Farewell, from the Editor

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Farewell, from the Editor

 

Dear COTMA readers,

First of all, I would like to thank you for being along for the ride, whether this is the first post you have ever read on the site or if you’ve been subscribed for years. Yes, this project could carry on even if not a single person visited the blog, but the ability to reach the masses is what makes it special. Second, I need to thank William Weinstein, Kelly Fox, and Deanna Romani for helping keep the site alive during a crazy year. I was so lucky to be able to share—if I’m being honest—the majority of the work when I ran out of motivation after last year’s major blog growth. Senioritis, as it turns out, is real.

Now that I’ve graduated (congratulations, class of 2017!) it has finally set in that this project that I’ve loved, hated, cultivated, taken for granted, and felt every emotion in between for would no longer be my own. Sitting through a graduation ceremony full of speeches and stage crossing gave me time to reflect, and I would like to share my story.

It was the beginning of the fall semester in 2013 when an announcement made its way around the downtown Phoenix campus at Arizona State. All students were invited to attend a general meeting about The Blaze, our campus radio station to determine if they wanted to be part of the team. There were opportunities in music, sports, news, promotion, and production, and there was no prior experience required. It was the meeting that started it all.

I’ve always been a music fan, which is not news but is fun to recall anyway. I would sing Quad City DJ’s “C’Mon ‘N Ride It” and Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West” from my carseat as a kid. I filled up CD cases of movie soundtracks, teeny bopper pop albums, and my parents’ 70s and 80s compilations. As early as ten years old, I would drag my father to concerts, and he was the one who introduced me to the indie/alternative scene a few years later. I couldn’t get enough—I found myself in the deep recesses of streaming services’ libraries and running commentary on the music playing at my parents’ friends’ dinner parties. However, it wasn’t until offered a chance to show off on air that I realized I could do something about my passion.

At the end of that first Blaze meeting, two guys spoke about the blog that they ran in conjunction with the station. It was called COTMA, an acronym for the Coalition of Taste Making Aficionados (over the years, it had changed from “Congregation” to “Coalition,” per Becky Bartkowski.) The name was supposed to be funny and pretentious and satirical, making fun of overly structured and stuffy music journalism. COTMA was different. It was a place where you could pen your thoughts after listening to albums and going to shows. You could put together playlists. You could even contemplate social media’s effect on music or how genres shape culture without worrying about meeting a deadline or word count. It was free and low key and whatever you wanted it to be, and that was all I could ask for after getting AP style and journalism rules shoved down my throat every day.

I approached the then-editors with a short piece about Surfer Blood, who were due to visit Phoenix a few weeks down the road. It wasn’t much, but it was a start, and it was enough to garner attention from the band’s agent, who offered me an interview the day of their show.

That semester, I wrote every single week. Visit the early pages for proof. I wrote review after review and had the time of my life, and I looked forward to winter break when I would have more time to work on pieces. The first was a chart all about upcoming festivals, including the dates/locations and headliners and pricing options. I had everything but a map of the U.S. showing where each event would take place. When, I turned it in, though, I was surprised by the reply: the editors were handing off the “keys” to whoever showed the most interest at The Blaze, and they thought I would be the best fit.

Over the next three years, I worked with the music staff at The Blaze (shoutout Amanda Luberto) to make COTMA into what it is today. We implemented a one-article-per-semester requirement for the music department in the interest of generating content, and I spent many a late night editing the flood of submissions. I had an official(ish) position on the Blaze staff, which entailed speaking at meetings and keeping all my writers accountable. Though I thought contributing to the blog was everything I wanted, running it was even better. The growth got us hundreds—some days, thousands—of daily site views. Over time, it became a go-to for smaller artists and their fan bases, and we turned what were once rejections from concerts into press passes for raves and small to mid-size venues. We were no Consequence of Sound or Pitchfork, but we were recognized as a legitimate publication worthy of our resumes and lists of accomplishments.

COTMA is actually what got me hired at Phoenix New Times as a music freelancer. I had a year’s experience as an editor, and I could preview and review and interview without any issues. It felt like joining the big leagues, and I didn’t even have to pass off my baby to be a part of it. Now, it’s a different story. COTMA is Blaze, and Blaze is students only.

That is why I’m ecstatic to formally announce your new editor-in-chief: William Weinstein. Will has been an amazing writer since joining the staff, and his critical approach and fearlessness in standing by his opinions makes him a respectable reviewer. I can’t wait to see how the blog develops and evolves and becomes better than anything I could have done. (Note: He’s nervous about letting me down, but I know that’s impossible.)

Thus, the keys that were handed to me in January 2014 now have a new home, and it’s time to do all my music-related writing for New Times. I walk away from COTMA with 3+ years of music writing, three years of leadership/management, a few gray hairs, and relationships I never would have made if I hadn’t found The Blaze (now Blaze Radio; for those who missed the memo, we had to rebrand this year) and then found fellow writers who were as big of music geeks as I am. Being involved at the station gave me so much, and I’m excited to have the time and money in coming years to be able to give back.

So, to all who were involved, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you for making this experience an incredible one.

 

Cheers!

Taylor Gilliam

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The Blaze Radio studio. Photo by Kaci Demarest.

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