Hi everybody. Nick Norton here, founder, editor, designer, and sometimes-subject-of-reviews of New Classic LA. And I just signed the necessary documents to transfer ownership of the website to Equal Sound. This post is to explain why that is, and let you, dear readers and supporters, know what I’ve got planned for New Classic LA’s next decade.
Yeah, decade. I set up New Classic LA more than ten years ago now. When I moved home to LA after my first round of grad school for composition and started trying to make connections in the new music scene, the first thing I noticed was that there was no central concert calendar. While I was in college I had written for a site called San Diego Punk that had a calendar of every punk or hardcore show in San Diego. You could check the site every Monday and decide what bands you were going to see that week. It made it incredibly easy to get connected with the punk scene.
I’ve always thought that shows are the bread and butter of any music scene. In addition to being the main outlet for artists, they’re also a place for musicians and community members to meet, hear something new, make connections to people who might inspire them, have their ideas and preconceptions challenged, and—increasingly important in this age of daily political terrorism—do something enjoyable.
Writing for San Diego Punk, and having their calendar as a resource, introduced me to a ton of musicians in the San Diego scene when I first moved there. When I got to LA and needed to meet musicians, I thought “hey, I’m passable enough at building websites to throw a basic calendar page together, and that would be a good way to meet people.”
So I did it. Mostly on downtime at my day job. Within days I received emails from five or six ensembles asking me to list their shows and offering me press tickets.
“Whoa,” I thought, “this is actually working!” But as a composer, this presented me with a massive conflict of interest. Could I accept free tickets to shows if I didn’t write about them? If I wrote about them, would that turn me into a critic rather than a composer? If I said nice things would they be interpreted as syncophantic attempts to get my pieces played? If I said mean, or at least critical, things, would that keep my pieces from getting played?
My solution was to ask people who seemed interested in the New Classic LA if they wanted to write for it. I didn’t have a budget, so the payment was free tickets to shows or free CDs (this was when CDs were still a thing). That way we could post things regularly to keep traffic up, they could struggle with the inherent conflicts in reviewing their peers, and I could focus on the calendar aspects of the site.
This model worked pretty well for a while. For a long while, actually—it’s more or less what we still use. At one point I think I had ten writers contributing semi-regularly, and two friends helping out with maintaining the calendar. Things were cool. But as I grew and found more opportunities as a composer, I had less and less time to pay attention to all of the review and interview requests and necessary updates and maintenance to the site. Plus I had a new project to which I was devoting the large majority of my free time and energy: the concert series Equal Sound.
Producing concerts with Equal Sound is, for me, an artistic process akin to composition. In fact, I believe running New Classic LA is a form of composition as well. Music, for me, is a way of listening, and unique to every listening individual. My job as a composer, then, is to help people hear things. I always ask myself what the best way to do that is in any given situation: if there’s something that I want people to hear that doesn’t exist yet, perhaps I have to write that piece and have it performed or recorded. If that thing that I want them to hear already exists, then maybe the best way for me to help a listener hear it is to put on a concert of that thing, or to make a mixtape with that thing on it, or, in the case of New Classic LA, to write about that thing or get some publicity for an event featuring it.
With this in mind, more and more of my time and energy has been going to Equal Sound. Last year we received our 501c3 letter from the IRS, and I went all in on trying to grow the series. Realizing I didn’t have time for both, I started asking trusted friends if they’d be interested in taking over New Classic LA. I even looked into having bigger music sites acquire it. While I was putting effort into this, the site itself began to flounder as I wasn’t chasing down writers for updates. You might have noticed that things here have been lacking lately. I simply didn’t have time for both Equal Sound and New Classic LA. One had to go, and it wasn’t going to be Equal Sound.
But I didn’t, and don’t, want New Classic LA to die. It just needs a better infrastructure and more resources to continue to run well and serve our community.
Thankfully, we came up with a solution. The lawyers who got Equal Sound’s 501c3 set up advised us to make our mission broad so that we could partake in a wide range of musical activities. Equal Sound’s mission, as it were, is “to introduce listeners to new music by breaking down the traditional confines of musical genres.”
In case you don’t see where this is going, writing about music and running a concert calendar is a great way to introduce listeners to new music. Equal Sound has an infrastructure, and a bank account, and a board. And the board just approved Equal Sound taking ownership of New Classic LA.
Now, instead of splitting my attention between projects, I can refocus it to make New Classic LA work within the context of Equal Sound’s mission.
So I’m rebuilding the site. The concert calendar will still be front and center, but it will live alongside a public database of LA musicians, ensembles, venues, presenters, and resources, which many people in the scene have said they want. The reviews and features will continue with our staff writers, though to facilitate better journalism we will also create a separate set of community pages where people can post their own reviews and interviews, to give other concert series and musicians a platform to say what they want to say. We will also solidify a fundraising program to help cover the site costs and pay the writers. We’re going to grow this thing to be sustainable and to help our music community thrive.
This is going to be a huge project. It will take time. Things might look dead for a while while I build the new site on a testing server. But this is something I am extremely excited to work on, which is something that I haven’t felt in a while about working on the site. I believe this will be better for all of us in the LA scene. If you have thoughts or comments or ideas, I’d be very pleased to hear them too. Just comment below, or use the contact page. If you’re into making a now TAX DEDUCTIBLE contribution toward the site expenses, visit this page.
I really appreciate your taking the time to read this, and can’t wait to share the next decade with you.
TL;DR: Equal Sound now owns and operates New Classic LA. I’m making a massive overhaul and the site will look a bit outdated until it’s done, at which point it will again become the best resource for new music in LA.