Four Questions With Beyond Race Founder and Editor Dave Terra

santo_final.180.jpgIn the summer of 2006, Beyond Race hit the streets of New York with a print run of 5,000 copies on black and white newsprint. The publication, dedicated to groundbreaking music and culture, was an ambitious start-up founded by Dave Terra and a few other hardy souls. Three years later, BRM continues to chug along. The road hasn’t been easy — since its inception, BRM had undergone numerous transformations, including three logo changes, two re-designs, and a few paper and cover stock upgrades — but it’s currently a 100+ page full color book with a print run of 75,000 that can be found in stores including Barnes & Noble, Borders, 7-11, Virgin Mega Store, Follett University bookstores. Terra spoke with about the difficulties of starting a magazine, the effect of a worsening economy and all the “beautiful people” who helped out along the way.

[Full disclosure: We wrote articles for the first couple of issues and helped out where we could along the way. But we are truly terrible at selling ads, so that didn’t last very long.]

What was the most surprisingly difficult thing about starting a magazine from scratch?
I’m not sure how “surprising” it is and this is probably something that is relevant for most start-up businesses, but I would say the most difficult part of starting a magazine is the amount of work required and the number of people who don’t follow through on their word or just flat out don’t support you. The idea of being part of an independent magazine that offers a platform for free thinking and stories outside the traditional realm of mainstream media is appealing to a lot of people. I’ve come across so many people who love the “idea” or “concept” of Beyond Race and talk about how they want to be involved, but when push comes to shove, there’s no follow-through. There’s also been a number of people, places and/or institutions that you think would really champion the magazine, but for whatever reasons, they turn out to be adversaries instead of friends.

But for every flake or hater, there’s been a number of beautiful people whose work and efforts have allowed BRM to be everything that it is today. As far as the work, when you’re starting any project from scratch, you have to expect to be the person that picks up the slack when other people don’t follow through, which translates into many sleepless nights.

franti_final180.jpgObviously, this is a difficult time for advertising revenue. Have you felt this at Beyond Race?
Yeah, definitely, but not as much as more established publications. Whereas I think some other magazines started to see a decline in revenue, we’ve been struggling since day one and operating on shoestring budgets, so in a way, we haven’t really felt the effects as much as some mags that have enjoyed success over the past 10- to 20-plus years. We’re still very much at the stage where we’re finally getting people to notice us. Record labels are hurting and as the music industry switches to digital, so the labels have been scaling back if not all together eliminating their support of print publications, which has already been seen by the folding of other music pubs in the past year. However, I think corporations are spending as much as ever, so it’s just a matter of adjusting your marketing plans to include more integrated packages involving events and multimedia.

If you were to do this all again, what do you wish you had
done differently?

Beyond Race was originally started as a local magazine on newsprint distributed for free in New York City. That kind of pigeonholed us in some people’s eyes and it took some time for us to shed that image as we evolved into one of the hottest and freshest looking mags on the shelve. The growth of the magazine was very organic and eventually it became clear that “Beyond Race” was a global concept that in order to be successful was going to need to be worldwide. So, if I had to do it all again, I would have set the magazine up as an International publication from the start on high quality paper with a top notch designer.

Where is Beyond Race in 18 months? Is it still a print pub?
Hopefully, Beyond Race will continue its growth in circulation internationally and be on as many relevant newstands as possible across the world. In addition to print, we’re consistently working on evolving our Web site which we update daily into a viable source for entertainment and news coverage. The site is constantly improving in Web ranking as our numbers for unique visitors and hits increase. As we get more established, we have to continue to work harder to stay innovative enough to keep our audience growing. We’re working hard to continue strengthening the multi-media brand, from radio podcasts to Internet video clips. We’re also in the beginning stages of putting together a television show and producing DVDs. So basically, in 18 months, BRM will still be a vital print pub on it’s way to world domination!