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Shuffle: Music's 'Misfits' Return To Cleveland For The Alternative Press Awards

The Alternative Press Music Awards are back in Cleveland after shifting to Columbus last year
Andrew Wendowski
The Alternative Press Music Awards are back in Cleveland after shifting to Columbus last year
The Alternative Press Music Awards are back in Cleveland after shifting to Columbus last year
Credit Andrew Wendowski / @AWendowskiPhoto
The Alternative Press Music Awards are back in Cleveland after shifting to Columbus last year

After a one-year absence, Cleveland is again rolling out the red carpet for the Alternative Press Music Awards. The fourth annual ceremony is the brain child of Cleveland’s Alternative Pressmagazine to recognize the so-called “misfits” of pop-punk, hard rock, rap and metal.

For this week’s Shuffle, Alternative Press CEO Mike Shea talks about the awards show and the evolution and future of the magazine he started 32 years ago.

Why an awards show?

Shea says the Alternative Press Music Awards are a chance to give the music his magazine covers a spotlight.

"Our community didn't really have our own night to celebrate what we do. You've got the Grammys and the Billboard awards, but most of these bands would never be nominated for anything on these shows."

Alternative Press Founder and CEO Mike Shea
Credit Graham Fielder
Alternative Press Founder and CEO Mike Shea


The first APMAs was held in 2014 behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame near Voinovich Park.

"We had no idea what we were doing, and it was a festival inside of an awards show."

In 2015, Shea moved the show to Quicken Loans Arena and it was a hit. But, last year, Shea was forced to relocate the event to Columbus because it conflicted with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

And, Shea says there was some talk about keeping it there.

"Cleveland's really working to make the city more of a music destination. So they really wanted to work with us and use the APMAs as a centerpiece to building that out. So they've really gotten behind us this year. So we thought, Cleveland is really on a roll, so let's keep this moving."

AP Magazine at 32

Shea started Alternative Press magazine in his parents' house in Aurora in 1985. He was mad that one of his favorite bands, The Smiths, wasn't playing in Cleveland on their tour and wanted to know why. So, the magazine was a space to "connect similar misfits of different types of alternative music together underneath one umbrella."

"Back then it was just a fan-zine. I was the high school newspaper and yearbook editor so basically all I did was mirror what my high school newspaper looked like."

Shea says he had some friends hand out the first copies at the Flats at a punk show. Eventually, he started charging $1 for it to cover expenses. 

"Now it's turned into this internally distributed brand with a really strong online presence. I think a lot of people would have thought we would have went away many, many years ago, but I think it's really just because everybody loves what the idea of what AP is. 

Why stay in Cleveland?

Back in the '90's, Shea says he thought about relocating the magazine to Chicago or another metropolitan city. But he says stayed rooted in Cleveland has been key to the publication's survival.

"If we would have went to New York or LA, we would have been wiped out in a year. To pay two people here is to pay one person or a half person in New York."

The future

"We've never really had long-term plans about what's going on," Shea says. "We do have a plan, but in this day and age, it's just a constant snow globe. Every morning, somebody in the universe shakes it. 

"As long as there's a passion here -- and there's a passion out there with music fans -- then AP will be around. It's kind of un-CEO for me to say this -- we'll get through it."

The Alternative Press Music Awards are Monday, July 17. Ticket information can be found here. Information about how to stream the event can be found here



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Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.