Arkells wants you to start paying for your news — and they’ll give you a shirt for your trouble.
On Tuesday the Hamilton-based band announced a new project, where fans can send in info proving that they’ve subscribed to a journalistic publication in return for an Arkells T-shirt.
“Good reporting not only keeps us in the loop, but also makes sure our big wigs are held accountable — to ensure there is no sneaky biz,” the band writes on their website. “Let’s start by supporting your local paper or a daily publication you really admire. It’s been years in the making. No more running from that paywall.”
To qualify, the subscription needs to be year-long. And if you already have all the news you want yourself, the band says you can gift a subscription to someone else if you want the T-shirt.
In an interview with HuffPost Canada, Arkells frontman Max Kerman said the initiative was all about encouraging people to pay for the essential services they’re already using.
“Papers are being shut down in smaller communities, there are a lot of layoffs in that industry,” he said. “And it got us thinking if there was a way that we can kind of nudge people and encourage better habits. And that’s where the idea came from.”
Kerman says the band’s connection to and support of journalism runs deep. Arkells has previously discussed the role of journalism in their music. The song “Whistleblower” discusses the role of journalists in drawing attention to issues going on behind closed doors.
He says journalism has been important to him “his whole life” and he remembers growing up in Toronto and getting three different papers delivered to his parents’ house every morning. Mike DeAngelis, one of the band’s other vocalists, is also married to former Hamilton Spectator and current Globe and Mail journalist Molly Hayes.
“It’s definitely close to home,” Kerman said. “I really admire that line of work. And I think it’s really valuable.”
He says the group doesn’t want to limit what outlets qualify.
“I think for us it’s like, it’s more just like the spirit of what this is all about, which is just recognizing that there’s been like a bit of a disconnect with the way people think about supporting journalism and people actually doing it,” he said.
The free shirts were designed by DeAngelis, and feature a typewriter along with the phrase “Years in the Making.” Kerman says it has multiple meanings.
“It’s about learning from the bumps in the road and learning how to get better. And I think that ‘years in the making’ is this idea that you don’t have to be perfect, but it feels good to learn from the times you might have mistakes, or the hardships of an industry,” he said.
As for the future of Canadian news media, Kerman is hopeful.
“I think there’s, like, more talent than ever,” he said. “I think there’s a real hunger for talented writers and interesting voices and really strong diligent reporting and a trustworthy source of information to make sure that you know what’s happening in your community.”
“And I think there will be a paradigm shift where people recognize that this is something that needs to be paid for.”
You can get your free Arkells shirt on the band’s official website.
WATCH: Raptors coach Nick Nurse hits the stage with Arkells.