Mitchell Wood and Paul Cole were taking journalism classes at Spokane Falls Community College when they decided to start an entertainment newspaper.
They pooled their resources, borrowed money from friends and family and set up shop in Wood’s apartment. The cover photograph of the new publication was taken by Cole during a vacation in Amsterdam.
The Pavement was born.
Six months and nine issues later, the newspaper, which bills itself as Spokane’s entertainment authority, has absorbed Wyre, a principal competitor. A second competitor, In Tune, has quietly folded. The other two newspapers also offered information about Spokane’s music scene.
“Our prime goal is to expand,” said Wood, the 25-year-old publisher. The Pavement would like to add the Tri-Cities, Pullman, Walla Walla and Moscow, Idaho, to its coverage and circulation area. Cole, 28, is editor.
The Pavement tries to list every club in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, give a daily account of who’s playing where and review local artists. It also highlights the microbrewery scene, profiling establishments and printing new microbrew recipes.
Most of the newspaper’s original issues were produced with journalism class buddies, but word spread and soon The Pavement was receiving calls from free-lance writers and photographers who began to submit material.
Mitch Gilbreth, a cook at a downtown restaurant, called Wood and Cole after a couple of issues had been printed and offered his services. Gilbreth’s knowledge of the local music scene made him invaluable, and Wood and Cole quickly signed him on as music editor.
The Pavement publishes every two weeks. About 10,000 copies of the free newspaper are distributed in bars, coffee shops, restaurants, vintage clothing stores and other locales. Advertising revenues have risen from $1,200 from the first edition to $2,900 from the ninth.
Wood and Cole aren’t getting rich. Quite the contrary. The pair say they have at least broken even on every issue, but Cole said he just moved back to his parents’ house because he couldn’t afford to rent an apartment. Wood is getting by with the help of an understanding girlfriend who has a good-paying job.
“I’d like to think we can hold on until we land some really big contracts,” Wood said.
A month and a half ago, The Pavement moved from Wood’s apartment to 350 square feet in the basement of the Undercliff House at 703 W. Seventh. Their ceiling is barely seven feet high, and the furniture is strictly garage-sale, but Wood and Cole have made it home by plastering the walls with music posters. The rest of the space is dominated by computers, printers and a homemade lightboard used to lay out the newspaper.
Wood and Cole’s different strengths make for a solid partnership. Cole is a shy punk-rock fan who sidelines as a computer guru. He’s been tinkering since before computers hit the big time and has designed The Pavement’s home page on the World Wide Web (www.thepavement.com).
Wood is an accoustic guitar fan and self-described Parrothead, as Jimmy Buffet devotees call themselves. He’s a fasttalking salesman who reels off sales, advertising and distribution figures faster than you can say Margaritaville.
Though many other Spokane music scene newspapers have folded, Wood and Cole think their strategy will help them succeed.
To supplement The Pavement’s appeal, the pair is sponsoring events and printing T-shirts, bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets. In four months, they’ve sponsored four events, including microbrewery festivals and Slap Shot, the area’s three-on-three hockey tournament.
The plan, said Wood, is to become actively involved in Spokane’s entertainment community, not just write about it.
“We wanted to sponsor the music stage at ArtFest, but The Inlander’s got that tied up so tight,” Wood said.
Still, Wood said, The Pavement is not trying to compete with The Inlander, the region’s weekly free newspaper, which has a broader scope of content. The average age of an Inlander reader is 42, while The Pavement is appealing to 18-to 35-year-olds, Wood said. An advertising representative for The Inlander agreed with the average age figure, but added that 60 percent of that publication’s readers are age 25 to 34.
“Over the years we’ve seen lots of arts newspapers come and go. (The Pavement) is interesting because it really focuses on the local art culture,” said Jack Lindberg, owner of Street Music, a downtown music store. “That’s not to say this paper is a powerful unit, because it isn’t, yet.”
Both Cole and Wood have travelled extensively in the country and said they found a comprehensive music scene newspaper everywhere they went, until they arrived in Spokane. For Wood, who grew up in Athens, Ga., which has spurred such bands as REM, the Indigo Girls, and the B-52s, the lack of such a publication in Spokane was glaring.
“There are more bands in town than people realize,” Wood said. “We’re trying to fill a need.”
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