Feedback Magazine has left the building. Not because it’s a bad publication (although, given the resources, it never had the chance to be a particularly great publication either). Not because it’s bankrupt. And not because the staff grew tired. Only one person grew tired. Damon is leaving Austin, so he decided to take Feedback with him, preserved for eternity in the state at which it died: almost something.
Emotions aside, everyone with even a smidge of business sense knows this was a stupid move. You spend five years building a brand. You build relationships with advertisers and make contacts in the community. Everyone in town knows the name and trademark. People in other towns know the name and trademark. It serves a loyal niche market. You get tired of the niche market, you outgrow it, things change. Life happens. But instead of letting go of this symbolic publication the right way, you let go of it the selfish way by not really letting go at all.
Damon did what was right for him. He was not shy about admitting that. But what about what’s right for Nina, who has been with it from the beginning? Not a writer or editor by trade, she assumed these roles because she was enthusiastic about the scene and the people in it. What about Richard, who lives to promote? What about Sally and Krissi, talented writers who were glad to be part of the team? What about hard-working, dependable Coy and his budding team of advertisers? What about Liz, who really took control of her position when she was editor and still has excellent writing to contribute after the fact? What’s right for them?
Feedback was an extra cirricular activity (rather than a full-time job) for almost everyone involved. But it was something good, something healthy. It also became a project with real potential.
Unfortunately, Feedback spread itself thin this past year, trying to develop separate issues for individual cities. I’m not sure what the goal was; I haven’t seen any magazines become successful that way. There were also problems with retaining competent resources. Writers remained unpaid, editors remained underpaid, and our graphic designer got $750 an issue to drop an awkward textbox onto a page-sized picture. Breakdowns in communication caused promoting to be more difficult than it had to be. Events became more polarized with respect to the actual publication.
It seemed like everything was linked through Damon. He admitted one time that it was overwhelming to be the go-to guy for everything, he didn’t want it to be “all about him”, and he wanted to delegate more. I agree that it would have been a good idea, but it never happened. He could never trust people to do their jobs without his involvement. The rest of the crew dealt with this handicap and grew more and more complacent with his propensity to be in charge of it all.
So it’s no surprise he got sick of it. Managing a lot of people is tough. But you’d think that if one claimed ownership to something with the kind of potential Feedback had, he’d at least want to try to sell it and still allow the possibility of its contributors to continue working on the magazine. At best, he would let it continue without his involvement at all, except to collect when his predecessor sold it for him. And if he was really intent on showing his appreciation to all of the people that helped put together a magazine that truly was “all about him”, he would let them continue creating a publication that founders Richard Boyce and Steve Reynolds had in mind when made their first badly written 16-page ‘zine printed on crappy newsprint.
Although the lacked a passion for writing, Richard and Steve created the magazine because they cared about the scene, which was bigger than either of them. I signed on a few years ago because I had a passion for writing AND I cared about the scene. I enjoyed the chance to meet others like me, writers, scenesters, or both. I think I am correct in saying that many people enjoyed being a part of this dynamic group, and it is a shame that the community must take a blow because one person decided to leave town.
Although I am disappointed, I am not surprised. Given the way things have gone in the past, this is a fitting end. It was all about Damon before, and it continues to be all about Damon now.
In light of this, some people have suggested I start my own magazine. I don’t plan to do that. Things happen for a reason, so perhaps I was not meant to run a magazine. Although it sure would have been nice to learn that through experience.