Texas Gigs should have a lot to celebrate as of late. The 4-year-old Internet destination won the brand-new Best Web Site award at last month's Dallas Observer Music Awards; 10 days later, the site's first national honors came from the EPpy Awards (spearheaded by the reputable Editor & Publisher magazine), which deemed texasgigs.com the "best Internet entertainment service under 1 million unique monthly visitors."
Not bad for a little Dallas music blog that began as a labor of love for Cindy Chaffin, the Dallas mother of two teenagers who started the site before practically any other Dallas music blog existed. The story of Texas Gigs' humble beginnings and rise in prominence is long and compelling--and will be explored in greater detail in the coming weeks as part of a feature story about the Internet's impact on Dallas music. But in an Internet age, some news stories can't wait.
Daily visitors to the site for the past two weeks have noticed a steep decline in Chaffin's articles, posts and comments. Actually, that's an understatement--never in the site's history has she been silent for longer than a few days, so her complete Internet silence since May 26 became reason for concern. Was she sick? Bad car accident? The site certainly didn't say either way; Mike Orren and Alan Cohen, two of the site's Pegasus News partners, took up the posting slack without making a peep about the absence.
After e-mailing Chaffin last week, I received vague, "more to come" e-mails. She was fine, she said, but changes were afoot. Couldn't say more. On Tuesday, Chaffin finally revealed the whopper: She was parting ways with Texas Gigs, selling the rights to the domain name to Pegasus News and starting anew with FineLineLive.com, a Web site that is set to launch this Saturday.
Wait. Whoa. Texas Gigs is Cindy Chaffin, right? Sure, the site's recent attention has plenty to do with the merger with Pegasus News. The updated design, boosted multimedia presence and interesting promotions (particularly the Dallas Mavericks Playoff Theme Song competition, which is giving local hip-hop trio PPT some well-deserved attention during the NBA Finals) all came once the merger happened.
But the soul of the thing--the sense of humor and the open-arms stance that put the site on Pegasus' radar in the first place--is thanks to this woman, the most non-hipster person to ever matter in the local scene.
In the past week and a half, the site's quality has already dipped. Monday's headline piece was an error-ridden concert review praising the awful Alligator Dave and the funny-for-only-five-minutes Lazer. Worse, most of the new content appears ripped directly from MySpace band bulletins. Here's an unedited article in its entirety from Monday's "staff reports": "New wave rock group The Detached have finished a new demo for the song 'Self Destruct.' Click Here to download the song read lyrics." I'm surprised that headlines like "Bowling for Soup drummer takes a dump" weren't posted.
Then again, the site openly declares in its "About" section that Pegasus News will soon expand, and the music section would have eventually folded into the site's growing news and lifestyle focus, anyway. Chaffin's official statement reflects that: "[Pegasus News and I] had agreed that when transitioning into the upcoming Pegasus site, we would sit down and re-evaluate our partnership...I am 100 percent music-focused, and they are so broad that I decided to go back to doing my own thing." The Fine Line, which will be co-run by local booking agent Amanda Newman, will actually not be 100 percent music-focused, however, adding "art, photography and culture" to regional/Texas music coverage.
Orren says Texas Gigs' focus on music listings information will remain consistent, and new bloggers will help Cohen and Blair Lovern pick up the music writing slack, even though he admits that they "may not know the scene as thoroughly...Cindy will certainly be missed. But she's only a link away." And when asked about typo and reporting deficiencies, Orren says "that's not much different from any other week." For "staff reports" and other writers on the site, that may be true, but Chaffin's contributions were not this sub par. I hope Orren doesn't lose sight of the music portion as the rest of the site grows into what he calls "more of a complete entertainment site."
When pressed further about reasons for leaving, Chaffin only offers the following: "I wish them well and want to move on to bigger and better." See you at The Fine Line, Cindy.