AUX TV relaunches as A.Side

The new multi-channel Canadian music platform is live today, with features on Mac DeMarco and Bishop Briggs

AUX TV is dead, and in its place is A.Side. 

The new multi-platform music channel/online publication focused on music, lifestyle and pop culture was launched on May 18. The venture by AUX’s parent company, Blue Ant Media, and Toronto-based marketing agency/production company Shed Creative Agency aims to be a passionate new voice in Canadian music.

It also points to an ongoing shift in digital music media.

When AUX TV launched in 2008/2009, it planted a flag in a space that had been abandoned by institutions like MuchMusic (now just MUCH). A scrappy digital publication and TV network, AUX sent a message that ground-level Canadian indie music had a place not just online, but also on the mainstream broadcast dial.

Eight years later, with indie- and niche-focused publications struggling to compete with major media for clicks and this week’s potential CRTC defunding of MuchFACT, which would put a final nail in the coffin of television as a place to break new music, it suddenly feels like a very different landscape.

A few weeks ago, AUX threw itself a wake. It was a bittersweet occasion, filled with remembrances of a more innocent and optimistic time in Canadian media, but also hope for the future with A.Side marking a new beginning.

The first day on the newly live offered a feature interview with Mac DeMarco, an evolution of Hayley Williams’s (from Paramore) hair, a personal essay by Erin Pehlivan about taking her mother to see Beyoncé and a photo series following Hollerado as they throw out the first pitch at a Blue Jays game. An article about the Netflix show Riverdale is forthcoming. You can see traces of AUX, but it’s clear that A.Side is broader and more eager to engage with mainstream pop culture.

“With A.Side, we saw an opportunity to step away from the elitism and snark that we saw dominating the music conversation online,” says Tyler Munro, who started as an intern at AUX in 2011 and is now A.Side’s founding editor. “We still want to be funny and witty and even critical, but we don’t want to punch down and be mean for the sake of being mean. It’s okay to like things. There are no guilty pleasures.”

A.Side doesn’t want any fans to feel alienated, or like they’re not music nerdy enough to participate.

“I mean, do we really need any more Ed Sheeran Is Corny thinkpieces?” Munro says.

Where online music publications used to proudly declare themselves authorities and tastemakers, embracing the role that would have once been played by record store clerks, A.Side is aiming at the frontier of revenue-focused online media where playful enthusiasm is currency and content lives across multiple channels. Covering an artist might mean hanging out for a day at a record store with them for a YouTube video that can also be repurposed as an Instagram story or a Snapchat takeover.

They’re not abandoning TV, either. It will just work concurrently with the digital focus. A.Side TV launches May 30 with the Canadian premieres of Mary Mary and SWV Reunited. Most of the programming is still being finalized.

Though the partnership is 50/50 between Shed and Blue Ant, everyone involved stresses that there’s a clear church-and-state separation between branded content/sponsorship side and editorial.

“They’re literally in a different building,” says Munro.

Still, A.Side plans to lean heavily on the access that Shed can provide through their connections to Universal Music Canada, aiming for something like a direct artist-to-fan connection. The unique ownership structure also provides a new business model reliant on the digital life raft of brand partnerships and sponsored content. Shed had already been creating campaigns with bands like Metric and brands like the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and now they have a dedicated channel to put them on.

Is it the future of music journalism? Check back in eight or nine years. | @trapunski

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