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“Stop running from the paywall”: Canadian band urges fans to support local media, 100s of new subscriptions roll in

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Last week, Canadian rock band Arkells asked fans to support their local media by purchasing a year-long subscription, in exchange for exclusive swag.

It’s an interesting offer from the band, who is supporting something it believes in, as a New Year’s resolution. It’s part of a small wave of players outside of media, who are raising their voices to help the industry, and educating their followers on the value of good journalism and that journalism can’t survive without support. 

“Good reporting not only keeps us in the loop, but also makes sure our big wigs are held accountable — to ensure there is no sneaky biz,” the Hamilton, Ontario-based band explained on its website. “Somewhere along the way, we took this for granted. We forgot that we have to pay for this vital service, and that reporting the news isn’t free. In our own city we’ve seen our local newspaper continue to shrink, and we worry about its future and the future of other local newspapers.”

On its website, Arkells ask their fans to sign up for a year-long subscription to their favourite news outlet, submit proof of their new subscription, and the band will send a custom tee shirt.

“Get a year-long paid subscription to a journalistic institution of your choice – you know, the one where you’re always running out of free articles – and we’ll gift you this custom shop tee designed by our very own Mike D,” says a statement on the band’s website. 

“We have a bit of a platform in Arkells and we thought it would be an interesting experiment,” lead singer Max Kerman told The Telegram in St. John’s, Newfoundland. “I feel like getting a subscription to your local paper is something everyone has been meaning to do, meaning to get around to, but for whatever reason, haven’t done it yet. So, to see people act on it was really exciting.” 

The band says they’ve seen an amazing response, “seeing hundreds of new subscriptions rolling in,” to international titles like The New York Times, to Slate and the Atlantic, the band’s hometown newspaper The Hamilton Spectator, and dozens of other Canadian news titles including The St. Catherines Standard, Ottawa Citizen, Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald and The Toronto Star.

As of February 10, Arkells’ original tweet had been liked over 1,000 times, and had over 400 retweets.

The band’s local journalism push has made an impact at independent publications, too.

“(It) resulted in perhaps a dozen maybe 15 new subscribers, and really we are grateful for any kind of effort that raises awareness about how we are trying to save local journalism in our city,” said Dave Bidini, publisher of the West End Phoenix in Toronto. “Hoping people will see the value in print and in local reporting by their support of what we do.”

By Jessica Patterson  @jesspatterson