|| Change is
. . . or at least it better be, because I have more than my share this issue (#23). Yes, this is the first Brooklyn issue, meaning two things: the magazine now includes multiple references to the place where it is made, and many people in that place will be picking up Stay Free! for the first time. Stay Free! has long been sold in book and record stores across the U.S. and Canada, but now it's also available in local shops and cafés in what we're calling South Central (Brooklyn, that is): Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill.
What does this mean for the magazine's content? Stay Free! will continue to do the same sort of cultural criticism we've always done. We still have the same enemies: nefarious corporations, greedy politicians, hidden persuaders, and SUVs. But we'll also be covering the people and places that make our neighborhoods alive. I suspect that we can do this without alienating our national subscribers, and--just to be sure--I've added eight pages to the magazine for local stuff instead of cutting the usual, more nationally minded fare.
Why go local? I've been wanting to do local coverage for years now, but publishing a separate magazine about Brooklyn would never work. One zine is eccentric, two is insane. I don't have a trust fund, after all, and I need to pay rent. At the same time, taking Stay Free! local makes economic sense. National distribution has been giving me ulcers. I recently had to cut ties with our largest distributor, which has yet to pay Stay Free! the $6,000 it owes. And, lately, selling advertising has been a struggle as well. The independent record labels that have long been our mainstay have suffered flagging sales. With local distribution, we can broaden our ad base with neighborhood businesses--and, with luck, still maintain our national advertisers.
In many ways, this move toward the local is a return to our roots. I started publishing Stay Free! as a free music zine in North Carolina 11 years ago. The only reason it went national is because I moved to New York and still felt like a southerner--it took me a while to find a new local community. Now I've been on the same odd little street on the western border of Park Slope for more than eight years, and at some point along the way this place became not just a neighborhood but my neighborhood. I love it, and I love Brooklyn, and hopefully Brooklyn will feel the same about Stay Free! (You better!)