music morsels fiorenza July 2006 

INDUSTRY PROFILE - Paste Magazine Editor / Publisher Josh Jackson

by Mark E. Waterbury

Josh Jackson was the type of kid who looked a bit deeper into music than most of his friends did. “I listened to a lot of music that was not necessarily on the radio,” he recalls. “I went to a lot of shows and was the guy who was always making mix tapes and looking to find those gems that were not getting a lot of attention.” Born in Munich, Germany before moving at a young age to the Atlanta area, Josh began to gain a keen interest in writing as well. On his first day of college at the University of Georgia, he dropped his biology major and entered their journalism school. “I think I realized that I actually did enjoy writing when I was able write about subjects I wanted to. With writing, I could say whatever was relative to the times and put it down on paper, and it just came naturally like in conversation.” While at the University of Georgia, Josh was already looking at the possibility of marrying his love for music and writing. Some of the first articles he wrote for the student paper The Red And Black were about music. While attending college, Josh also did some writing for an indie magazine published by Tim Porter, who he met at a concert. After he obtained his degree however, Josh ended up taking different writing jobs including travel writing. 

Never losing his love for music, Josh played bass in some bands in college, and continued to do so for a couple years after graduating. He and his friends often discussed the area music scenes and what was happening with local and regional musicians. “We had all talked for a long time about how to launch something music-related, because we had a lot of friends in bands. We were trying to think of what we could do to help them make a living at what they were doing. These people are not going to become platinum stars, but it would be nice for them to raise a family and make a living at what they love doing.” Along with another friend Nick Purdy, Josh launched a web site called in 1998. The main idea behind the web site was to help area musicians by getting the word out about music that was often harder to gain access to than what was happening in the mainstream. “We thought if we could create a site where we were careful about the music that we chose, that the plan would have some value,” Josh notes. “We wanted to get people to come to it and try something they hadn’t tried before, and start cross-pollinating each other’s fan lists.

The cross-promotion formula of started to work, but not just for the bands. The web site itself started growing in popularity, as along with the editor’s internet marketing efforts, the fan base of every band that was added to the site became fans of the webzine as well. After only four years of existence, it was obvious that Paste needed to become more than just a webzine. “I always wanted to do a music magazine. The time had come where this little web site was becoming too much to be a side project to our other jobs, yet not quite enough to be the only thing that we did. So we thought, why don’t we turn this into a real magazine where we can cover all the music that we love? We didn’t really see a lot magazines covering a wide variety of music that weren’t just targeting the mainstream.” At the time Josh, Nick, and Tim Porter had been living in different cities, but all decided to move back to Atlanta, settling on the music rich suburb of Decatur for their new venture. Without having any other writers, or a distributor, or even a printer when they started out, the trio managed to get the first issue of Paste Magazine on the streets in July of 2002. Not wanting to just start with some little newsprint tabloid, they produced a full color magazine with eighty-four pages. Tim was the one who came up with the idea of including a compilation CD of indie music with the magazine. The first CD included songs from Patti Griffith, Wilco and Speech from Arrested Development among others.  “It was really amazing because we started without really that much of an idea of what we were doing,” Josh muses. "We just decided we were going to do it and push our way forward. It was kind of crazy in the beginning as we were just starting out by covering our favorite artists that maybe everyone hadn’t heard of. Tim and I were doing pretty much all the writing until we got a press release out there to which brought us more free-lancers.” One stroke of fortuitous timing helped with the launch of Paste. They hooked up with a distributor who was going to a convention where he met the buyer from Borders Books and Music. The Borders buyer loved the concept and decided to get it in the stores nationwide. “Getting in a big chain like that obviously helped, because it gave us more clout with potential advertisers,” Josh notes. “We really had no funding for that first issue and  funded it by selling subscriptions to people from the web site. “

The first issue of Paste printed 15,000 copies with half of them including the CD. By the second issue, they hired an art director who helped enhance the magazine with a more professional and exciting look. It was apparent fairly early they started something that was destined to grow. “The response was pretty phenomenal. We were hoping there were more people out there who love this type of music and didn’t feel that anyone else was talking to them.  With Paste, we definitely connected with them.” While Nick handled the business side and Tim worked on the indie film aspect of the magazine, Josh continued to handle the editorial duties. After only a year of publication, Paste had become successful enough that Josh and his partners were able to devote their full time to the magazine. In its relatively brief tenure, Paste has burgeoned from the original printing of 15,000 copies to its current 300,000 nationwide as well as some overseas distribution. Most of this has happened due to the distribution network and their marketing efforts. The main reason, however, is keeping their focus on the core ideals they had for Paste from the beginning. “There were two guiding principles we adhered to for the growth of Paste. One is following our tag-line, ‘Signs of life in music, film and culture.’ We are looking for stories that are more celebrating; finding the gems that are already out there. We also always wanted to put out a magazine that we ourselves would want to read, hoping there are other people out there that are like us.”

Eventually, Paste added a compilation DVD into their publication that includes music videos, short films and trailers. Continuing to help independent musicians and filmmakers, Paste Magazine produced the Rock N Reel Festival in October of 2005. Using the parking lot in their Decatur office complex as a concert stage, with some vacant offices used as screening rooms, the fest was a success and is now going to be an annual occurrence. Paste has recently started a biweekly podcast and they do a weekly segment on CNN Headline News, as well as radio segments. They are hoping one day to have a full-fledged half hour TV show. They also were recently named "Magazine of the Year" at the 2006 PLUG Independent Music Awards. Even with the distribution and growing popularity, it takes a lot of hard work to get Paste out every month. Since it is a labor of love for Josh, his partners and staff, that is perhaps the greatest contributing factor to the success of Paste. “It’s a lot of fun promoting great music and film wherever we get a chance. I also love getting the chance to work with some of the best writers in the world and to see them come up with stories that would be worthy of any publication out there. Overall, we are having fun with what we are doing and are always looking for new ways to do it.”


Josh Jackson’s advice for musicians: “Almost every success story starts locally. You have to get out there, play shows in your town and get people out to the shows. Meet the other bands and work with them to talk to each other's fan bases. Try to create a scene and then see what comes out of it.”

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