Five years is a long time for most things, especially a small business. To thrive (much less survive) on the Internet as a magazine that caters to only a handful of music lovers and audiophiles is almost miraculous. For The Stereo Times, the occasion of this fifth anniversary came with much fanfare and one of the nicest celebrations thrown in a very long time. Since the outset, I knew that I could create a magazine, written and published by audiophiles, against all odds, if I had two indispensable ingredients: luck and tenacity. Luck, it seems, has always followed me through many endeavors. Tenacity is something I developed along the way.
I knew that serendipity would have to play a huge role in The Stereo Times’ success, because creating another audio-related website (my last count was 14) was one thing, but making it successful would be a horse of different color.
How does one gauge success?
First and foremost, I own a very simple Black man’s perspective: I’m still here in one piece! Surviving the tumultuous 60’s as a small kid, with all the graphic images of the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, the assassinations of the Kennedys, Malcolm X and Dr. King, and the horrors of Vietnam blasted onto my fragile psyche from a small black and white television wasn’t a cakewalk either. Somehow, believe it or not, it was that small AM radio that sat atop the stove in my mother’s neatly tiled kitchen that gave me hope. A hope America at the time could not offer most of us. That radio never stopped playing music, music that would become the soundtrack of my youth. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles gave me more to think about besides all the rioting, killing and drugs that permeated our society during that time. I came through that period shaped with a greater sense of purpose and resolve for living. With a little bit of my parents guidance and a LOT of God’s grace, I was given opportunities that many in my peer group got but never took advantage of. For that alone I am successful.
Music keeps my heart beating, my legs young and my spirits high. I was an audiophile before I knew what the word meant. As a mobile DJ in the early 70’s (my dad owned a very popular club and thus my first gig at age 13), I was always paying close attention to the music though the landscape had changed by this time (1975). Instead of playing the Temptations’ Psychedelic Shack I was spinning Funkadelic, a super-psychedelic funk band headed by the legendary George Clinton. I remember how I would set up my loudspeakers (el’ cheapo pro series driven by Bob Carver’s amazing Phase linear 400 amps). I would always have the speakers evenly separated from my turntables so I could hear the stereo image come from dead center. This was audiophile behavior before I could afford a high-end cable!
Fast forward. My love for music playback, not necessarily audio or gadgets, led me to become an audiophile. My walk into this hobby was littered with stutter steps for a number of reasons, but the biggest, of course, was the outrageous cost of electronics. Electronics that I thought were weird because they didn’t have tone control knobs. “What happened to the midrange, bass and treble?” I’d wonder. “Shouldn’t the exclusion of these important controls lower the price?” I didn’t understand. Of course, this was before I heard my first high-end system. My first major purchase (a used Krell preamp, of course) was the emotional equivalent of getting baptized! When I think back on it now I guess I was.
Within no time at all I was a member of the NY Audiophile Society and working in a high-end shop in downtown Manhattan. Soon I was good friends with the likes of Bill Brassington, Lew Lanese, former publisher of Fi Magazine Jerry Gladstein, and longtime NY Audiophile Society prez Arnie Balgavis just to name a few. It was shortly thereafter that I informed everyone of a website I was thinking of starting up. Not only did these guys embrace the idea but Bill and Lew helped me get started. These wonderful folks gave me all the inspiration and hope I needed. We had a mutual love for music and each other, a rare commodity indeed. I took the ball and ran with it and never looked back. That was April 14th, 1999 (there was a short stopover as publisher of another webzine called Planethifi in ’98 that failed miserably due to some shortsightedness). The ensuing years were very challenging but never ever did I even consider quitting. I knew from the very beginning that this would demand total commitment. The one thing that made my staff and I feel best was the feedback we received from our readers. That was our lifeline.
Then came 9/11
Well, few of you know that I worked in those magnificent Twin Towers, on the 65th floor of Tower One to be exact. Only weeks before that fateful day I had lunch with Acoustic Zen’s Robert Lee. We walked through all of the “inner city” giving Lee what I called the NY Glamour Tour, starting at the World Trade Center and working our way through and around Battery Park City, which was adjacent to this huge complex. It was a perfect summer day, circa July 2001, the perfect time to be out and around lower Manhattan. On 9/11, I was actually supposed to meet with Stereo Times Managing editor Greg Petan. This was to be our very first time meeting. He was to meet me in front of Border’s Bookstore right on the corner of Church and Vescey Street. I had just returned from a weekend at CEDIA 2001 and was flat out exhausted after returning Monday at 2:00am. But I was excited to meet Greg and decided to drag myself in. Fortunately for me I was late.
After countless funerals, memorials, wakes and hours of mental therapy, I decided to do something that I heard of people doing all my life but was too afraid to do myself: quit my job and dedicate all my know-how to making The Stereo Times a success. I officially left my job of 17 years the day the US retaliated against Afghanistan and to this moment never looked back. With a singleness of purpose in our contributing staff of insightful writers and a powerful stock of senior editors in Dave Thomas, Marshall Nack, Petan, Paul Szabady, Frank Alles, and Frank Peraino, as well as our musically driven contributors Russell Lichter and Nelson Brill we’ve prepared ourselves for even greater possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead.
The Stereo Times 5th Anniversary Party further indicated that we’re as serious about music and audio as any publication has ever shown. And based on the number of manufacturers and well wishers in attendance, I don’t think there’s much doubt to that claim.
Personally, I want to thank all you manufacturers who came out for the party in honor of the magazine’s 5th anniversary. Thank you for showing me that trust and respect are the key elements that make successful relationships. Until next year.
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Stereo Times Masthead
Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery
David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery
Carlos Sanchez, John Jonczyk, John Sprung and Russell Lichter
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