The Deli Magazine is a daily updated website covering 11 local US music scenes (thus far: NYC, LA, Seattle, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Austin, Philly, DC Area and New England) through 11 dedicated, separate blogs. The Deli also has two quarterly publications exclusively focused on the NYC and LA independent music scenes – and a yearly magazine focused on the SXSW music festival in Austin.
Q.D. Tran is the editor and director of The Deli Magazine Philadelphia. Q.D. was gracious enough to sit down with TSI’s David Turcotte to discuss the Deli’s three year anniversary and other music industry tidbits.
Tri-State Indie: Congrats on The Deli Philly’s 3rd year in publication!!!
Q.D. Tran: Thanks!
TSI: The Deli Magazine is a national publication in a lot of the major cities/music scenes in the U.S. How did you get involved with the Philadelphia branch?
QDT: Well, I lived in NYC for five years before coming to Philly. I worked in PR for hi-tech firms when I was in New York among other things before that. I had just finished working on a job as a personal assistant for an opera/jazz singer here in Philly. I was basically doing her PR and booking. I also knew a bunch of talented musician friends whose bands were either struggling or breaking up. I got tired of watching gifted friends/artists quit playing music and get 9-to-5 jobs so I decided to transfer my past work experience to help out indie artists with PR, promotions, and booking. It was about that time when I first discovered The Deli Magazine visiting old friends in NYC. I was trying to figure out where I could find good, young NYC/Brooklyn indie bands that might be willing to trade shows with the Philly acts that I was working with because usually by the time that you heard of them, they were already a little too big to care about trading shows with a band that they didn’t know. I randomly picked up a print issue of The Deli NYC, and it was exactly what I was looking for. I’ve been a fan ever since. I still have that issue that I picked up. When The Deli Magazine opened up shop in Philly, they posted on the NYC site that they were looking for writers so I immediately responded to the ad. I handed in my first piece, and was asked to be an assistant editor. I now run the Philly branch and sometimes write for the NYC print/site. It’s been a lot of fun helping the Philly site evolve, and being able to give artists that deserve it some exposure. I know how fucked up the music biz can be so it’s nice to have a chance to add a little positivity to it. By the way, shout out to my homies Greenie and Ira – so proud to see them doing what they love with Lotus and Yeasayer, and they are some seriously nice dudes!
TSI: The Deli is also in major U.S. markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. How do you feel the Philadelphia music scene stacks up against some of these other cities/markets?
QDT: Honestly, I think Philly is the best music scene in the U.S. I have no problem saying that to anyone. I just think what is happening here is so real and organic. Someone once said this to me, and I love saying it to others: “In Philly, we make art. In New York and LA, they buy it.” Unfortunately, NYC and LA is where you have to go sometimes to make the deals and get the big bucks, but I definitely feel more biz is coming to Philly. It’s been exciting to watch our local artists getting picked up by rad labels like Matador and Secretly Canadian, and we have great sound people behind the scene like Jeff Zeigler, Brian McTear, Bill Moriarty, and Kyle “Slick” Johnson who are getting talented out-of-town musicians to come to Philly to record. And we have phenomenal artists on tour proudly repping us. I just think that it is only a matter of time until we are considered serious players. For now, it is fun to be a place where good/strange art just happens. It also keeps things interesting for me to cover.
TSI: The Deli Philly seems very fresh, and often ahead of the curve in contrast to other major and local publications. What’s the secret to your success?
QDT: Shhh…it’s a secret. Nah, just kidding – it’s funny. When I first started getting really involved with The Deli, I received an email or phone call from our Editor-in-Chief Paolo De Gregorio. He’s the MAN by the way because without his lifetime passion for the NYC music scene, there would be no Deli Magazine. Well, Paolo contacted me and asked what we were doing down in Philly. My response was “ah, writing about bands that we like. Why?” Then he told me that he was just wondering because we had already shot up to one of the most trafficked Deli sites within just a few months, and most of the other major cities had been open long before we were. Obviously, that felt awesome to hear. But again, I credit it to our amazing music scene. And we do simply listen to a lot of the local artists. I’m not a kid, and neither are most of our writers, but I like to think of us as the kids in the trenches. We all love music, especially live music so we go see a lot of shows. Sometimes not as often as I’d like because I’m constantly writing and editing, but I try my best. I’m a firm believer that the real bands to watch out for are the ones who can bring it live. Yes, in this day and age with the internet, you can become successful barely playing any shows or without performing live at all, but for most artists, at some point you have to step onto that stage. All the hype and technology can only get you so far out there. That’s not to say that we don’t discover some artists that we find searching on the internet because good music is good music, but I feel the musicians with longevity are the ones who can connect with their audiences on stage. And besides licensing, payout from live performances is the best way to earn money to keep your music career going these days. Lord knows music sales aren’t the horse that you want to ride on to prolong your career.
Sorry, I got off the subject. I also think that since we are focused on the local music scene, it allows us to really go in-depth into it. Other publications have to deal with so much music coming from everywhere nationally/internationally that it is sometimes easy for them to miss young, up-and-coming acts in their own backyard. Or they simply don’t have the space to write about them if they are print.
TSI: How do you choose what local bands to write about or cover?
QDT: (Laughs.) We listen to them. You gotta trust your ears and your gut instinct.
TSI: In your opinion, what has been the biggest evolution in the music industry over the last few years (DIY bands, Social Media/FB/Myspace etc, iTunes, etc.)?
QDT: I would have to say social media as far as my job is concerned. News these days travel ridiculously fast which is awesome, but can also suck sometimes because with what I do, I almost feel like a slave to Twitter or Facebook. I actually make an effort to walk away from it sometimes. I personally don’t have either account. I’m a rather private person. I’m slowly opening up a bit on The Deli Philly’s Twitter account, but the idea of people knowing where I am and what I’m doing all the time bugs me the fuck out. I’d never want to be famous. Now, I wouldn’t mind the cash that goes along with it, but I’d hate the cameras. But yes, stuff like Twitter has evened the playing field for DIY publications. The big boys don’t always get the first crack at the news because someone’s PR person sent them the press release. It’s cool that I can do my job from my bedroom or anywhere and not be at an office dealing with pitches and emails.
TSI: Tristateindie.com’s followers seem to really enjoy media rich content such as video interviews, photo recaps, etc. Do you see The Deli Magazine adding more live concert footage or video features in your content?
QDT: Sure. We love that stuff, but we’re more into writing and discovering new music. However, we have been collaborating with people who are more into that stuff than we are. We are into collaborations, and I’d rather leave things like that to people who are passionate about it. That’s how interesting things are made.
TSI: Finally, we noticed that you always ask this when you interview people for the first time so let’s turn the tables. What is your favorite thing to get at the deli?
QDT: (Laughs.) That’s a tough one. I love me some meat! I would say an Italian hoagie from Vito’s in Hoboken or Sarcone’s in Philly. I also dig pastrami with Swiss cheese and spicy mustard on rye, preferably Katz’s pastrami and 4th Street Deli’s rye in my dream world. I’m a foodie at heart. I could talk about food for hours. People have said to me that I should start my own food blog. My response is that it would be more writing that I have to deal with, and people would know my favorite places so eventually the lines would get longer and the prices would rise. Sorry, sometimes I love food too much to share. (Laughs.)