Editor's Desk

Anna Zanes Shakes Up Music Media

The recently appointed editor-in-chief of Alternative Press is tackling a legacy with a new sensibility.


"Editor's Desk" is a column that offers a behind-the-scenes look at lives of editors-in-chiefs who shape the voice, vision, and direction of their publications.

The first issue of Alternative Press hangs on Anna Zanes’ fridge. In front of her sits issue 414 with 070 Shake on the cover, her second as editor-in-chief. She looks between the two proudly.

Anna Zanes is a seasoned media figure, an IYKYK addition to the landscape, responsible for some of the most exciting content in the last few years. She came to Alternative Press after a short stint at Paper Magazine (it folded three months into her job as Executive Editor) and, most notably, her dual role as Managing Editor and Online Editor at Office Magazine, where she was stationed for nearly seven years. “Change is scary. I was terrified to leave Office. They were family to me,” she said about her move to Paper. But that fear was abandoned with her move into music media, and her role at AP. “Music is something I care about more on a personal level,” she says.

Alternative Press, founded in 1985 by Mike Shea, emerged as a seminal voice in alternative music journalism, chronicling the vibrant underground music scene in Cleveland, Ohio. Initially conceived as a modest DIY effort, the magazine rapidly gained traction, becoming a vital platform for bands and artists outside the mainstream.

In its formative years, Alternative Press distinguished itself through its grassroots ethos and unwavering commitment to authenticity. It provided a much-needed outlet for the burgeoning punk, indie, and hardcore scenes, offering coverage of artists and subcultures overlooked by mainstream publications.

Throughout the 1990s, Alternative Press experienced exponential growth, mirroring the ascendance of alternative rock onto the global stage. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Green Day, alongside a myriad of underground acts, featured prominently within its pages, solidifying the magazine's reputation as a tastemaker within the music industry. “And then towards the late 90s, early 2000s, a lot of magazines started pivoting into categories to save themselves in a changing landscape,” Anna recalls. One that, much like today, values niche-ness and specificity. “_Revolver _became the metal magazine, so AP became the emo magazine, which is the AP I grew up with.”

In the fall of 2020, the Madden brothers, Joel and Benji of Good Charlotte, and their brother Josh quietly purchased the magazine under their music media company, MDDN. They reinvigorated its digital strategies, shifted to quarterly instead of monthly print dispatches, and attempted to adapt to the changing media landscape by expanding its online presence. “When the Maddens bought it, their goal was to update what alternative means and looks like today,” she tells me.

Now, that goal belongs to Anna Zanes. As editor-in-chief, she’s tasked with bringing a new sensibility to a long legacy. And with a history of working at top fashion magazines, it’s no wonder the Madden brothers picked her for the role. “They liked that I came from fashion. They liked that I could make it attractive to different audiences.” Since she took the reins, Anna has been responsible for 12 covers and has her hands in everything from e-commerce strategy to advertising. “It’s different than my roles in the past, where I was really focused on just editorial,” she says. But it’s natural, and she’s good at it; she can see everything and be everywhere at once, with tact. “I think I'm someone who likes being thrown in the deep end,” she says confidently.

“They liked that I came from fashion. They liked that I could make it attractive to different audiences.”

So, what does it mean to be alternative? To represent what alternative means today?

Her first four covers as editor-in-chief were Yves Tumor, the experimental musician with a cult following; Poppy, the metal singer who’s opened for bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction; Good Charlotte, per the above; and Scowl, the mere mention of which gets her talking at a faster tempo. “For me, as someone who loves hardcore, grew up listening to hardcore, it's super important to feature bands like Scowl because I think these kids are doing fucking God's work and making things cool and exciting again. They're having a moment, and it's inclusive and diverse,” she tells me. I hadn’t heard of Scowl, but the passion with which she explained this had me believing her. But what this quad of covers really tells me is that her understanding of culture is so precise and so unique that she can exhibit the past, present, and future in one sitting. Her unwavering support for emerging talent is as deep as her appreciation of what came before.

For issue 415, the most recent issue, the cover stars all retain her approach to content, a mix of the unexpected, the radical, the foundational, and the new. Gracing the covers are Kevin Abstract, the rapper and singer formerly of Brockhampton, embarking on a solo career for the first time; Palaye Royale, the rising rock band from Las Vegas, whose EP Sextape + Songs was recently released; Liam Gallager + John Squire, of Oasis and Stone Roses fame, respectively; and The Marías, a Spanish-American indie pop band. “I always try to do one cover that satisfies the OG fans.” An example of Anna’s OG-touch can be seen in the winter 2023 issue with Green Day on the cover. After all, the magazine has been around for 30 years. But Anna Zanes is here to shake things up, not relive a legacy, and the trick is “doing something young and unexpected. And then, you know, finding a balance.”

The balance is certainly easier for Anna, a lifelong music addict, in her own words. “I was always running around to punk shows when I was young. We would go to warehouse shows in Williamsburg before there was an Apple store there. That’s when I fell in love with music in a different way — I had autonomy with it. It made me feel rebellious. That’s when I started asserting some sort of identity. It all felt very right to me, because I've always been really obsessed with music. I have a very addictive personality, and music is one of the things that I get hooked on.”

With each issue of Alternative Press, Anna seeks to strike a delicate balance between honoring the past and embracing the future, ensuring that the magazine remains a vital cultural force for generations to come. As for how it feels to be at the center of it all, Anna is doing what she’s always wanted. “To me, this is like my childhood dream.”

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