Hello, and welcome another installment of the Haulix Blogger Spotlight series. This time we’re returning to the world of SpinMedia with another look at the alternative music portal that has been leading the online news game for the better part of the last decade.
When most people think of Absolutepunk, they probably associate the name Jason Tate with being in control. While Jason is the creator of AP (and a nice guy to chat with), none of what you see on a day-to-day basis would be possible without the efforts of Senior Editor Drew Beringer. He’s the guy that sits at SpinMedia HQ and represents Absolutepunk, and in a way the Absolutevoices group as well. He has been writing and networking throughout the music industry for years, and the insight he’s able to provide having now found full time work in writing is indispensable for the aspiring (or veteran) journalist.
After you read through Drew’s history and thoughts on the industry, drop by Absolutepunk and see what’s new in the world of alternative music. Also, be sure to Follow AP on Twitter and Like their official Facebook. Drew has a Twitter as well, so send him a note if you enjoy his interview.
H: For those unaware, please state your name, the site you work for, and your role at said site:
DB: Hey, I’m Drew Beringer and I’m the senior editor for AbsolutePunk.net. I basically have a hand in everything on the site, but I don’t want to take too much credit because we have an awesome staff that creates and writes amazing stuff.
H: What initially inspired you to get into music journalism, and how did that interest lead you to join the AbsolutePunk team?
DB: I’ll never call myself a journalist - I never took any writing or journalism classes in college (although I was an English major at one point and did a lot of writing for that). I’ve always been a very opinionated person and I love music so I just started writing my own “reviews” in a Xanga blog years ago. In the fall of 2005, Jason Tate (our CEO/Founder) put out a call for new reviewers on the site and I submitted a review of Emery’s “The Question” and about three days later, Jason IM’d me and asked me if I wanted to write for AP.net. It’s been a match made in heaven ever since.
H: Unlike many who write about music online, you actually work on AP.net as your full time job. How would you compare your daily routine from freelance days to now?
DB: The only difference is that I can dedicate all my time to AbsolutePunk.net now instead of just when I wasn’t working at whatever job I had at the time. And it’s a huge difference. I’m extremely fortunate and blessed to be paid to write about music and I never take it for granted. I’m able to do a podcast with Jason once or twice a week, write 3 reviews in a day and post a lot of news articles a day instead of only writing one review when I had time and sparingly posting news. It’s easier for me to put together new features and set up cool exclusives for the site. In my “old” life, I’d maybe have time to post some news in the morning before heading off to work and then whenever I got home that night I’d use whatever energy I had left to write a review or whatever. It’s an amazing feeling to just be able to use all my time to write and put together a lot of cool stuff for the site. My only wish is that more of our staff could have this freedom because they’re all very talented and if they could pool all their resources into the site, we’d be virtually unstoppable. It’ll happen eventually.
H: AbsolutePunk has changed a lot over the years, from starting as a purely punk site to expanding into movies, hip hop, and recently even comedy. Are these changes done to lure in more readers, or better cater to those you already have?
DB: Of course we want to lure in more readers and users with all our changes and features, but that’s only a small part of it. The reason I decided to expand into adding more hip-hop and comedy content is because our current (and may I add fantastic) users have shown a ton of interest in that in our forums. So basically a little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. The community on AP.net is by far the best online community and a lot of these users bring new music, interests, whatever to the site daily in those forums. I read each forum obsessively and I want to cater our content to those who’ve been visiting the site for days, months, years. I want their voice and interests to also be represented on the front page of the site. I think our comedy content has been great so far and a lot of credit goes to Cody Nelson. He’s very knowledgeable about that scene and is bringing us great features and ideas daily. Since my hire in 2005, I’ve been trying to get hip-hop represented on the site. It’s been a struggle at times, but I think our user base has evolved with the times and are more open-minded to all genres and not just punk music anymore. There are still some obstacles but it’s overall been a great success. Jake Jenkins has done a wonderful job with his reviews and Keagan Ilvonen has always been into the genre too. And a lot of great hip-hop and comedy contributions and recommendations have come our community - I’d be wrong to not mention the stellar stuff I read in the forums from users like deadkidsean, williek311, Argentine, FondestMemory, phaynes1, Star Slight, Ari Christos, Holly Hox, and weworemasks, as well as past users like Fullcollapse3k, Skabum14, Love As Arson, and Trainsaw, amongst many others. It’s those members of our community who’ve made our hip-hop coverage a success and they continue to challenge us to create our best content. I’m also happy that I’m not the only staff member to carry that heavy load of reviewing and covering the genre along with all my other responsibilities.
H: AP is known for breaking bands who otherwise may never have a chance to shine. What do you look for when seeking new music, and where do you go to discover it?
DB: This is always the toughest question for me to answer because it varies on a case to case basis. It could be lyrics or vocals or the music or a combination of all three. There isn’t one particular element I look for when listening to new music - it just has to catch my attention in some way. For example, I love Dessa because her voice, flow, and lyrics are intoxicating. But I love the new Deafheaven album because the music is so devastating and enthralling. It’s never the same thing. I discover any and all music either from the hundreds of emails I get per day, my friends here in LA, and the forums on our site.
H: Let’s talk about when bands come to you. What do you look for in a pitch letter, and what advice would you offer those hoping to contact you about being featured on AP in the future?
DB: I don’t need a long pitch - just give me a brief summary of what you’re about, what you think you sound like, and your music. And if it catches my eye or ear - I’ll check it out. If I don’t get back to a band or review something - it doesn’t mean I hate you or the music, it just means I’m a super busy dude who gets hundreds of these queries a week. I may come back to it later in time and if I dig it, I do whatever I can to support it and promote it. I guess that’s horrible advice, but if you write good/great music, it’ll get the attention it deserves.
H: When it comes to receiving music for review and feature consideration, which services do you prefer and why?
DB: I prefer a watermarked (to keep be accountable of course) zip download with high quality mp3s. Now I don’t always get that, so I roll with what I get. Haulix is cool because you can download and stream and it has the capability of supplying high quality stuff if the label/PR people provide it. But really whatever gives me the highest quality music most efficiently will always be my preference.
H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
DB: Almost everything and I don’t anyone would want to read a lengthy essay from me about the topic. The internet is the wild west right for music (source: Jay-Z) right now and the way you get people to listen and support your music changes nearly every day. I do hate how the industry is punishing listeners and medium-to-smaller bands for the mistakes they made in the past. But it’s also an exciting time for the music industry in that we don’t know what’s coming next and that many artists (big and small) are proving that you don’t need a label to be successful.
H: You tweet a lot about having big plans for the future. Before we let you go, can you tell us a bit about what you have planned for the future?
DB: Just that you’ll always get high-quality and honest editorials, features, and opinions from AbsolutePunk.net. We’re very transparent with all our intentions and we’re music fans just like everyone else who visits the site. The long-awaited AP.net 3.0 is in development and it’s going to wow a lot of people. We have so many talented writers - whether it’s veterans like Thomas Nassiff, Alex DiVicenzo, and Christian Wagner or rookies like Kelly Doherty, Chris Collum, and Craig Manning - bringing forward new ideas and content daily. It just blows my mind. I seen staff members like Ryan Gardner and Dre Okorley rise up and lead new features and it’s so awesome. It’s those guys along with the rest of the staff that makes the future of AbsolutePunk.net so exciting. It’s their hard work and talent that makes guys like me look so smart and our site the best.