Arkells give away free merch in support of local news

Graphic by Jamie Mere

The legendary Canadian band Arkells has come back in recent weeks to promote their newest single “Years In The Making.” In a press release from Feb. 25, frontman Max Kerman described the song as an “A+ banger,” and that it certainly is. The band broke their silence following the winding down of the tour for their 2018 album Rally Cry. The Rally Cry tour connected audiences of all backgrounds with hits like “Hand Me Downs,” “People’s Champ” and “Knocking At The Door,” all tunes politically charged with mentions of poverty, women’s rights, and Hollywood-infused political systems.

Instead of simply dropping “Years In The Making,” Arkells chose to announce their newest release by mailing free t-shirts to fans.

There was a catch, though: to get one, those wanting the exclusive shirt had to purchase a subscription to a journalistic institution of their choice and upload proof of it to Arkells’ website. This was done to combat what they call “freemium” culture, which often results in local news and journalists struggling to fund the work they do: covering stories that many of us, thanks to the internet, read for free.

On the webpage for the t-shirt initiative, the band wrote “Good reporting not only keeps us in the loop, but also makes sure our big wigs are held accountable – to ensure there is no sneaky biz.”

“Somewhere along the way, we took this for granted. We forgot that we have to pay for this vital service, and that reporting the news isn’t free … Let’s start by supporting your local paper or a daily publication you really admire. It’s been years in the making. No more running from that paywall.”

According to the “Years In The Making” press release, Arkells have since filled hundreds of orders for these shirts — mine included —which feature a typewriter on the back with the band’s newly-minted logo. Not only does this mean happy fans, but happy journalists, too. Hundreds of Canadians and people all over the world have now paid for access to journalistic outlets, big and small, while acknowledging their important role in our lives.

Really, where would we be without news? Without a doubt, we would be in the dark. Fake news is enough of a problem in our fast-paced digital world that without legitimate, unbiased coverage, nobody would have any idea what the hell is going on.

Although Arkells’ commitment to supporting journalism put their passion for activism in the spotlight, this is not the first time they’ve shown their commitment to social causes. Their focus on community initiatives over the years has resulted in the furthering of social programs in their native Hamilton, supporting the city’s refugee community, showing gratitude for employees of public transit services and beyond. Since the release of Rally Cry, their focus has been on coming together to literally rally for societal progress within and beyond Canadian borders.

Arkells announced in past weeks that the second-ever of their celebrated rallies is to take place on June 20, 2020 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. To keep the ball of social engagement rolling, they have allotted one dollar from each ticket sold to Indwell, a charity based in Hamilton that aims to provide affordable housing within the city.

If Arkells’ commitment to making our country — and world, for that matter — a better place has made you think about your impact, you’re not alone. Although the “Years In The Making” t-shirt initiative has now closed, you can still make a difference by subscribing to any news outlet you desire.

The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and The New York Times (just to name a few) offer significant student discounts for online access, so no matter your budget, supporting quality journalism is attainable. Most of these subscriptions cost no more than five dollars per month.

As a student journalist, I would like to thank Arkells for shining the spotlight on this shrinking sector. In politically complicated times like these, knowing the facts is more important than ever, and supporting the stories that keep you in the know has been a long time coming.

“Years In The Making” is streaming now, and tickets for The Rally are currently on sale through TicketMaster.

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