Everyone has a group chat with their friends. It’s a place to laugh, to send memes, and to share about each others’ lives. But could a group chat really lead to something bigger? Earlier this year, “Heart Eyes” was just a concept buzzing around the back of the teams’ minds, but thanks to a simple suggestion in a group chat, Heart Eyes Magazine (named after a song by Nashville-based band COIN, a favorite of the staff) is now a flourishing online and print publication with staffers and contributors sprinkled across the country, led by a core staff of a handful of music lovers wanting to share their passion with the world through journalism.
While relatively new, the tone of Heart Eyes articles reads like a professional piece, doling out advice on concert etiquette and noting smaller bands who are on the rise with an air of substantial experience in music journalism.
“I feel like as music fans growing up, we get more inspired to put our names out there in a creative way,” interview and public relations head Caleigh Wells said. “We wanted to emphasize our love for music and share that with other people.”
The modern world has been witness groans from journalism purists who bemoan the digitization of news. But for Heart Eyes and other online magazines, or “mags,” that are on the rise, the internet, and social media are the bread and butter of making the publications possible.
“I think when we put out new material, it kind of is word-of-mouth, but it’s not quite word-of-mouth because it’s on the internet,” Wells explained. “So, you know, if someone gets featured, if someone takes pictures, then they’re gonna retweet it, and their friends are gonna see that and their friends are gonna think, ‘Oh, that’s really cool, maybe that’s something I wanna do.’”
In spite of these recent accomplishments, in the early stages of the project producing their own magazine was a new experience for many of the team.
“We just started with, like, ‘hey, this is something we’re passionate about, let’s try it out,’” Wells recalled. “A lot of us did have some experience with writing for other publications, which was nice, but then we got contributors when we reached out into the world and were like ‘Hey, if you’re interested in writing and photographing for us come join our team.’”
In addition to the steady stream of coverage from various contributions, the core staff and Heart Eyes has been exploring new ways to investigate music journalism since the magazine’s inception.
“We started off just with nine people and then, as more people joined, you know, it brings, like, a different creative aspect,” Wells said. “So like, different writing types and different types of photographers who shoot in all different ways. They’re all great at what they do.”
Contributors to Heart Eyes cover everything from shooting live videos on platforms like Instagram to reviewing albums and photographing concerts in their respective cities. Having a vast network allows for content that fits the reader’s interests at that very moment, whether it’s a gig they don’t want to miss or reading about an EP they’ve been anticipating for months.
“I would definitely say that because there are so many people coming in to work on this every time we’ve come out with a new issue it gets better,” Wells elaborated. “Like, we learn more on how to put out more stuff and how to put out better stuff, so I think creatively, we’re getting better and I think that’s what attracts new people and gains momentum since we’re such a young publication.”
But what makes Heart Eyes unique in their quest to share their passion for music, a quest many online mags have undertaken in these past few years? One distinguishing factor may be their mission statement to share the point of view of female fans who are often overlooked or belittled by music journalism.
“There’s such a stigma against young women and music,” Wells continued, “and I think that a lot of people do assume that young women like certain music or certain musicians for just how they look, which is totally incorrect. I think our magazine does kind of combat that stigma because we’re not talking about, you know, how musicians look, we’re talking about what they create and we’re respecting them as an artist.”
Despite the novelty of online mags for some, the rise of the medium as a way of conveying the personal and journalistic effects music has on the lives of fans has become a kind of beacon for younger generations in both music journalism and in the industry itself.
“Now we have this platform where we can help out up-and-coming artists pursue their dreams and reach their goals which is something that’s really important to me,” Wells said. “For our contributors and for me, especially, this magazine has given me access to shooting shows and interviewing artists which is something I’m really passionate about and I want to pursue as a career in the future. I think it’s good practice and preparation for all of that. This was originally a dream and a passion, and now it’s something tangible.”
You can read more about Heart Eyes Magazine at https://hearteyesmag.com/, updates, and Q&As on their Twitter @hearteyesmag, and make sure to check out past and upcoming issues at https://issuu.com/hearteyesmag