Rochester, Minn. — Erik Westra and three friends had an idea. They wanted to create a magazine they would want to read. It took a year and a half to make it happen. Their publication is called "Ladies and Gentlemen," and it breaks some rules. There's no advertising, and only small independent record stores and bookstores can carry their magazine.
The other rule they broke, was that they put up all the money themselves.
"We all have day jobs, so we don't really need to rely on this magazine to make money for any of us," Westra says. "Everybody that we told about it thought we were insane, because the cost is so high and it all came out of pocket."
Westra says they spent more than $5,000 to get the magazine going. Most of that went to production and printing costs.
All of the written content they got for free. That includes material from prominent writers who show up in Spin and the online publication Salon.com. Another contributor is Mark Borchardt, the force behind the documentary "American Movie."
Westra says they got the music for free too. None of the musicians featured on the magazine's LP were paid for their work.
"I was like, 'Can we use one of your songs?' And, 'By the way, don't give us something that's been released. We want something that's unreleased, something that you've been working on and could be making money -- for free, we'll put it in our little magazine,'" says Westra. "They are all exclusive tracks, and everybody was surprisingly cool about it."
There are six songs in all, and they vary in style from bar rock to hip-hop.
It didn't hurt that Westra and his partners are already well connected in the musical world. Westra ran First Avenue's in-house magazine, The Foundation, for a while. Then he moved back to his hometown of Rochester to help out with the family business.
If you're truly a music fan, you know you're into a bit of everything, and I think this magazine reflects that.
His partners, Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski, run Aesthetic Apparatus. They're the team that's given the magazine its look. The pair of Minneapolis-based designers have used their flare creating concert posters to design the magazines cover. Its 12-inch by 12-inch format looks a lot like a record insert.
The fourth partner, Dave Ewald, is also a graphic designer and runs a small record label.
They're all are good friends with a passion for eclectic music. Westra says he hopes that's come through in the magazine.
"It sort of reflects the tastes of someone who would be interested in a magazine that's sort of all about all kinds of music. Classic and pop and whatever," says Westra. "If you're truly a music fan, you know you're into a bit of everything, and I think this magazine reflects that."
Already the magazine's inaugural edition is selling at a brisk pace. All of the proceeds from the first edition will be poured back into the second one. So far, there's no time frame for when that might hit the presses.
Westra says right now he's just trying to catch his breath.
"You don't need to follow the rules and you can still do whatever you want to do. Don't go into the idea of, 'Hey, I want to make money doing this,' because you're just going to fail," says Westra. "I think doing what you do because you love it is more important, and that's sort of where this came from."
That strategy seems to be working. Westra says he has been contacted by people from as far away as Portugal and Norway, who are anxious to get their hands on a copy.
The magazine can be ordered online. It can also be purchased in a selection of small independently-owned stores around the country.