Have you ever discovered something cool just a little too late? For me, that's Scratch Magazine.
Manjula Martin, editor and publisher, started Scratch two years ago to expand the conversation around writing and commerce. Or, as she explains, to answer questions about “that nagging, quiet specter of money that hovers over creative professions.”
But could she sustain a reader-supported quarterly magazine without ads? Her final letter from the editors explains why it wasn't possible.
Their final issue, The End, is available for free until July 31 thanks to a sponsorship from the National Writers Union. It's a collection of stories about complicated endings — being fired, quitting, and more.
Sadly, I didn't know this existed until I stumbled upon Manjula's farewell interview with The Billfold a few days ago.
Rachael Maddux‘s story about why she quit music journalism especially resonated with me. Inspiration from the movie Almost Famous weaves throughout the piece, but I really loved her realization at the end:
“I always felt like the film presented two ways of loving music: you were the groupie (Anita), or you were the writer (William). I didn’t want to be the groupie, so I became the writer. But lately, I’m thinking more about Anita, how the way she loved music and how music worked in her life was so important to William, but how her experience seems to be totally off the radar of the movie itself. Anita uses music to explain herself, to fill in life’s ineffable gaps; she doesn’t need to probe it or track its every move. She leaves her brother that satchel of records, the note telling him to burn the candle and see his future—it’s cheesy, but she was just a kid too. Anyway, she got it.”
So much about her story mirrors my own struggle within the music business and my very difficult decision to leave it.
Sometimes I miss the feeling of forgetting to breathe while watching a performance from backstage. It happened the first time I saw Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings play “Elvis Presley Blues” from a small theater in Des Moines. And when Heart totally nailed the chorus on “Alone” at an amphitheater in Raleigh.
But other times, I'm just grateful for leisurely Saturday mornings alone on my couch listening to the birds.
My company's generously purchased box seats for the entire season of concerts at Nashville's shiny, new downtown amphitheater, but I can't bring myself to ask for any tickets. Even for a few artists I really love. It's just…complicated.
But, like Maddux says, there's more than one way for music to be a part of our lives. And I'm working on what that means for me.
What's Next For Scratch?
I've linked to Scratch's Twitter account above because I'm not sure how long their site will stick around for. Manjula promises future projects related to money and writing, including a column for The Toast, and I think what she's doing is really important.
Speaking of important projects, she's got another project called Who Pays Writers? It's an anonymous, crowdsourced list of which publications pay freelance writers, and how much. It's a fantastic resource!
I recommend checking out Scratch's final issue and keeping an eye on Manjula. Clearly, she's got a cool thing going and I'm not alone in looking forward to what's next.