauer or IPC, then I’ll see you outside in five minutes, ‘mate’. Any magazine in the world would be lucky to have any one of my team, past or present. When the deadline has arrived they’ve never once let me down, however ridiculous my mad ideas and outlandish demands have become.

And that describes the rest of our online peers (who honestly, are more relevant that some print titles these days) too. Are you going to tell me any of them are poorer websites than some of the newsstand print titles? Really?! From where I sit they’re usually able to be better targeted and more generous with their copy. Rarely would I call them less professional, either. That’s no taint on the established names - the lack of red tape is a god send - but not one of them should be seen as a small endeavour. Every one of the poor bastards that dared start something with bigger ambitions than a blog beholden to their own whims and motivation will say the same. In their opinion, they’ve no intention of being anything but the most ambitious title full stop. Their big ideas will plague their dreams until they make them reality. Aiming for the stars would be far, far too low. Egos may occasionally bristle between titles, sure. No doubt we all have different ideas of what a good magazine - be it in print, online or somewhere inbetween - should be (as we should). Regardless, they deserve as much if not more respect for what they achieve, day in, day out.

The full quote I gave to the piece explains it best. In print, it’s shortened.

‘We’ve never been ones for being lo-fi for the sake of it – we’re a bedroom blog started in skipped uni lectures.’ – Stephen Ackroyd, editor

But completely unedited (so excuse the clunky structure)

‘The mag was the natural progression of what we’d done online for nearly a decade. We’ve never been ones for being lo-fi for the sake of it - we’re a bedroom blog started in skipped Uni lectures that aimed high and grew into a fully fledged music magazine printing 40,000 copies a month and distributing copies nationwide (and beyond). We aim to be big, colourful and brash rather than overly worried about being cool, niche or pretentious. Bad jokes and a belief that personalities are what makes bands great, rather than standoffish appreciation, sit at the centre of everything we do. We cover big acts and small acts, major label and underground buzz bands - we’re simply looking for things that will make our readers excited about music.’

Little? It’s all about perspective. I think we’re positively huge.

What’s in a list, anyway?

Today’s agenda, barring something quite extraordinary, will be dominated by chatter about new bands and lists. The BBC’s Sound of… poll long list was announced overnight, and already Twitter is awash with opinions. Yes, everyone has one.

That’s fine. These things are there to be debated. What I find more interesting (or perhaps confusing) is the way many - especially those who spend their lives searching for the next new act - see this as something like the end game.

I guess if you take the opinion that the bands who tend to make this fifteen strong hype train tend to have the requisite industry backing and bank balance, then yes, they can be self fulfilling prophecies. But on the counter, we can all play bingo with the acts who don’t make it (and there are always a couple). Last year alone proved that a new band can fail to make the list and go on to dominate the mainstream musical agenda - neither Bastille or London Grammar, for various and different reasons, found themselves on a Sound of… list.

The BBC list, it’s worth noting, is compiled of loads of judges from different backgrounds. Clearly it’s not going to stick to one niche or genre, and won’t be ‘right’ to any single person with individual tastes. If you’re after that, you’re best finding a critic or publication that matches what you think more closely.

To me, as an editor, our annual Class of… feature, which has been running for YONKS now, is anything but a full stop. We’ve not revealed anything yet (the magazine is out on Friday), but it features a lot of bands. Like, a lot. More than ever before. That’s entirely intentional. It isn’t an example of a scattergun approach, but rather the musical landscape we find ourselves in. Last year we featured ten acts (it would have been twelve, but - behind the scenes info alert - time fell through on tight deadlines with two we wanted to interview). The thing is, 2013 felt a lot more together than 2014. Those claiming they guessed the Sound of… long list deserve respect - nothing on there is a surprise, sure, but I reckon I could give you another 20 names minimum that would sit just as easily too. Beyond a few at the top of the tree, there are a lot of acts who, with a fair wind and good judgement, will have a great year.

The acts in the Class of 2014 are all artists we’ve supported; especially through Neu, our new bands section. However, as a lot of this is done online, it’s hard to create the same statement you can in a magazine. That’s no slight to the format I cut my teeth on, either - online is just more of a flat hierarchy than you’d find in print (or print like) publications. We give eight pages in both the monthly and weekly to Neu, but even that’s not enough for the amount of new music that buzzes around these days. I see this as a chance to announce something to the people who don’t pour over the blogs, and who find the conveyor belt of fresh names a bit too much to keep track of. These are the acts you’ll be hearing more about from us this year. You might have seen them hanging around, but this is a formal introduction. This is who they are. Get acquainted, you’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.

We follow through on it too. Last year eight of our ten acts from 2013 graced a DIY cover in some form or other, and I’m sure at least one of the others will in the future, because they’re definitely an office favourite. That isn’t about external stuff, but rather setting a large part of our editorial voice for the year. It’s the warming up to the big number, not the nice lady in the pointy horned hat delivering the final bars. But, equally, they weren’t the only bands to feature heavily. Things keep moving. It’s not like a band can only get through that gate in January - more that some of the industry prefers it that way.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, it’s a perfectly good Sound of… long list. Under the criteria of picking favourite acts, two out of my three missed out, but that’s fine. It’s not as if it actually means much, anyway.

(Some of) the things that I have been listening to this week…

Why I love Reflektor

The second time I saw LCD Soundsystem was at London’s now flattened Astoria. Stood on the balcony, looking down, I can safely say in fifteen years of gig going before and since I’ve not seen anything like it.

From above, James Murphy wasn’t just the focal point of his band, but the conductor of a circuit. Every individual element was feeding straight into him; he was controlling everything in return. The closest comparison I could find was a romanticised vision of Brian Wilson, instinctively tinkering away, knowing exactly how every sound should work to create something far bigger than its individual parts. From that moment on, I’ve considered Murphy an unparalleled genius.

That’s why I love ‘Reflektor’. As Arcade Fire play, in the middle sits Murphy, controlling - providing that central processor. It turns quite probably the best band in the world today into a cleaner, sharper beast. In comparison that all out gang assault that’s worked so well since ‘Funeral’ is a devastating but relatively blunt instrument. It’s still there, still used, but never relied upon. Never obvious or crass, if Murphy was a footballer (yes, this is how I think about literally everything), he’d be Andrea Pirlo - suave, brilliant and effortless, he’s the axis that makes average teams good and good teams great. Give him one of the best in the world and anything is possible.

I’ll still probably only listen to ‘Supersymmetry’ once, though.

Did making DIY Weekly free make sense? On week one’s figures, I’d say it looks very good.
We’ve been pushing with a lot of social and web support (obviously), a few cleverly placed targeted online ads, and the first flyers and posters (yes, physical!) should have been around our stage at Sŵn this weekend. More of that kind of stuff in the near future.
NB. Those numbers above don’t include iPad downloads, ‘FYI’.

Did making DIY Weekly free make sense? On week one’s figures, I’d say it looks very good.

We’ve been pushing with a lot of social and web support (obviously), a few cleverly placed targeted online ads, and the first flyers and posters (yes, physical!) should have been around our stage at Sŵn this weekend. More of that kind of stuff in the near future.

NB. Those numbers above don’t include iPad downloads, ‘FYI’.

What’s in a name?

I’m editor of a music magazine called DIY. It’s monthly, print and free, distributed nationally with readers around the world. It has a digital only sister title called DIY Weekly, and a website - also called DIY. Loads of people think it’s called something different - mostly because, once, it was (well, the website, anyway). 

Here’s the thing. I’ve grown to hate the name This Is Fake DIY.

I don’t hate the song we took it from (obviously), but over a decade ago when we decided to go with that (and the associated URL) we were young, a bit (very) daft, and, honestly, never once thought we’d get to where we have today. We didn’t think it through. Fake. What kind of a word is that to put in the title of something you’re going to put your life into? Balls to that.

DIY. Do It Yourself. In 2013, I think that’s a fine name for a music magazine, and an even better one for a title that’s had our topsy turvy journey from self started bedroom website to (inter)national print magazine with benefits. 

If you can put up with the people looking for reviews of electric screwdrivers.

Yesterday, we finally got rid of our twitter handle (@thisisfakediy), changing it to the far more agreeable @diymagazine (thanks, @illsun - and davidemery for passing on the contact). That makes me happier than it should. It’s stage one in what could be a painful process of getting the last rag tag elements of this ‘brand’ (ewww, yuck, etc) in order. We still need to find a way to get Facebook to change our page name (currently it’s been a case of ‘computer says no’) without having to start from scratch, and the URL still needs sorting (we have one good .co.uk option, but I’m desperate for a decent .com), but we’ll get there.

Don’t get confused. DIY 4 LYF.

I’m freeeeeeeeeeeeee to be whatever…

image

"The new issue of DIY Weekly, available from today (Monday 14th October), marks a big change; from now on our weekly digital magazine will be free and available to all.

Previously only distributed via Apple Newsstand, you’ll also now be able to read on any mobile device or computer, as well as in an interactive format through the existing DIY Weekly iPad app. Our slimmed down iPhone specific version will be discontinued, with the full fat version available to all readers.

This week’s edition also represents a bigger than ever format, packed with interviews, features, news and reviews. Los Campesinos! take the cover, we speak to Of Montreal and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, check in with Swim Deep and Wolf Alice in Birmingham, follow our #STANDFORSOMETHING tour to Bristol and profile the hottest new talent in an expanded Neu section.

You can check it out via thisisfakediy.co.uk or the DIY Weekly iPad app now. Further new distribution channels will be added in the coming weeks.

Available every Monday, those with outstanding paid subscriptions should contact subscriptions@thisisfakediy.co.uk.”

As of today, I’m making DIY Weekly a free publication.

The reason I’m doing this is pretty simple - in fact, there are two major ones. We’ve put out 31 paid for issues (almost) exclusively via Apple Newsstand, available to read via iPads and iPhones. We get good numbers that we’re quite proud of, but when we have made a new issue free, we’ve had great ones. That should surprise nobody.

Not only do we get ten times the downloaders via Apple, but we’re able to distribute via other channels, such as Issuu, meaning those without a particular handset or device can read. We spend more time on DIY Weekly than anything else (myself and my Deputy Editor Viki do almost all the design work ourselves), and so we want the results of that hard work to be available to everyone. A print run for a publisher as small as DIY on a weekly is near impossible, especially when we have the established monthly already, so this is the best way.

Secondly, and more selfishly, we were eager to stop doing the iPhone specific version. I realise this may be something readers used to that format may be disappointed in, but logistically it was taking twice the hours of the main tablet version to produce a product we, honestly, believed wasn’t even half as exciting or engaging. To get techy for a moment, iPhone required two sets of extra templates for every page - one for iPhone 4, and one for the elongated iPhone 5. If we wanted to add Android phones and tablets to our distribution network using our existing platform, that would be an extra five or six. With a team as small as ours doing as much as we do, that just isn’t viable, and when charging for a product we felt it absolutely had to be optimised for whatever screen it was purchased on.

By distributing as we will from today, the full magazine will be viewable, zoomable and scrollable via any mobile, tablet and desktop device. The DIY iPad app will still provide the premium, interactive version - and is the one we’d recommend if you have the gear - but nobody will find themselves unable to read what we’re publishing if they’re interested enough to give it a go.

Sure, I expect there is an argument about money and media here - how we create value for words. I believe as a small publisher you need to make sure you’re not tying yourself in knots to deliver copy when you could be using that time to do something more creative. However, any reader who wants it needs to be able to access that copy where they want, when they want. That’s part of the reason we publish the different formats and publications we do under the DIY banner - why we launched a print title off the back of a website, or why we produce a weekly version at all. This makes that more possible than ever.

Please share DIY Weekly with anyone you think will love it. Tell us what you like, tell us what you don’t (but nicely). You can read it on Issuu.com here.

Oh, and it’s dead good too. Obviously.

P.S. Reasonable advertising rates are available, etc etc.