Issue 26, the DIY Issue of Acclaim Magazine was one of the first "real" magazines I ever bought. I picked it up from a magazine store in Newtown during my first year at design school. Since that day, I've held Acclaim in high regard for what a magazine, a brand and even a lifestyle should be. 4 years later, and now 10 years after its inception – Acclaim is a somewhat different beast. I got in touch with Sean Irving – the Managing Editor at Acclaim about everything that goes on behind the scenes. He also does a bunch of other things, one of them being a new brand with his friend Mia Besorio called Content is Currency.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Sean Irving, I’m the managing editor of the team at ACCLAIM. I also like to make projects on the side with friends.
How did you join the team at Acclaim?
I’ve been with the magazine for almost six years. I started as an intern while I was wrapping up at university. The editor at the time, Alex Weiland, gave me a lot of breaks and taught me a whole suite of skills – I owe her big time. I used to constantly pitch weird stories, and one in five would get approved. She taught me to look at publishing holistically. To focus on how everything works as an entity – rather than getting caught up with one project. Over the years I worked my way up through a bunch of different roles until I ended up doing what I’m doing now.
What’s a normal day at the Acclaim offices like?
Well, it’s an office workplace so I spend the majority of my day glued to my computer. The business has evolved from being a print magazine with a small website, to a daily website that produces a print magazine. So there’s always demand to be creating content on a daily basis, as well as working on long lead projects. Having said that, it’s definitely a more relaxed environment than a lot of other offices. I’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty unique experiences through the job. I’ve worked with a lot of people whose work I really admire and respect – which is extremely gratifying.
I grew up listening to hardcore punk and being interested in skateboarding. Since then I’ve seen a lot of people in those cultures launch cool and interesting projects, but they never really seem to create anything that lasts. The Acclaim story is inspiring for me because you’ve broken the mould and actually been able to create a successful business that has been around for 10 years. Do you have any advice for people launching projects within independent subcultures, with an aim to make an actual living?
I think those cultures in particular foster a very DIY attitude from an early age that sticks with people. The vast majority of people that I look up to locally and internationally who have been successful in their practise have a background in either skateboarding, punk, or graffiti – or a combination of the three. As far as longevity, I’m not sure if that’s as reflective of those cultures as it is of the small business landscape. It’s really difficult to maintain an independent business, particularly with the economic climate being what it is. I’ve got a lot of admiration for the new wave of publishers and artists coming up who are operating with really low overheads in a direct model. I think there’s real power in pushing your work online straight to your audience. For every major weekly print title that’s folding there’s five or six independents pushing short run, high quality, titles direct through Instagram and Big Cartel – which is tight.
You recently re-launched the print offering of Acclaim to coincide with the 10 year anniversary. Does this mean you’re investing in print for the long run?
Print is at the core of ACCLAIM, it’s where we started and it’s what has afforded us a whole host of opportunities that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. The relaunch is a reflection of where we see the title going in the future. The guys who picked it up ten years ago when they were 17 are now 27 – and their tastes have changed. So we’re trying to reflect that change. It’s the biggest issue we’ve done to date and it includes some content that people might not expect from the title – short fiction, poetry, and a few other surprises. Everything is still anchored to the cultures that we love, but we’re looking at them from a wider perspective. I was lucky enough to collaborate with Oliver Georgiou on the issue, a guy I really trust, and he brought a whole lot of great stuff to the table.
Tell me about Content is Currency.
CIC is a project that me and my good friend Mia Besorio (AKA Sobb Deep) do. The name came from a really shitty web-marketing guide another friend of ours always kept on his desk. We referred to it for years as a joke, and it just kind of stuck. For us, the phrase perfectly articulates the state of contemporary media (of which we're members), in which cultural currency is in large part determined by volume rather than quality. The internet has given rise to a constant stream of voices, enabling anyone to become a content producer with virtually no barriers. The flipside of this is that in some instances simply being the most visible, the most prolific, and the loudest voice in the room carries more perceived value than producing quality content.
Mia and I grew up obsessed with punk music, and in a lot of ways the current cultural landscape is a fulfilment of the punk ideals of DIY equality. The Sniffin' Glue mantra (“This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band”) has become a reality — anyone can start a band, a website, a magazine, or a clothing label with almost no barrier to entry. It’s just that it seems like the egalitarian ideals of that movement have fallen by the wayside. We approached the project partly as a tongue in cheek marketing exercise, and partly as a nod to those DIY cultures that we owe so much to. It’s still in its infancy at this stage, but we’ve got a bunch of stuff about to come out that we’re really happy with.
Apart from other art and design, what directly inspires your work and your creative style?
I get obsessed with things very easily, and once that process happens I really want to share that excitement with other people. Whenever I’m working on a project my goal is generally just to get other people as hyped as I am about whatever it is I’m focussing on. I think that pushes my work more than anything. I’m always interested in subculture, and the ways that they manifest across regions and generations. The things that bored teenagers dedicate themselves to inspires me more than anything else.
What inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing?
My peers, and the amazing work that a lot of them are doing. I’m never totally satisfied with anything that I put out either, so that motivates me to keep trying to make things that mean something.
No matter how small or insignificant, what is one thing you’ve done this week that has made you happy?
I went skating for the first time in a long time on the weekend, which felt really good. I wrecked my ankle and couldn’t walk for two days – but it was definitely worth it.
What’s next for you?
Big things, hopefully!