Finding out where to go and what to expect when you get there is what it’s all about for us professional attention seekers in the media. We have to get it right. Well, most of the time anyway. Steering a client to a room half full of people they have nothing in common with is a sure way to lose their interest. So who really knows where "it" is "at"? Here we match up two heavyweights of the print and internet mediums to hammer out their respective disrespectful perspectives.
In the digital corner is Undergroundhouse.net (www.undergroundhouse.net
), a massive repository of music and info about all things “deep, dubby, groovy, jazzy”. We bring to you for the second time words from Ben R. Davis
whose comments made a bit of a splash
on this site recently. The label director of Flat & Round (www.flatandround.com
) has contributed 1.29% of the 150,000-odd (!) posts on their buzzing message boards, commonly regarded as the most influential of their type on the web that is worldwide. The ability to actually hear and purchase the music under discussion provokes a compelling and authentic dialogue and the active presence on the boards of both the producers and disseminators of the auditory vibe they love so much brings verve to tangles of mangled cross-Atlantic prose. Obviously it’s a cacophony of contradictory and unverifiable opinions, but what do you expect with 5,000 unpaid staff writers? For an example click here
if you really want to know how people found the Miami WMC
, complete with gratuitous swear words.
In the analogue corner is Mixmag
, which for the better part of a decade has had held sway over the habits of literally millions of youth in the UK
and beyond. They’ve suffered a few setbacks of late, most notably the resignation of their long serving editor Viv Craske
(leaving after four years to “write a novel”) and a severe reduction in their circulation from 200,000 in their 2001 hey day to about a quarter of that now. This pronounced dip has perhaps led to some malicious rumours about their imminent closure. The owners Emap
have recently undertaken a bit of title-pruning, well known style mag the Face
for example has been designated dead wood. However their news editor Nick Stevenson
is chipper about their prospects: “We dominate the entire market … all the rival mags put together still don't have our readership.”
Ben@undergroundhouse.net on what it takes to get blocked and the definition of cheese
[/center]How was Miami? Not too cheesy for you?
Miami was quality, I love it out there, great meeting up with everyone who I work with on my label and the website, and also really nice to put some faces to names of all the people I've been talking to via the web and the phone all year. The dj line-ups out there are ridiculously good, it can seem a bit gruelling at times as you’re out partying literally every day and every night for a week but it's definitely worth every bit of the effort. We did a Flat & Round, Flygaric and Nordic Trax BBQ on the Monday afternoon with DJ Heather as the headliner and she completely tore it up, the place was going wild... then on the last afternoon of the conference we did a Seasons Recordings, Bluem and Alluv in conjunction with Undergroundhouse.net pool party and had the legendary Charles Webster headlining which was the perfect way to wind down before the flight home.
What’s the relationship between undergroundhouse.net and the Flat & Round label?
Well it's through running the Undergroundhouse.net site that I became friends with various dj's, producers & label bosses and they gave me advice and helped me realise an ambition I'd had since I was a kid and start up the Flat & Round label. The name of the first record we put out; Chris Lum's "Chairman of the Message Board" was named after it. There wouldn't be a Flat & Round without Undergroundhouse.net.
How’s business these days? Are all the kids really getting into rock?
It's more of an obsession than a business. I'm having far too much fun to consider it to be business. Perhaps rock is more popular with the kids these days, it all works in cycles, house music does seem to be going back underground at the moment to an extent but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Undergroundhouse.net is busier than ever and doesn't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down, just last week we finally started work on a long overdue expansion of the site that I'm really excited about... keeping the details of that under wraps for now though... On Flat & Round we just released a beautiful vocal track last week: Funky Transport Vs JoneeQ "Deeprooted" there's also a Jay Tripwire remix on the other side that I'm really pleased with... Up next is Demarkus Lewis's "Fuzzy Slippers EP" from which "I Can Do What You Do" was one of the big tunes in Miami, proper dirty acid business, so really looking forward to that coming out, we've also got some absolutely phenomenal releases lined up for the rest of the year featuring people like J-Rod, Brett Johnson, Hanna and Funky Transport.
1969 posts is a lot of writing. Why do you do it?
Given the opportunity I'll talk and read about house music all day long, I suppose Undergroundhouse.net is an outlet for that, its a similar sort of thing to having friends round to your house and playing them new records, just doing my bit and spreading the love really, there's some very funny, interesting and knowledgeable people on undergroundhouse.net and as I'm sure a lot of them will tell you it can become quite addictive after a while, there's always something happening on there. What sites do you check out mostly? Online record stores, discogs, a few message boards, strongbads emails
I haven't regularly bought a dance music magazine in years, there's a really good new one called Keep on Magazine (www.keeponmagazine.com) that I've been meaning to subscribe to for ages...
I read the Guardian online and buy the Manchester evening news TV? Movies? Other media? I don't actually watch very much TV, and rarely visit the cinema; best TV program I've watched recently was "Little Britain" proper quality.
Do you think the decreasing circulation and closure of magazines (Ministry, 7 mag, Muzik) is directly attributable to the internet, or were they just shit? Will Mixmag and Dj mag be the next to go?
Probably a bit of both, I'm of the opinion that these kind of magazines are better off when they focus on music rather than trying to be a "lifestyle magazine". Most people I speak to are sick to death of drug surveys and photos of kids on pills pulling mad faces. Magazines work best when they are written by fans who give exposure to stuff because it’s good, not when they are written by journalists who are doing a feature on something because it’s got good PR or is perceived to be popular.
Would you agree with the statement that message boards are more believable that magazines because the people aren’t paid for their opinions?
Community driven websites are unbeatable, up to date information, a lot of the time straight from the people you're trying to find information about, who better to ask about a record than the person who made it or someone from the label that put it out.
What do you have to do get blocked/barred? How often does this happen?
Hardly ever, most house heads tend to be pretty chilled. I blocked someone a while ago for making racist remarks, no one else is currently blocked... What makes a good thread? Enthusiasm and humour normally tend to do the trick.
What happened to Undergroundhouse.net last year when it went down?
The database crashed, it took a while to get a backup restored, very frustrating.
What kind of traffic do you get?
It still amazes me how busy it is, so far for March there's been 0.8 million pages viewed by 130,000 unique visitors... there's just over 5,000 registered members on the message board now...
"What will happen in the future when digital media becomes the choice for djs over vinyl?"
I'm not sure if it ever will, personally I love the warmth of the sound you get with vinyl, and I much prefer buying something tangible with nice artwork etc... Most djs I speak to feel the same way. I think there's room for vinyl and digital downloads to co-exist, at least for the foreseeable future anyway...
Why no digital downloads on flatandround.com? How long has it been going?
I'm not ready yet, will be looking at doing something with downloads later in the year though, more likely to sell through 3rd party digital download sites than on flatandround.com. F&R has had a website since before it was launched around this time last year...
What’s the policy when it comes to discussion about drugs?
There aren't really any rules other than that people keep their posts relevant to the focus of the board. Somebody suggested putting a drugs forum on there the other week but that's not really what undergroundhouse.net is about...
What’s so great about Mazi ASP?
Mazi is one of my favourite djs and a fantastic producer... he's been supportive of pretty much every release on F&R which is nice...
Any other artists who are really doing it at the moment?
Hundreds, couldn't possibly list everyone, at the moment I'm really into stuff like The Lawnchair Generals, Swirl People, J-Rod, Fred Everything, Brett Johnson, Spettro, Midas, Oliver Desmet & Chuck Diesel, Demarkus Lewis, JT Donaldson, Lance Desardi, Jason Hodges, Jacob London, East Coast Boogiemen, Hanna, Swag, Rhythm Plate, David Duriez, Phil Weeks, Shawn Ward, Natural Rhythm, Chris Lum, Funky Transport, The Littlemen, Inland Knights, Paul Paredes, Scott Pace, and loads more.. There are stacks of really talented producers and some great music around at the moment.
Define “underground”: Music that’s made to be heard and danced to. Define “cheese”:
Music that’s made to be sold.
Do you play out much? Where? What’s your local scene like?
I have decks & records but I don't dj, I'm crap at mixing. There are some great nights in Manchester at the moment but we could always do with a few more.
Are you coming to Ibiza this summer? Why/why not?
I'd really like to make it out there for the closing parties. I love Ibiza Town, first time we went was in ‘95 and we ended up going 6 years running...
What you think of Jockey Slut's new online venture?
Looks nice, the site is very impressive, a lot of its focus is not really my scene though...
Thank you for your time.
You’re welcome, anytime :)
Nick@mixmag.net isn't denying leadership ambitions
[/center] What does being the news editor of Mixmag involve?
From our June issue we're completely remixing the mag. We've done a lot of reader surveys and 'focus groups' in the last three months and we're going to start doing more of the stuff we're good at and more of the stuff our readers like. As News Ed I'll be looking after the front section of the mag but as with all the people here, I'll still get to do features, reviews and the like too.
How did you get your job? What's the pay like?
I got a foot in the door doing work experience and then continued to badger the office with ideas for stories and news. I was studying journalism at the time in Bournemouth but was practically doing my degree part time with all the work I was doing for Mixmag. In summer 2001 I was asked to write the weekly Ibiza Mixmag and then when I left uni the following summer I was offered the job in London as staff writer and then clubs ed. Journalism on the whole isn't a well paid profession but I do love my job and my mates who earn big bucks have never said that.
Why did Viv quit? Do you want his job?
Viv's writing a novel and so wants to concentrate on that. He's been here four years and worked on 48 issues and thought it was time for a change in direction for him. I'm in no rush to become editor - I've still got a lot to learn.
How many people work at Mixmag?
There are about 16 people in the main office, then there's marketing, advertising, all our freelancers and photographers.
How old are you?
I'm 23 in a fortnight. I got fucking IDed in a pub back home last week though.
Do you feel proud to be have been quoted in the Guardian?
Ha, yeah I think my mum would be over the moon to find out I'm the official voice of UK ecstasy takers. I was in the Star last week too talking about shagging in club toilets. I think I'm more pleased about that to be honest. Or are you more of a Sun reader? I read a range of papers now for the job but I tend to find the most informative columnists are always on The Sun's 'News in Briefs' – those girls get it bang on every time!
Where do you get information from?
All sorts. You get the best stories from actually speaking to people. Everyone in clubland has a news story; it's just a matter of getting it out of them. There are a lot of good websites and newsletters you can sign up for. Also if you need to find out what everyone is talking about the chat forums are always helpful despite their lack of warmth to us hacks. I can speak to 800 clubs at once using my email system and I've also got 120 clubbers across the UK we call the Mixmag Army who are good for gossip and stories.
What sites do you check out? Do you post on message boards?
Mixmag.net, 4clubbers.net, gurn.net, harderfaster.net are all very vocal. Sites worth a look are Fark.com for silly stories and of course Ibiza-voice.com.
What other magazines do you check out?
I like Sleaze, FHM, Loaded, Viz and I also get a lot of local mags and independents sent to me so I can see what's going on around the UK. Apart from that the other dance titles tend to be filled with all the stuff we've turned down or just didn't find interesting enough to write about.
What clubs do you like? How often do you go out?
I go clubbing at the very least twice a week. I try to see as many new clubs as possible so I know what I'm talking about in the mag. I love going up to Leeds as the quality of clubs and people is second to none. When I die I want my ashes spread in the ashtrays of the bars of Leeds.
Describe a typical Mixmag reader:
I actually had to give a presentation on this so it rolls off the tongue: he's male, 22, northern and likes house. He lives to go clubbing, might not earn much but what he does earn he spends going out having fun with his friends. I'm not northern, but apart from that our typical reader is exactly the same as me. It makes writing for our target audience come quite naturally for me as I write how I'd talk.
Did that bit in Human Traffic (link) when John Simm's character Jip blagged his way into a club by saying he was writing for Mixmag really fuck it up for you guys?
I used to do that before I even worked here! It's the oldest trick in the book isn't it? It does still go on but it's only in the smaller clubs that people are still getting away with it. Fair play to the blaggers I reckon! Recently there was some bloke going round saying he was me. I wouldn't have minded it so much but apparently he was this really camp bloke, mincing about the place. When I worked in Ibiza I used to write a column called Scooter Boy. I met one guy in a club wearing a scooter helmet who told me to my face that he was me. I got my photo taken with him and an autograph. Priceless!
What do you use in the way of identification?
I don't. The majority of clubs know who I am through when I was the clubs editor. If I were reviewing a club I'd normally go for a drink with the promoters before hand anyway.
Why are the readership figures for Mixmag so much higher than circulation? How do they calculate that?
NRS [National Readership Survey - www.nrs.co.uk] work out that some mags are 'sociable reads' which basically means one person in a group of friends buys it and then everyone else reads it. Most copies of Mixmag are read by ten people as they lay around in a mate's bedroom or coffee table and get picked up and read throughout the month. We're currently read by 541,000 people a month worldwide.
Why do you think Ministry, Muzik & Seven went under?
I can only repeat what I've been told but I heard Muzik wasn't making enough through advertising. I was told Ministry's parent company simply wanted to focus more on the label. I'm not sure about Seven.
What do you think of Jockeyslut.com?
The only thing I don't like about Mixmag is our website isn't being used to its full potential. I guess now Jockeysluts gone quarterly they can concentrate on their site a lot more. It looks good.
I hear that Jockey Slut spread a rumour that Mixmag were going down. Do you believe they were the source of it?
We get a rumour spread about us every week and so far none of them have been true. I've no idea who starts them and I doubt there's any malicious intent. Someone told me that they heard the rumours came from Jockeyslut but to be honest I couldn't care less. It's not true so who gives a fuck?
Why would they do such a thing?
As I've said, chances are it was just a Chinese whispers gone wrong. We're the biggest dance music mag on the planet. We're not going anywhere.
Were you pissed off when Dj mag repeated it?
I thought that was very sad. I genuinely thought that the bitchiness of the dance press might die down now there was only a few magazines. So many rumours float around in dance music. To actually print one shows how desperate you are to fill your inches. I know someone from DJmag apologised to our Features Ed in Miami about that but to be honest it never should have happened.
Is Mixmag going down?
No chance. We're the biggest dance magazine in the world. Our parent company EMAP knows that dance music might not be as profitable as rock and pop but as long as we dominate the entire market, which we do, it's very happy. All the rival mags put together still don't have our readership.
How is Mixmag.net coming along?
As I said, I don't think its really doing its job simply because we put all our efforts into the mag. As I work in editorial I'm not sure what the score is with this. I'd like to see more of our features and reviews put on the net after the mags out. It could be a good reference source.
Do you buy music online? Is file sharing stealing?
I buy records over the net but I mean actual physical vinyl. The movement at the moment is similar to at the turn of the century when they stopped selling sheet music and people just started buying recordings instead. It will all be decided by the lawyers. I hope they all own MP3 players!
What are Mixmag's plans for Ibiza this summer? Will you be doing an on-island edition?
We're doing lots of Ibiza coverage this year. In previous years we'd only have one Ibiza issue. This year we're doing Ibiza features throughout the season. There won't be an on island mag which I'm gutted about as it used to be my 'job' to write it.