Q&A: Best Music Writing Series Editor Daphne Carr On Becoming A 21st-Century Publisher, What "Best" Means, And Bringing Pop And Classical Closer Together

Categories: Interviews

Michal Nanoru
This month marks the publication of Best Music Writing 2011, the annual anthology of top-notch scribing about music—2010 pieces by the likes of Nitsuh Abebe, Ann Powers, and Jessica Hopper are collected in the book, which this year was edited by New Yorker classical-music critic Alex Ross. Earlier this week, the news came out that this would also be the last edition of the series published by Da Capo Press. But that doesn't mean the anthology won't be published anymore: Series editor Daphne Carr—who's been working on the book's yearly issue since 2006—is heading out on her own, using Best Music Writing as the flagship title for a new publishing house that'll be focused on writing about music. She's launched a fundraising campaign to publish the book and get the house going; the goal is to raise $30,000, and donations over $15 will reserve you a copy of next year's Best Music Writing. I emailed with Carr, who also worked on the recent Ellen Willis anthology Out Of The Vinyl Deeps, about her future plans, how Occupy Wall Street influenced her decision to take this step, and how music writing has turned into a conversation over the last decade.

What has the reaction to your announcement been like so far?

People have been overwhelmingly supportive of the project and there has been an outpouring of advice, offers of help, and well, the funds! I really need all of these things to keep coming, because Best Music Writing is an expensive project and should be distributed well and widely, just as all the other Best books. We're no different, just louder!

Do you have any small-press experience? Are you working with people who do?

I've run an academic journal (Current Musicology) for the last two years, and that experience has prepared me for the publishing side of the project.
I've been involved in DIY publishing since my high school zine, and met Toby Carroll, '90s hardcore zine superstar, the first day of freshman year at NYU in 1997. We ran a zine club together at college, and have been talking about small press publishing ever since. After that I worked as the music editor for Stop Smiling, and my great editor JC Gabel planted the idea that we should all run small presses, which he and James Hughes have now done with Stop Smiling Books.

A few years ago Toby introduced me to the Book Squared people, who are a great resource for those thinking like a 21st-century publisher, which is what I want to be. All these things plus the crisis of the book's demise at Da Capo and my recent work in and observation of the creative momentum of Occupy Wall Street convinced me that now is the time to put all the skills together to do something new, positive, and independently produced for the music writing community. Toby has been advising me at every step, and I hope we'll work closely together on the project. I encourage lovers of great music writing with publishing, marketing, and new media savvy to contact me.

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