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Mary Ellen Gustafson - Press Director

I began my career as a Music Journalist as a Freelance contributor to "Bay City Nights," a music street 'zine in Erie, PA and Cleveland, OH in 1995. My first assignment was to cover Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live In Concert. My husband, Gary Gustafson, used the Photo Pass and became my "live gig" partner from that first show. Tom Petty even walked over and posed for him! "Bay City Nights" was on its way to publishing its final issue at that time and I was hired as Media Editor for Stark Publications in 04/96. I was also writing Book Reviews for and Business Related "How To" articles (Resume Writing, Interviewing, etc.) for College publications.

Stark was in the process of developing an E-zine called "Speculative Fiction and Beyond" and I started learning the ins and outs of the music industry. Although book, movie and video reviews were under my supervision, I was the person who handled anything music related. With names and phone numbers to Roadrunner Records, Mazur Public Relations and MSO PR, I cold called publicity departments and started my network of music industry contacts. "SF&B" published its first issue in 07/96 and kept a live link to my personal web site where I continually updated Music News and did CD reviews from a growing list of record labels (Reprise, Arista, Windham Hill) and PR Firms.

By the beginning of 10/96, I was scheduling myself for Concerts (Ozzfest, Love In Reverse) and Interviews, as well as receiving a LOT of CDs for review from various places, but SF&B the E-zine still had only one issue published and nothing scheduled for the near future. At that point I decided to resign from Stark and strike out on my own. I'd taught myself HTML in order to publish CD Covers and use different colors, fonts and placement on a web page on my web site and I was getting new contacts almost every day, so I started publishing my OWN e-zine, ACCESS TO THE MUSIC ZONE - AMZ, on 11/10/96. My first issue had concert coverage of "Ozzfest '96" and "Love In Reverse," along with an interview with LIR, and about 6 or 7 CD reviews - all done by me! By 01/97 I had added two more people to help write reviews and cover concerts, both of whom became Associate Editors of AMZ and one, the Webmaster. I'd also added more record labels (Epic, Warner Bros. Black Music Div., Epitaph, Elektra, Tooth & Nail) and PR Firms and a World Music section. In 08/97 I finally got a domain name ( then changed to that is still live at ( and takes you to the site today. I also let my Associate Editor, Robert Lewis, take over as Webmaster completely and I concentrated on hiring more people (we had about 10 by then), getting concerts set up (we had a BUNCH!) doing and assigning interviews, getting more contacts (we had most major labels and scads of PR Firms by then) and editing EVERYTHING everybody wrote. Plus I was designing all the web pages for concerts for placement of photos, etc. The webmaster just went and dropped the photos in. I uploaded everything via FTP already coded and ready. Also writing a monthly editorial (rant) about the industry.

By the end of '97 we had about 20 people on the staff and were pushing 50,000 Individual Page Hits per month. We were covering ALL genres except classical, including New Age and World. I had people that specialized in every genre. We did tons of live gigs and interviews and we did a Feature Artist and Featured 2 Debut Artists every month. Features meant full bio, Interview, CD review and most of the time a live show.

In 2000, we were running about 80 articles a month and we were featured in the Indie Bible and a few Indie Newsletters from their inception. We were pioneers in the Independent E-zine market and one of the ONLY ones that covered all genres. I was approached by Tromaville in 1999 to become a partner in their new venture and web site and be Featured as the only Music E-zine on their site. They screwed me big time and after a lot of legal crap I got out of the contract. I got into one other "advertising can't miss" deal to try to get the 'zine on a paying basis and again got screwed, so I quit contracting with other people. I tried like crazy to sell ad space to labels, since we were running their publicity on our site, but back in those days they totally mistrusted the Net. They didn't have web sites and considered all e-zines to be fan 'zines. I built a reputation in the industry that still carries me today and we were always one of the top 1 or 2 Independent E-zines on the Net when I owned AMZ which was through 12/31/2000.

I was approached by other publications and began writing for and then Modern Fix Magazine in print. Eventually MF started publishing their main stories on their web site as well and I also was asked to join the "staff" of Ink 19 (, one of the few e-zines that was around longer than mine. However, they STARTED in print and eventually moved to the e-zine format, so I may have beat them to it! I was contributing to all of them, depending on the article, because they all stuck to their own formats. None of them published a wide variety of music articles. Modern Fix caters to skaters and punk and metal fans. Ink 19 caters to underground. is a regional site.

I ALWAYS supported Indie bands and new bands, because nobody else gave them a place to be exposed to the public. If they had a way to get their music to my readers, we wrote about them. However, I never covered the local scene unless they were opening for national acts or were signed, because it WAS an international E-zine and if they couldn't be accessed by everyone, there was no point in writing about them.

So that brings us to now and when John approached me to work with GR. I kept in touch with the contacts I worked best with over the years so that I could truly Freelance AND so I could pick and choose what I would write about and go to see live. Now I need to get GR in the loop of all those labels and PR firms I worked so hard to get all those years ago! I REALLY worked miracles to get what I did, because they were all so suspicious of E-zines back then. NOW all the labels have their own web sites and links and don't think they NEED e-zines, which is also wrong. I have to convince them otherwise!

Contact Mary Ellen:

Copyright © by Garage Radio Magazine All Right Reserved.

Published on: 2004-09-20 (2237 reads)

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