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Paste Magazine Initiates Songs For Haiti Relief Effort

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Monday, 01 February 2010

Over the last few years, as economies have flagged and cast into question the futures of so many people, it has become very common for people to conveniently “forget” about the debts and favors they owe to others. It's easy enough to cite distraction or disinterest as more and more people look evermore out for number one. Because of that, the world has become a colder place but it's reassuring to know that, when the chips are really down, people remember their humanity. Such was the case when disaster struck and a 7.0 Mw earthquake shook Haiti to its foundations on January 12, 2010. Paste Magazine did not turn a blind eye to either the event or the actions they could take to be of assistance. According to Paste Media Group LLC President Tim Regan-Porter, the staff at Paste felt it was the least they could do; no stranger to difficulty, on May 14, 2009 the publication sent out a press release pleading with readers, musicians and celebrities to contribute money to the publication if they wanted to continue seeing it on newsstands and response was staggering. With that success and the value of it still on the magazine's mind, the Decatur, GA-headquartered publication had unveiled Songs For Haiti within a day of the disaster; a charitable web site where music fans can download select tracks (many unreleased) by over 200 artists, all for the price of just one donation to any institution  currently providing relief for Haiti including Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. “Like everyone, we were very moved by the tragedy, and I think a lot of us were donating and thinking about whether we may have a way to do something as Paste,” explains Paste Media Group LLC President Tim Regan-Porter. “We don't have a surplus of cash by any means so we couldn't make a big donation as a company, but we wanted to do something and the obvious answer came to one of the employees: when we were having our own little financial difficulty last year, we did an appeal to our readers and asked if they'd consider contributing and we also had some artists that wanted to see Paste stay around so they donated some songs to the Save Paste campaign.

“We raised a lot of money through that,” continues Regan-Porter, “so the obvious way that we could help Haiti was to use all that back end and infrastructure and our connections with artists to give away songs to those that want to make a donation to save Haiti which is obviously a much more crucial need and more important cause than saving a music magazine. Once that idea came to us, we used what we already had and a day later we had Songs For Haiti up and running.”

When Paste sent the call out to musicians to donate music for the web site, the response was impressive. According to Regan-Porter, the day before the site went live, Paste sent an email to the artists that had contributed to the “Save Paste” campaign as well as “all the artist contacts that we have from just running the magazine” and, within a day, had over 200 tracks donated by a far-ranging directory of artists from Ludacris to The Low Anthem to Bruce Cockburn but, because of the way the site is set up, the list of contributions is continuing to grow. “We've set it up in such a way that we've made it possible for artists to upload their music on their own,” says Regan-Porter on how the site sustains and has continued to grow. “Artists that are uploading songs have the option to put an expiration on their song – most labels don't like things being out there forever so most of them put a default year-long  period on them – that's their choice but we'll keep the campaign going indefinitely because the need will be there in Haiti for months to come and, as long as people are using the site and downloading songs and contributing – through us or through other organizations – we'll let it stay up there, keep track of the donations and write regular cheques; the need's not going away.

“The artists have been great in all of this,” continues the Paste president. “I mean, everyone is standing right alongside everyone else on this; no artist is getting any major promotion off of the site, there are 250 songs and they're all just listed right there together so I think ti also really speaks to the fact that artists are willing to just put themselves out there and not worry about who gets top billing or how well they're promoted; they're just giving it away. It's nice to see the major label artists and the indie putting their egos aside. We [recently] got a track in from Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal – he does a nice little cover of “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young – and there's also a thirteen-minute cover by The Decemberists of a Pink Floyd song; there are some little gems scattered throughout.”

Of course, in this age of celebrities manipulating their stature for less than genuine ends, there could be some detractors who claim that what Paste is doing is fairly convenient given their stature, and that returns may take a backseat to the fact that it is a private corporation at the helm. Paste took that into consideration while they were arranging the site and headed such criticisms off at the pass, however. “We're not trying to profit in any way off of this,” says Regan-Porter firmly. “We're not putting ads on the site – our logo's not even on the site – and while it is going to a Paste url, that's largely because it's the easiest way for us to do it given the way that our server is set up. Publicity is not our goal – just helping Haiti is. I'm sure it will ultimately end up coming to the attention of people that are new to Paste so we'll get some small benefit, but nothing directly and we're very cautious to keep from stoking people's cynicism; that's why we didn't put a logo saying to the effect of 'Songs For Haiti, brought to you by Paste!'.

“We've set it up in such a way that people don't necessarily need to donate through us to get what we're offering,” continues Regan-Porter. “If they want to go to the Red Cross web site or whatever their favorite charity is and donate there, they can just come to our site and tell us that they've donated and download songs. Our goal is not to be the intermediary, our goal is simply to keep awareness focused on the problem. It's just one way that Paste and the artists involved can keep the focus up and give back through the music that we all love. It's just one little thing we can do; we don't think it's going to raise millions of dollars by itself or anything, but if it can just encourage someone to maybe talk about it or promote it – whatever we can do to use our resources to help, we want to do.

“We raised a lot of money when we were in trouble and, really, we felt odd doing that to begin with because we're not a charity and people were very generous with us to keep a little music magazine around. We just felt like it was the least we could do to use what we built to give back and I hope we can contribute as much to Haiti as we raised for ourselves.”

For more information, go to:
www.pastemagazine.com/songsforhaiti

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