A Hello, A Goodbye

I started writing online by uploading HTML files to some free server in 1996. Angelfire? Geocities? Something like that. I was playing around with this relatively new thing called “the internet” and had no idea what I was doing. I created a little “about me” page that talked about how much I loved Blink-182, MxPx, and the comic Foxtrot. I’ve been doing some variation of this for over 20 years. When I first picked the name “AbsolutePunk.net,” it was because I saw a vodka magazine ad, I thought it would show up first in an alphabetized Yahoo! directory, and my adolescent brain thought I was a little punker. At the time I had no idea that this would end up being my career or that I’d gradually shift the website into an online alternative music publication that would cover thousands of artists, have hundreds of contributors, and be read by millions. The growing pains were tough. The servers couldn’t handle the traffic we were seeing, the overhead cost of running this website from my parents’ basement or my dorm room became almost unsustainable, and a little band called Fall Out Boy exploded into the mainstream and brought millions more searching for the exact kind of music we were talking about in our little corner of the internet. Searching for answers and help, I ended up selling the business I had created in my teens.

I think it’s safe to say that didn’t quite play out as I thought it would. However, the love for the music outweighed it all. In many ways running the website became the very job I had tried to avoid. Stress. Anger. Depression. A frustration brought on by the feeling of a constant cycle of defeat. But, so many of you still read my quirky sarcasm in the news. People still talked with the staff about music, life, and pop-culture. You’ve still read our features, read our incredible reviewers, pored over our articles, and listened to Drew, and Thomas, and I talk on podcasts. People still wanted to know what Jesse Lacey had for dinner. I had started my first business, AbsolutePunk, LLC, as a teenager with cargo shorts and puka shells. I started my second, Chorus, LLC, in my early thirties — an online consulting business that included running that very same website I had started when we all wanted to look like Kenny Vasoli. Today I’m writing to announce that my second company is buying back my first.

Over the past few months I was able to reach an agreement with SpinMedia to re-acquire AbsolutePunk. I’m sure there will be questions about the craziness of all of this in the near future; however, at the moment I’d just like to lay out what you need to know and what this means going forward. At this point in my life I’ve decided to look to new horizons instead of dwelling on the past. Most of the code that AbsolutePunk was running on was written when I was 15. It’s time to say goodbye to our red gradient friend and emo stained logo. And you know what? Let’s also just say that we outgrew the name AbsolutePunk years ago. It stopped being remotely accurate over a decade ago, but the domain name, social media accounts, and how many people bookmarked it and viewed it every single day did matter. So now that those are mine again, I’m making the change we should have made years ago. We’re going to be pointing everything to a new website and community: Chorus.fm.

Going forward, AbsolutePunk.net will be no more. I am taking everything I loved about it and all the ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for years, and I’m bringing them to Chorus.fm. Soon I’ll be redirecting all of the domain names and social media accounts associated with AbsolutePunk to the new domains and using this opportunity to re-think exactly what it is I want this website and our community to be going forward. There are three aspects of this to break down, so let’s look at them one-by-one:

Chorus.fm

Chorus.fm will be the content portion of this new endeavor. It’s going to be where you’ll find similar content to what you’ve already learned to love about AbsolutePunk.net. It’s where you’ll find daily updated news, album reviews, articles, features, videos, music streams, exclusives, links to great writing, fine sarcasm and snark, and an updated feed about music, tech, pop-culture, and other cool shit. It’s going to be everything I loved writing on my blog and on AbsolutePunk combined into one destination. My goal is simple: I want to create a page that you want to visit every single day. I want you to want to read the entire thing, from top to bottom. I want you to find great music, apps, and articles, learn about what’s new with bands you already love, and discover ones you’ve never heard before. The homepage is built to be scannable so you can quickly read all the recent news and also catch up on anything big you may have missed. I get it — sometimes you can’t visit the website every single day, but I still want you to be able to easily see what’s been popular, talked about, and catch-up on all the best stories. Chorus.fm is also built to be able to catalog all of the content we throw at it in clever ways and allow you to find what you’re looking for quickly, easily, and present it in a manner that’s clean and easy to read on the desktop, tablet, or smartphone. I want it to be where I write for the next 50 years of my life. It’s where I want to post my podcast episodes, first impressions, reviews, and recommendations about music, gadgets, books, and TV shows. It’s where I want to share links to fantastic articles that I consider must reads. It’s where I want to post exclusive track streams with bands I love. It’s where I want to write about the next Fall Out Boy, Brand New, or The Gaslight Anthem for the first time.

With these name, design, and platform changes, I’m also going to be streamlining a few other things. One big change is that I’m removing comments from news posts. The truth is that most people reading the homepage didn’t go read the comments in the first place. Furthermore, in order for me to put together the kind of website I want to make, I think that it’s important to separate the community and content portions. I don’t want what I write about to be influenced by how many comments, RT’s, or likes it gets. I want to write what I think the reader wants to read and about things I find fascinating. I want to produce great content and not insult your intelligence with some article with pizza in the headline to gin up page views. That’s not to say I’m removing a core function of what’s made AP.net so unique (there’s more on the new community below), it’s that I found a peace in blogging over the past few years that I think comes from an environment that doesn’t tempt a reader to half read and scroll through an article just to get to the comment section. I’ve loved that feeling. I also know that by making this decision I can build a webserver that should be able to scale with traffic growth and serve up content in a way that I can afford to keep running it. Hell, it should keep just trucking along even when we break news about Brand New releasing a new album. (It’s coming, I think). It also means that my biggest focus can be on delivering great content. This leads me to my second change for Chorus.fm.

For the time being, while I work out the kinks, get things set up, and learn the ropes of our new CMS, almost all of the writing on the website is going to come from my account. I think one of my other frustrations with AP.net over the past few years is the feeling that we got spread too thin. That there was almost too much being served up, all the time, and that led to a dilution of quality. That was totally my fault. I’ve got a big bone to pick with so many major publications these days. They spit out content, so much content, because they feel like they have to always be publishing. It leads to shitty Twitter “response” round-ups. It leads to “goth hamburger” posts. It leads to trying to jump onto any #hashtag trend you can to drive just a few extra page views to the website. I think it sucks. I want people to want to visit Chorus.fm every single day because they get a lot of value out of reading it. I don’t want them to be tricked into some click-bait headline and then never view the site again. That sucks. And to get there, it’s important to me that I start by making sure I can 100% approve of and support what’s on the website. I’ve been building this platform over the past few years with the input from a few staff members on AP.net, and my long term goal is to get this site to a point where I can bring in, and pay, all the contributors to the website to write and maintain the quality and feel of my overarching vision. That’s going to take some time.

In the short term I want to make sure that if you loved reading the writing of a specific staff member you can still do just that. It’s weird starting with a clean slate and not seeing that familiar red gradient over everything, but I’m proud of this new platform and being able to finally bring us somewhat into the present day internet. Responsive design, retina graphics, a focus on whitespace, fast loading pages, and typography? These are things I’m overly excited about. And that’s before we get to useful search, tag pages pulling in all our posts about a topic, and easy ways to post, display, and organize everything from a simple news post, to full on articles, to videos, music streams, external links, and image galleries. The foundation is set and I hope we were also able to bring over some of the paradigms everyone has come to know and understand about AP.net. That brings us to the next part of the new website: our community.

forum.chorus.fm

One of the unique aspects of AP.net has always been our large community. What started as an idea to bring music fans together and help us all find new artists to check out, ended up branching out into a variety of active communities based around sports, music, technology, entertainment, and all kinds of different topics. I’ve always loved the idea of a place to talk with others centered around a common interest. As the internet has grown and social networks and places like Reddit have sprung up, feeling like you’re part of a “community” seems to have been lost. There’s a lot of yelling. A lot of fighting. A lot of anger and turmoil. Over the past few years, I’ve felt like these same plagues have infected our community as well. So, while we’re starting so much of this from scratch, it felt like the perfect time to re-envision exactly what an online community can, and should, be. To start with, like I mentioned before, we’re separating the community and the content — you can now reach our forums at forum.chorus.fm.

I love the idea of our forum having its own domain name and place on the site. It’s easy to remember, it’s hosted on its own separate server so that it can grow and expand when it needs to, and it’s brand spanking new. I’ve been developing and customizing the software and design of this forum for what feels like years now. The goal was to create a simple, clean, and fast forum community that brings the best parts of AP.net and improves upon all of them. The result is a system that I am extremely proud of. We’ve re-thought the layout, profiles, notification system, and private messages, and made everything look great on all devices and retina screens. We’ve prioritized speed and ease of use. We’ve got all the features you loved about AP.net, such as: following threads, multi-quote, and finding out when someone’s replied to you. But we improved all of them and added in a whole bunch of new things. The new profile system allows you to post status or “microblog” updates and lets other users comment and post on your profile. You can follow users and get a customized “friend feed” that shows you what threads they’ve been posting in, liking, and all their updates. There are privacy options built in so you can customize what kind of notifications you get and who can view your profile, contact you, and see your details. We’ve finally got multi-quote working in a way that doesn’t suck (click “quote” on a post, click “insert quotes” on the quick reply box at the bottom), and we’ve brought it to the mobile site. You can now show appreciation for any post by “liking” it and tag other users in posts with @replies. We’ve got a notification system built in that lets you know when you’ve been quoted, a thread you follow has new replies, or someone’s posted on your profile. And, of course, you can customize what kind of notifications you get to make it fit your needs. We re-thought the entire private message system and finally have threaded replies (the old system was so archaic it made me ill). And we have it all set up so you can have private group conversations as well. Sometimes you just want to chat with a small group of friends about music, some hot new release, or whatever, and that was stupidly difficult in the past. Now, it’s super easy. We’ve improved search so that it can find what you’re looking for. We’ve cleaned up how you browse forums and threads to make it easy to read posts, follow threads, and embed media. One of my favorite tricks is that now when you click a username, a mini-profile pops up with details about that user. It’s really cool. I’ve been playing around with it with a bunch of staff members and beta testers over the past few months, and I am really proud of what we’ve put together. Oh, and the whole thing is responsive to look great on any sized device and allow you to keep up to date on all your favorite threads wherever you are. Combine all this with a lot of work behind the scenes to handle spam, increases in server usage, and moderation, and I think we’ve built one of the best communities online to chat about sports, the most recently released albums, your favorite band, and/or movies and TV shows. It’s the kind of community website that I’ve always wanted to build.

Along with the clean new forums, we’ve also taken this time to re-think exactly what we want this community to be and outline some guidelines for how we’re going to run it. We’ve outlined a set of rules and a code of conduct that we expect all forum members to abide by. We want this community to be a place that is fun to visit. I’m tired of there being an overarching feeling of anger and resentment in our forums. I’m tired of feeling like people are being picked on or ganged up on. I’m tired of over sexualized or gendered slurs making people uncomfortable. So this forum is built to be a place free of that kind of bullshit. Look, we understand that there are disagreements online and that moderating a forum is difficult, but we also think that if we set up rules early, give warnings about behavior that’s not appropriate, and set an example from the staff and moderators, that we can build the type of community that we all want to participate in. If you’re looking to use homophobic or gendered slurs, or looking to troll users with posts about how stupid they are or think “lol” is the best way to have a discussion about a nuanced topic, I’m sure there are countless communities online that you can participate in. This isn’t going to be one of them. I think it’s important that we set that standard from the start. That we actively say we want this community to be a place that doesn’t feel like cliques are ganging up on new members or that people are looked down upon because they like pop-punk music or a popcorn flick. That we default to understanding that there’s nuance and shades of gray in topics, and give others the benefit of the doubt before jumping down their throats. This is going to be a work in progress, but we’re setting high standards for ourselves and the community. This will not be an “everything goes” kind of place.

So, with that, registration should now be open on the forums. You’ll need to verify your email address and create a new account. And, well, you’ll need to update your bookmarks. There are some threads in the “announcement” forum that are worth reading over, especially the code of conduct thread. If you’re coming from here as a “prestigious” user, for a limited time I’ll be trying to make sure to upgrade your account on the new website as well. After you look around the forums and maybe make your first post and upload your avatar, I’d also encourage you to take a look at our account upgrades page that outlines our brand new membership program. This membership program is part of the last “new” thing I want to talk about: our business model.

The Business Model

When I started thinking about if I wanted to continue this journey of running an online business, one of my biggest concerns was flat out not knowing if I’d be able to make enough money for this to be what I put all my time and energy into. I contemplated walking away from this side of the industry, searching out more stable employment, or just continuing my freelance consulting work. The idea of going this alone and starting a new business is scary. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would regret not trying more than anything. And the more I realized that a website such as this can provide an immense value to lots of people if it’s handled in the right way. I started thinking about what kind of business model this website could employ that would align my objectives with those of the visitors and allow me to feel good about the kind of product we are putting out there. I know that I can’t do the black-box-display-ad world that is full of gross advertisements that don’t respect the user’s privacy or time. I can’t run a website and feel good about it if I’ve got huge banner ads clogging up the screen, taking forever to download, and chasing a page view centric model that only encourages pushing out as much content as possible regardless of the quality. Too many websites are buying into this race to the bottom and I think it’s hurting everyone. I think readers are getting worse content. I think advertisers are getting false impressions. I think that people are being tricked into reading advertisements disguised as “content” and that it is simply not sustainable. If I want to build the kind of website you want to visit each day, I can’t put up bullshit content just because I know it’ll get a few extra clicks on Facebook from a few people that will never visit the website again. I can’t publish “10 things about whatever” or “look at these tweets about whatever” posts and expect that you, the reader, will want to make this website one of your must-reads each day. And that’s what I want. I want this website to be something you seek out and read every single day. And those kind of readers are the ones that great companies with great products will want to reach. To start with, I want to make a promise to the reader that as long as I am running this website, I won’t let the advertisements on it become “punch the monkey” or take over the entire screen to promote a hamburger. If the website can’t exist without them, then we’ll just have to not exist. Because I can’t do that. It’s soul-sucking. So, here’s what I’ve come up with instead.

First, I firmly believe that if you like something and want it to keep existing, paying for it is one of the most surefire ways to make that happen. Be it software, entertainment, or media: if you support it financially, it can continue. So one of the first things I am doing is opening up a membership program for this website. If you like our content, if you like our forums, and if you want them to keep being a thing, you can directly contribute to making that happen. This is similar to a patronage model, but I’m sweetening the deal by including some cool perks with each membership. You’ll get some exclusive content, exclusive perks in our community, and you’ll be directly contributing to keeping this website running. Lately a few websites are moving in this direction and I think it makes a lot of sense. It aligns both of our incentives: you want a great forum and great content, and I want to make sure that’s exactly what you’re getting. The membership program can be signed up for on our forums by any member with an account and you can read about all the extras we already have lined up (and know that we’ve got even more ideas ready to roll out soon).

If you’re not interested in being a member, or don’t want to sign up for an account, or would like to help contribute to this website in a specific monetary amount (either per month or as a one-time payment), we’ve also got you covered. At the bottom of our support page we have a patronage system set up where you can choose to support the website in any monetary amount you’d like. You can easily set up a monthly subscription or just give a flat amount. This is all handled securely by Stripe and none of your payment information is ever stored on our servers at all.

Since so many have also asked how they can help support our podcast, Encore, we’ve also got a special option set up for that as well. And, lastly, there’s a cashtag at $chorus if you’d like to use that instead. I believe that a big factor in the continued existence of this site and community will come directly from readers like you. A lot of the industry is looking at subscription-like models as we move into the next era of internet publishing. I hope that this website can provide enough value on a day-to-day basis that you’ll choose to support us. In the end that’s my main goal: To create a website that you love reading so much that you can’t live without and a forum that brings you joy each time you post on it. This is going to be a journey, thank you for taking it with me.

Now, I know that at the beginning of this member sponsors alone are not going to be able to keep us on our feet. I also think that it’s important we think hard about what kind of advertisements we want to run on this website. I don’t ever want to get put in a position where bullshit giant banners are dancing across the screen. Instead I think there is a way that advertisers can reach our audience without sacrificing reader’s privacy or braincells. I’ve split up our advertising offerings into three distinct items and mix and matching all three can craft a perfect campaign for any band, brand, service, or company. All of these are now available in greater detail on our sponsorship page, but let me outline the basics here to explain my thinking.

Instead of giant image banners, we’ve taken a cue from quality ad-networks like The Deck to craft a display ad unit that I think is great. It displays on virtually every single page on this website (including the forums) and on all devices and screen sizes. It combines a high quality image with a text blurb and link to give even more context about what is being offered. I think this kind of ad unit will be welcomed by readers and not just passed over and ignored. I think this kind of unit will be more effective in conveying a message and in turn be more engaging. Along with that, instead of having thousands of different advertisers on the website at one time, always competing to stand out, we’re going to start by selling only 10 advertising spots per month. That means that if you buy an ad on this site you’re guaranteed to get capture 10% of all of our monthly views. Personally, I think this is one of the more attractive ad buys available. If you want to reach our very large and quite discerning audience, please reach out for more information about securing an ad spot. These are probably going to book up months in advance and we’re selling spots for the entire year right now. And yes, you can buy multiple spots if you’d like.

The second part of our advertising offering are weekly feed sponsorships. These have become very popular in various blogging circles over the past few years for good reason: they’re very effective and readers actually read them. Basically you are sponsoring our news feed for the week. Each weekly sponsorship is exclusive — there is only one available. Each sponsorship includes a clearly labeled sponsored post at the beginning of the week and can include an image and copy explaining what is being offered. This is a fantastic way to promote a new album release or the launch of a new product. This post goes out into our news feed and RSS feeds, will be shared on Twitter and Facebook, and posted into our forums for all of those visitors. At the end of each week, I’ll make a second post thanking the sponsor for the week and again providing information about the sponsor. We’ve seen how effective these kinds of sponsored feed posts are for various bloggers, and I think they’re the perfect kind of sponsorship to sell on this site. People come to this website to read our news. To be able to speak directly to our audience is a great way to let people know about your product, service, album release, release schedule, upcoming tour, or anything that you’d like to share with hundreds of thousands of people. Each post will be clearly labeled as a sponsor and you can reach out right now if you’re interested in more information or would like to book a specific week. We’ll be selling these in advance and once a week is gone, it’s gone. I firmly believe this is one of the absolute best ways to promote something on this website and look forward to working together to craft the perfect campaign.

Our podcast, Encore, has been growing in size almost every single month it’s been active. We’ve been featured on iTunes, on Buzzfeed, and in Overcast. We’ve currently got thousands of unique weekly downloads from our extremely loyal (and awesome) subscribers. As the popularity of podcasts continue to grow it’s clear that the audio format offers a very unique and special opportunity for sponsors to reach listeners. We are offering podcast sponsorships as part of our advertising packages and on a weekly basis. If you’re interested in reaching an engaged audience on a growing medium, it’s clear that podcast sponsor reads are a huge hit and I think are being vastly underused by marketing departments in the music industry. If you’re interested in sponsoring a week of the podcast, please send me an email.

So if you have a record release, upcoming tour, or product or service you’d like to present to our audience, please take a look at our advertising packages and get in touch about booking your campaigns. I think we’ve put together some great options and packages for reaching our vast audience here on the website, in the forums, on our social channels, via our RSS feeds, and on our podcast. If you have any questions at all please send me an email and I’d love to chat and get you set up. I’m beyond excited about these new options and I truly believe they align the interests of everyone involved. I’ll be handling the booking of all sponsorships for the time being, but in time I hope to bring in someone dedicated to that aspect of the business.

In the end there’s a lot here to digest. I’m making the second biggest decision I ever have in my professional career. I’m anxious, a little nervous, but also extremely excited. It really does come down to a few simple truths: I still love music. I still have a passion for technology. And I still love writing and building things to put out into the world. I have no guarantees that this huge renaming of the website and relaunching is going to work. However, the more I talked to my friends, family, and close confidants, the more I realized that if I didn’t try I’d regret it each and every day. What was at the core of AbsolutePunk.net is still sound, even if it’s time to move on from the name and platform it was built upon. This next year is going to be interesting. It was almost 20 years ago that I started throwing words onto the internet — that sometimes feels like a lifetime ago. But here I sit at 33 and I realize my life’s just getting started. There’s so much more ahead and I’m excited as hell to begin.

You’ll be able to find me in the new forums and there’s always Twitter or email. I’m sure I’ll be answering tons of questions and talking about this in more detail in threads and podcasts in the future. I want to take some time to thank all of you for reading this and for reading anything I’ve written over the past two decades. Without your support none of this would be possible. Truly, thank you. I also want to thank everyone that’s ever written for AbsolutePunk.net. The staff and contributors have been second to none and I can’t wait to work with all of you again soon. I’m excited about our continued relationship and all the new voices I’m sure I’ll meet in the next few years. A huge thank you to my friends and family for all their support and guidance through these past few years, and especially the past couple months, as I tried to navigate the seas that led me to writing this post. You all know who you are and you know that I love you dearly. And lastly, to the bands that have created the music that not only kept me company all those hours poring over code to make sure the new website looked and worked just right, but for being the beacon we all turn to and seek out. I scribbled “music mends broken hearts” in the margin of a notebook and it ended up being our tagline for years. It’s cheesy. It’s cliché. But it’s also true. After everything, there’s always music. I called a website AbsolutePunk before I ever understood what punk music was and kept using the name long after punk was all I listened to. I didn’t see any vodka ads when I picked this new name. I just know that there comes a moment in every song we love where time stands still and nothing else matters. Where the music can mend, console, and devastate. Everything that came before was the verse; I hope you’ll all sing along with what comes next.

Jason Tate
Jason Tate Jason Tate is the founder and editor-in-chief of chorus.fm. He can also be found at @jason_tate on Twitter and on Facebook.
Sponsor