The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Black Sky Thinking

The Quietus Is 10! Help Us To The Next Decade Of Black Sky Thinking
Luke Turner , August 30th, 2018 09:44

The Quietus has now been running as an independent publication for about 10 years. How the damn hell did we do that? Luke Turner reflects on the past decade, and explains how we need your help to continue

Here's the tldr version of this article on the event of The Quietus' 10th anniversary: it's our birthday - give us a present:

Meanwhile, for the more considered reader, it is about a decade to the day since John and I were called into an office and handed envelopes informing us that we were being sacked from The Quietus, then a new website with no readers that had been launched with zero fanfare a week or so before. Back then, it's fair to say, we were in a terrible place. John had just given up drinking and I was in the process of getting divorced. Nobody else would employ us to contribute to any other publications, so we had plenty of nervous, bleak, despairing energy along with the deranged compulsion to write. So we took over the site from our original bosses, borrowed the corner of a desk in a friend's tiny office, and set to work. We haven't really stopped since.

We were quietly determined that we were going to prove wrong the web geeks who prophesied that Web 2.0 and user-generated content meant the age of the critic was dead. We believed that The Quietus could be an important and useful conduit for music that was being squeezed on one hand by a conservative (sorry) mainstream media and on the other by illegal filesharing. We didn't really have a choice.

I didn't think back in the autumn of 2008 that we'd be able to make it beyond that calendar year, let alone continue for the next ten. It felt then like The Quietus was essentially a Titanic that was launched with its iceberg hole pre-installed and, to be honest, it feels like that now - we've just somehow managed to plug the gaps as best we can.

That of course hasn't been down to just John and I. There's the office crew constantly helping us to arrange the deckchairs - currently Christian Eede, Paddy Clarke and Anna Wood. Alongside them are the now hundreds of people who have joined us along the way to write for The Quietus, share their voices, and make the site what it has become. Increasingly, this is thanks to you, our readers: last year, it was reader donations that enabled us to survive after a horrendous summer where we first felt the brutal chop of ad revenue that threatened to put us out of business. Since then, regular donors have helped us to cover nearly a quarter of our running costs each month. Yet the ad picture is not getting any brighter, which is why we're again asking if you can spare even the cost of a pint or a coffee a month to help keep the site going - these small amounts all add up to making The Quietus a sustainable operation in the medium to long term.

All our writers, readers, contributors, financial supporters and well-wishers alike can take a great sense of pride in a collective achievement that, so people do tell us, has had something of an impact. I hope we've helped contribute to the firing of the canon that held your Dylans and Lennons above all else. We didn't invent longform online journalism, but when we started the site we pooh-poohed those who told us it would never work, and were proved right. I hope too that we have done a great deal in dispelling the myth that there was a "Golden Age" of music journalism. In fact, it often seems that we're living in a particularly fertile time for music writing - rather than worry about competitors, we celebrate the fact that the market is a far more crowded one now than when we started, and that many of the people running music sections in newspapers, mags and online cut their teeth writing for us here at The Quietus.


Yet this ten year anniversary isn't one we're greeting with a bout of chest-puffing celebration. If truth be told, times now are as tough, if not worse, than they were a decade ago. Facebook and Google have independent publishers like The Quietus (along with democracy and responsible political discourse) over a barrel. Their algorithms take away our traffic, and they scoop up our advertising revenue. A few years ago we would earn enough in the run-up to Christmas to keep the site going for six months. Now, we barely make enough from big brand ads to fund it for one. I bring this up partly because at this past weekend's Sea Change festival in Totnes, where John and I took part in a Q&A about The Quietus, people were genuinely surprised to learn what a negative impact the two great satans of tech have had on us.

Speaking of that wonderful weekend, for me it was a hugely inspiring couple of days that really reinforced why we're still here: there's a great community of people in the UK who are all supporting exciting music, and if our job is to celebrate that then I can't think of a better one. A huge thanks to one-time tQ intern Laura Snapes, now Guardian deputy music editor, who hosted that Q&A and said, "Even if the Quietus were to vanish from the internet tomorrow - and let’s hope it doesn’t - what you’ve created never will. You’ve torn open a new seam of cultural discourse in the UK, one that brings in music, nature, politics, sex and sexuality and death, and ways of thinking about those things that balance rigour and humour and righteousness. All that will endure even after the pixels fade." That's about the nicest thing anyone has ever said about us. I just wish we could use words to pay the bills.

We don't and never will run this website in order to cater to one demographic or another in order to make our ad sales job easier. This refusal to engage in feeding voracious algorithms or marketing trends is probably why The Quietus has never become a giant #platform, or been purchased by a massive publishing house. It's probably why we're still going, however, because at the core of everything we do, is you. You are our demographic, reading this right now - someone for whom music has in some way, large or small, saved their life, for whom it is always more than just background noise, and who within that doesn't see genre boundaries as walls, who want to support the underground as much as they love pop, who wants to continue seeing music not just as entertainment or trend but as part of the fabric of love, politics, history, sex and life itself.

And now, what of the future? We started out as an independent publication in September 2008 with a half-built website, no sales skills and no idea what we're doing. Ten years later, we still have the same half-built website that you can't even properly read on phones, no sales skills and no idea of what we're doing. It wasn't the best way to do things then, and it isn't now, but we are determined to carry on, in whatever form we can. If you can help, by donating via the link above (and here again, it is our birthday after all) then we will forever be grateful. We've spent ten years Black Sky Thinking. The whoppers are nastier and more plentiful than ever and clouds are gathering but fuck it - let's go for ten more.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.