Chris Ziegler's business card is bigger than yours

Chris Ziegler is the former music editor at the Orange County Weekly and staff writer at now defunct legendary, Punk Planet. His freelance work has appeared in Paper Magazine, Arthur and Spin, among others. He is one of two co-founders of Los Angeles music paper the LA Record, a free alternative weekly that is distributed on street corners. Along with the brand’s website and other cross-promotional events, the Record tries to promote local Los Angeles music. We recently spoke with Ziegler (via phone) about the internet’s continued impact on the future of literary publishing, and some ideas to stay afloat.

BLACK CLOCK: Do you think what’s happened in the music industry this past decade because of the internet will happen to the literary, publishing industry?

CHRIS ZIEGLER: What’s happened to music is going to come to publishing. People are getting freaked out about e-books and a similar thing is happening with comic books but it’s not as mainstream yet. What’s happening is a total reconstruction of the entire industry and the information is incidental. To retool something so that it can reproduce to make a profit.

How has the LA Record dealt with these challenges?

We planned for it. The whole point is to reinforce and promote the LA music community and we don’t rely solely on the physical format to do that, we can do it through the site, we can do it with the publication and through events. We just need the physical product in the beginning to establish ourselves, basically what we wanted to be to people, so they would know what we are about. We do the physical publication but it’s marketing for the brand, the national newspapers produce the brand to sell the physical product. The LA Record produces the magazine to promote the brand. We also do parties, put out music, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in print, it’s a format that fit[s]. It’s a giant business card.

Do you see any way of salvaging these industries?

I don’t think there is any way to save them the way they are now. There is no way a literary journal is going to turn a profit, maybe if you add DVD’s like Oxford American did. The only way you could do that is to make a physical artifact. I know that sounds like a contradiction but make an artifact that is completely unique that can’t be replicated on the internet. Since everything you can put in a magazine can be replicated online, you have to be super creative and smart at marketing. Point being you can’t just put a bunch of pictures and words on the internet. It needs to be unique.

Do you think reading physical books and magazines will become an artifact of the past?

It’s kind of already an artifact. It’s not like a 150 years when there was a King James Bible in every house. I think Dos Passos said that, don’t quote me.

As soon as there is an effective e-book reader it will kill books. Last night I literally tried to read a Kobo Abe book on my laptop for free but the site format was total crap so I opted not to. Its just physically hard to do, music isn’t so difficult. So as soon as they find some easy replacement that works, they will.

by Nikki Darling
who writes fiction and non-fiction, and graduated from CalArts in May 2010 with an MFA in Critical Studies

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