Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Steve with a new essay in the Oxford American

Steve previously had an article in the Oxford American on how he learned banjo. I assume this is a new essay the article talks about.

MAGAZINES: Oxford music issue plans 2-CD set
Aug-21-2008 2:16:00 AM [Ellis Widner]

Music fans look forward to the arrival of the Oxford American’s annual music issue, due in no small part to the outstanding compact disc of tasty Southern musical treats and rarities that accompany it. “It is, by far, our best-selling issue of the year,” says Warwick Sabin, the magazine’s publisher, from his office at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. The magazine has about 20,000 subscribers; Sabin says newsstand sales are usually around 10,000 per issue, but sales jump to 20,000 for the music issue. This year’s edition is due Nov. 17. Oxford American’s music issue won the National Magazine Award for single-topic issue in 1999 and 2004, and it has the respect of many in the music industry. The inclusion of a CD with the magazine was a groundbreaker, a move other publications have followed, such as Paste, Mojo and Q. So with the music issue’s 10th anniversary coming up, editor and founder Marc Smirnoff, who also plans and organizes the CDs, wanted to do something special - a two-CD set. Cable channel CMT is making it happen. “CMT has sponsored our CDs for the past few years,” Sabin says. “We wanted to give them the first opportunity to underwrite it exclusively. It was a very easy sell. They are giving us $50,000 to produce the project.” Sabin says there are other promotions planned for the music issue’s anniversary, including a concert in Nashville, Tenn. There also may be some television opportunities, he says. Music fans and readers, however, will probably share Sabin’s excitement about another project - an anthology of the magazine’s music articles titled The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing, to be published in hardcover Nov. 1 by the University of Arkansas Press. The 466-page book, priced at $34.95, boasts a foreword by musician and composer Van Dyke Parks. The collection gathers 55 essays; contributors include novelist Roy Blount Jr., Arkansas novelist Kevin Brockmeier, musician Rosanne Cash, producer Jerry Wexler, artist R. Crumb, writer Robert Palmer, actor and writer Steve Martin and singer-songwriter Marty Stuart. Back to CDs: Smirnoff is planning 40 to 50 songs on two theme discs - past masters and future masters. About one-third of the songs, he says, are officially locked in. The exact content, he says, is not finalized, and Smirnoff is pretty tight-lipped about approved and pending song choices. “The element of surprise is important to me,” he says. “We’re going after songs we totally love and believe in. We get what we need, usually by the hair of our teeth.” He did reveal this: The wonderful pianist and singer Nellie Lutcher from Lake Charles, La., will be back. And Smirnoff says he has targeted two Lucinda Williams tracks, but won’t name them. Smirnoff says the magazine doesn’t pay licensing fees. “We couldn’t afford to do this project if we had to pay royalties,” he says. “We’re a poor nonprofit. We donated 15 percent of the music issue to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which helps support older and indigent musicians. A lot of great labels, songwriters and musicians are willing to give us these songs for free.” Smirnoff makes the final decisions, but he “craves input from others.” “I look for great music I haven’t heard before ... I talk to musicians, record-store clerks, authors, everybody I can. The search for great, weird music has led me to do more Web site surfing than comes naturally for me.” And, lest wary fans are concerned that CMT will influence the CDs’ content, rest easy, Sabin says. “They will have no role, we have made that clear,” Sabin says. Sabin also is clear on Oxford American’s future. “When I took over in April, the magazine was in dire straits because of embezzlement. I want to solidify finances and get us on an ambitious publication schedule. We want to prove to people we are back.” To that end, Sabin has gotten the magazine back on a quarterly publication schedule. “The magazine has always been an excellent one. My goal is to make it an efficient publishing operation. I want this magazine to thrive,” Sabin says.


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