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Arthur Magazine on the Ropes Once Again

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Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 7:33 AM

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The estimable Arthur Magazine, the free-thinking the LA -based music and culture publication that returned from the dead last fall, sent out a call for help yesterday, via its editor/owner/publishter Jay Babcock. It read, in part:

One year ago I ran up my credit cards and borrowed money from friends and family in order to buy out my ex-partner in Arthur. Since then I have maxed out my personal and business credit cards to service that debt and to start up publication of Arthur again. We have worked very hard with very little resources: some of us could afford to work pro bono, others could afford to work at well below market, still others couldn’t afford to work for Arthur but did it anyway.

Still, we have bills to pay, and debt to service. Starting up again costs money. And my credit cards are now maxed out.

On the heels of lower than expected ad sales (although they are trending up), increased production and distribution costs (higher quality printing and paper, higher fuel costs, increased printrun), and an “under-performing non-magazine product” (the Living Theatre dvd, for which we’ve sold less than 25% of the printrun since launch, received zero reviews or notices, etc), spiraling debt service payments (now $2k a month) on startup costs, and most importantly ZERO NEW BACKERS… we’ve finally reached the point where

WE HAVE NO MORE MONEY.

If we don’t obtain at least $20k in the next six days, ARTHUR is done. Our long-term prospects are good, if we are fortunate enough to make it through this rough patch.

Arthur has always operated under its own rules, making its coverage decisions based on aesthetics rather than finances. It takes guts (and good taste) to even contemplate putting, say, a band like Sparks on the cover, who even the most die-hard headz would admit isn't the most "cover-friendly" band. Arthur and Babcock not only know music, they know writing. The magazine had recently brought on the great Erik Davis to write a column called "The Analog Life," which, in the magazine's own words, is dedicated to "exploring cultural life outside the ascendant empire of the digital." It may sound like an odd conceit at first, but if the current vinyl revolution is any indication, the column comes at the perfect moment. Arthur's commitment to questioning blindly held beliefs was built into its DNA.

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Two panels from Kevin Huizenga's "Or Else." You don't understand how awesome it is that Arthur gives him a forum.

Too, it recently began teaming with the great comic/art book publisher Buenaventura Press to create a comics page featuring new work by some of the country's smartest artists, including new comics by Kevin Huizenga, Jeffrey Brown, Anders Nilsen, Al Columbia, Ted May, Souther Salazar and Dan Zettwoch. The first time I discovered the new section, I let out an audible squeal of delight.

But then, when it decided to begin publishing again last fall after an ownership tussle, one of the blindly held beliefs that it questioned was whether a print magazine in 2008 was a viable thing. Just this year two good rags with far greater distribution than Arthur -- Harp and No Depression -- ceased publishing print versions. Indie record labels who once were the lifeblood of the zine and small press scene have shifted much of their ad-buying online. This makes it incredibly difficult -- if not impossible -- to create a thick, substantial product.

Since Babcock sent out the urgent email yesterday afternoon, the magazine has received over $13,000 dollars in donations. To help their cause, go to Arthur Magazine's website.

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