It seems that Jam Rag, a socially conscious, intensely local, monthly music mag out of Ferndale, is in serious financial jeopardy. What, you say? Jam Rag is always in financial jeopardy. True, but for the first time in 17 years of publication, the nonprofit, shoe-string-budgeted paper may actually miss an issue.
Publisher Tom Ness says Jam Rag has incurred a debt of $17,000 with the paper’s printer, Webco. A lifelong liberal activist, Ness ran for Congress on the Green Party ticket in 2000. Around the same time, the paper ditched its basement digs and moved upstairs into a more professional setting in the same building that houses local Green Party offices. The paper also began paying for professional distribution. Ness says the run for Congress drew his attention away from the magazine, and the added expense of improved office space and distribution wages led to the mounting debt.
Ness describes his business relationship with Webco as “friendly” and hopes to peel away the debt by promoting Jam Rag’s “sustainer” program, which encourages local bands to make contributions of $10 or more to keep the paper afloat. (Ethicists will be glad to hear that Jam Rag clearly states bands that contribute are not guaranteed editorial coverage; they are, however, given ads.)
Ness hopes the Detroit music community will support a publication that focuses on local music.
“I just refuse to accept that a big city like this with such a thriving music scene cannot support a paper like Jam Rag,” Ness says. “If people want to have an alternative to the corporate music industry, we need to create it ourselves.”Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org