In the past, I published a magazine focused on the rock scene. I´m happy to share my experience and the knowledge I gained through the hardest and the most important lesson of my life.
I had no ultimate business plan in my hands – I just followed my heart. There were 3 main, very important goals in my mind: to get a reader base in the Czech and Slovak market, those sharing the same passion and enthusiasm for rock music as I do, to bring as interesting interviews, profiles, reviews and reports to them as possible, and also to support unknown artists and new talents who don’t have the chance to get attention from other media outlets because they are considered “too small” or not attractive enough from the commercial point of view. There was no publishing company behind me and no investor. I jumped straight into things and took out a loan. Maintaining high-quality graphic design, paper and printing were the most important aspects for me. I chose a very expensive option, as in my opinion the design sells the product together with its content and I didn’t want to degrade the quality of the photos by choosing cheap paper and a tacky graphic design. I wanted the readers to get the best possible that I had to offer. I was becoming the owner of a magazine, editor-in-chief, editor and accountant all in one. I didn’t have a sales representative, so I also negotiated the adverts and cared for the business side as well. I created my editorial team mostly from friends I had known from shows or previous collaboration. For understandable reasons, Doro symbolically became the godmother of HARD ROCKER magazine.
I’m not the kind of person to be totally competitive or waste a ton of energy with rivalries or fights. My main intention is doing what I love and what fulfills me and sharing the joy from a job well done with others. I wish success and happiness to anyone who bets on their own potential, no matter what kind of art you create or background you come from. The most important thing is to feel there is some soul, heart and honesty behind your work and a personal intention, not just something done for a quick profit or to secure some monopoly on the market. I contacted the editor-in-chief of a competitor magazine shortly before the first issue was out with the naive intention of satisfying both sides and working towards mutual collaboration. Nostalgia and a sense of being grateful played the main role in making this decision. I had worked for this magazine as an external editor several years back and I had a feeling it could work out for us both on the market. I didn’t see any problems sharing our readership. But my intention was not welcomed with opened arms. From the very first moment the magazine appeared out on stands, I had to deal with big obstacles. The first sales results were pretty good, but not as good as expected. My intuition told me there was something wrong behind it, but at first I didn’t understand that gut feeling. After a short time the problem was revealed. People started contacting me via guestbook, email and over the phone as well. They all had the same problem finding HARD ROCKER. So I contacted the customers back and asked them about the places they were searching for it. I compared the addresses with the list from the distribution company. The magazine should have been on sale at almost every place they mentioned, but it simply wasn’t there. I think I don’t have to point out the fact that this puts you in a bad position in the eyes of your potential customers. First, I visited around ten places myself and was shocked to find out that not only were they not selling the magazine, but they hadn’t even gotten the offer to sell it. I didn’t understand how this can be possible – to have such misleading information from the distribution company – so I arranged an appointment with the company director. Everything was clear after couple of minutes of talking to him and I immediately left the contract and changed the distributor. But it didn’t bring any bigger changes because the second company didn’t have such a large share of the market and I had to deal with the same story. Behind it all, I still believed my readers will follow me anyway and that I was going to build my position through doing good work. I decided to give it all some more time and space as I concentrated mainly on the creative side of things. However, the problems just kept growing and it was impossible to ignore them. The competition gave me a really hard time in all sense of the word, and they played an unfair game from the start. I was chasing windmills with all of this. I was getting messages from some of my business partners and potential sponsors saying they couldn’t afford to continue working with me because they received threats from them. If they were going to work with me again, the doors would be closed for them at the other magazine. In spite of the fact that my magazine had only been out for a short time, they had already decided for “certain.” I received e-mails and could prove that they were breaking the law and were using the name of my media in their Terms and Conditions. According to the law, this is part of unfair competition – practices that are so typical in Eastern European countries (and probably not just these countries).
I guess it’s more than clear that the media are mainly dependent on adverts and sponsors. Keeping the magazine alive from sales that didn’t reach any dizzying numbers is unrealistic. After being involved for around 2 years on the market, the situation became unmanageable for me. There was no money left to pay the awfully big liabilities. Unfair competition was at its peak and the promoter I already wrote about decided to terminate our agreement. I had no chance to go on and get another sponsor at all. So I tried one last step and started the digital version of the magazine. By now it’s 2010 and digital media are just starting to burst onto the worldwide scene, so people mostly don’t react to it, especially not in our country. There is no way to save the magazine. The circle is closed. I met with my lawyer and he uncompromisingly advises me to start legal proceedings against my competition. After many dreamless nights and endless amounts of time thinking about it all, I made my final decision. I had to stop HARD ROCKER and I was not going to start any legal process with my competition – something that no one understood and something that made the lawyer especially mad. Issue number 18 came out and I knew this would be the LAST ONE. On the day of its release I just lay on the floor, surrounded by magazines, for hours in tears… my way of dealing with a terrible loss. In spite of large amounts of debt, I didn’t feel such sadness about losing all the money because I knew I could still change the situation around. I felt sad and heartbroken like I had lost a child. The words – this is the end – were spinning in my head, round and round. But my inner voice was saying it’s going to be difficult and it will really take a long time, but believe that this is just the beginning. I suddenly felt hope in my darkest hour without really understanding where it was coming from. I started calling everyone from my crew with the announcement of the definite end of the magazine. At the same time, I assured them I would never give up, no matter what. Nobody understood where I drew this energy from in a situation that seemed to have no solution and how I can even think about the next journey.
Reality is very often different than it appears from the outside. What we call evil is, in many situations, not coming to hurt us, but just to kick our ass. This recognition needs time, patience, passion, devotion and power to hold on and not give up, no matter what!
THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IS AVAILABLE FOR FREE IN DIGITAL FORM ON JOOMAG.COM (the apps are also avilable for iOS and Android).