Kateryna Topol has a love for music.
That love for music was enough to set her down the unenviable task of starting her own music publication. We spoke to Topol at the Cafe Pamenar in Kensington. Here, she talks to us about her online music magazine, what life is like when freelancing in advertising and a bit about Toronto’s music scene.
In four sentences or less, tell us who you and what you do for a living.
My name is Kateryna Topol. I run a magazine called QuipMag.com. It’s an online publication that focuses on alternative music and independent art.
I also freelance, working with various businesses on their advertising and creative communications needs. A lot of the companies I help are startups and non-profits.
What inspired you to start Quip? And how did you become a freelancer?
Quip started as a side-project—I’ve always wanted to have my own magazine. A month after deciding to start Quip, the website went live and it’s been going strong for almost three years now.
As for my freelance work, I worked full-time at a couple of places, but quickly found that I wasn’t happy with agency life. It was also hard to balance, so I started doing things on my own. I’ve been freelancing for over two years now.
What’s the most challenging part of running your own magazine? What’s the most rewarding part?
It started as a side-project, but now it takes up half of my life. I manage a team of over 40 people, that’s a lot of people to take into consideration.
But they’re all great, and that, I would say, is the most rewarding part of the whole project. I love when someone from my team sends me a note about the job they got, the program they got into at a school, or just how they had a really good time at a show and that they’re excited to write about it.
A lot of them have become good friends, and in that way I’ve been very lucky; almost everyone that has worked for the website has been fantastic.
How do you think you’ve been able to grow so quickly?
To be honest, I don’t think Quip has grown that quickly. For me, it feels like it’s been a while—and I do spend a lot of time on it. But I guess you’re right, two-and-a-half to three years isn’t a long time.
I think we’ve grown because we have teams in multiple cities—Toronto, Montreal, New York, as well as other cities in the U.S.—covering a variety of up-and-coming artists and they, both the artists and writers, have been very supportive about sharing their stories.
Where do you hope to take the magazine in the next three to five years?
I’d like to grow the website to the point where we can start to monetize, so that we’re able to incentivize our team in various ways.
Beyond that, the goal is to become a more prominent and powerful publication, and to expand our video section.
The more immediate goal, though, is to fully redesign the site; the last design update I did was about a year-and-a-half ago.
It’s taken me a while to focus in on the kind of coverage I want the website to have, and now that I’ve figured that out I have a much better idea of how it should look. Once the redesign is done the website is going to look pretty radical.
For people who, like you, wake up one day and decide they want to start a magazine, what advice would you give them?
I would say don’t do it (laughs).
Okay, so what is it that keeps you going, then?
I have those moments when I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” But I love music so much that I can’t see myself stopping. This magazine is a part of me now.
I find it funny that there are people out there that say there’s no good new music out there, or that they can’t find it. There’s a bit more variety now with all the new indie stations, but even they don’t get all of the good stuff, the new or less known artists that fall between the cracks of pop music. I’d like us to be that place where place people go to to find new music.
What are you listening to right now?
On my way here I was listening to N.D.M.A. He’s this new artist from Ottawa, and he’s actually really interesting.
I’ve been obsessed with watching how the local hip-hop scene has grown over the last couple of years.
During a talk at the Red Bull Thre3style, someone brought up the fact that there’s no a hip-hop scene in Toronto. But there honestly is, it’s just still underground.
What’s next for you personally?
Since Quip is a personal passion project the redesign of the website is the next big thing. On the other side, I’m working with a startup that just launched last week, and it’s been very exciting and rewarding helping a business grow, so I’d like to work on more of those.
How do you balance your two jobs? They both seem like they require full-time commitments.
It all comes down to having a great schedule. That’s a skill that’s taken me a while to master, and the first year of running Quip was the hardest because I was still figuring out how to divide my time.
I also think a big thing for me was to build up a discipline for small things, like not immediately opening emails as they come in.
What motivates and inspires you outside of work?
I’d say my friends… they’re all very supportive. It helps that they’re all huge music fans as well. Whether it’s for work or not, we go to a lot of shows together.
I guess my life revolves around music (laughs).
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Is there a creative Torontonian you would like to see profiled? Email Igor Bonifacic at igor[at]torontostandard[dot com] to nominate someone.
Igor Bonifacic is the managing editor of Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter.