Why I Walked Away From A Cushy Media Job
Your weekly dose of music, media & money—click here to subscribe fully.
If you tuned in to the first installment of this newsletter, you may be wondering: Why would anyone leave one of those rare, cushy, legacy media gigs and decide to go it alone? Today I’ll try to provide some answers.
This past winter, I said my goodbyes at Forbes—short version: it was time—after signing an offer letter to become a senior features writer at a rival publication. It seemed like a journalistic dream job, the sort of gig where you’d sit by the window in a velvet blazer, cranking out elegantly-crafted narrative nonfiction. A few days before my start date, though, I was asked to sign a voluminous agreement demanding all sorts of control over my intellectual property. With the help of my literary agent, I tried to negotiate, but couldn’t reach a compromise. I ended up walking away.
At first, I couldn’t believe what I’d done, given the uncertainty pervading this industry. But, in hindsight, how could I have done anything else without being a total hypocrite? I’ve spent my entire career profiling monumental figures like Jay-Z and Diddy, both of whom got to where they were—despite a vast array of obstacles far more numerous and insidious than I’ve ever had to face—by maintaining ownership of their creations. I resolved to do the same.
That attitude also applied to the idea of selling my next book to a traditional publisher. And, given the topics at hand, I’m not sure the old school format would have worked for We Are All Musicians Now, anyway. At the intersection of music, media and money, things are moving too quickly. I don’t think a chapter on NFTs, for example, would hold for two months—let alone the two years it usually takes for a hardcover book to land in stores.
So, instead of diving back into the legacy media or publishing worlds, I reached out to Substack, and we worked out an arrangement that allowed me to hang onto all my intellectual property while getting a boost to help me out of the gate as an independent writer. But my publication can only survive in the long term if loyal readers hop onboard.
Substack is also empowering me to hire a freelance editor: my old friend Nick Messitte, who happens to be an alum of both Forbes and possibly The Casual Person (the latter, as you may recall from my first Zogblog installment, was the magazine I cofounded with my best friend in third grade; Nick and I cannot actually remember whether he penned any stories for that, er, ephemeral publication).
All in all, this is a chance to bring my writing to a single place, a platform where I can control my own destiny and write about what matters most to me and my audience. I don’t have to adopt anybody else’s voice or proclivities, and you won’t have to deal with a virtual Times Square of autoplay videos clogging your reading experience. I’m betting it’ll be a far better experience for all of us, and I hope you’ll sign up to go on this journey with me.