NJArts.net’s ‘Jersey Songs’ benefit: A personal message from Jay Lustig


The Crossroads in Garwood will host a benefit for NJArts.net, Sunday at 6 p.m.

One of the things that jumps out at me when I look over the list of artists participating in “Jersey Songs” — the benefit for NJArts.net that is taking place at The Crossroads in Garwood this Sunday — is how active these people have been in the New Jersey music scene over the years.

Richard Barone helping to put Hoboken on the indie-rock map in the ’80s … Joe D’Urso‘s work for the Light of Day Festival and his own Rockland-Bergen Music Festival … Glen Burtnik (of The Weeklings) spearheading so many different projects your head could start spinning just thinking about them … Deena Shoshkes‘ Saturday Afternoon Song Swaps … Scott E. Moore‘s Writer’s Hang shows … The Porchistas’ Home Stage shows and other events in Montclair … Jim Testa keeping Jersey Beat going as a fanzine and now a web site for 34 years … I could go on, but you get the point. These aren’t people who have sat around and waited for other people to make them stars. They’ve tried to make things happen, on a grass-roots level, and succeeded — and when a benefit for some cause, like this one, comes up, they can always be counted on to help out.

I’ve always admired people like that, but never really considered myself one of them. For the first 30 years of my career as a journalist, I worked hard, but never tried to start anything on my own. I was happy just doing my work, and collecting my paychecks. I didn’t feel the need to be a maverick, or an entrepreneur.

In Sept. 2014, however, I left The Star-Ledger, where I had been for 25 years, as part of a massive restructuring there. I could have stayed: They offered me a job. But I felt it wasn’t a good job. And from what I could see in the journalism world around me, it didn’t seem likely that I would find a fulfilling, meaningful job anywhere else, either — as anyone in journalism can tell you, those kinds of jobs hardly exist anymore — and so I went against my nature and decided I would try to do it on my own, with NJArts.net.

It’s been a great experience, and I truly love the work. But the site hasn’t yet made enough money to let me pay myself a decent salary. And that’s, frankly, why I — with the generous support of the musicians, and The Crossroads — have put together this benefit: To enable me to keep it going, and try to get it to the point where it will generate enough money for long-term survival.

I’ve been working on NJArts.net, nearly non-stop, since Sept. 2014, attending more arts events and writing more than I ever have before. But as I’ve told lots of people, that’s the easy part. The hard part is creating a viable business. I’ve never done that before — just like I’ve never created a web site before, or organized a benefit concert — but I’m trying.

Please come out and support the cause, if you can; here’s a link to the event’s Facebook page. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the music will be great.

The show will feature, in alphabetical order:

Richard Barone
Matthew Davis of The Thousand Pities
Jason Didner
Pat DiNizio
Joe D’Urso
Jon Fried & Deena Shoshkes (of The Cucumbers)
The Grip Weeds
Loretta Hagen
Chris Kennedy and Mike Lustig of Ruth Ruth, with Johnny Powers
Dave Kleiner and Liz Pagan
Tris McCall
Scott E. Moore
The Porchistas
Speed the Plough
Jim Testa
The Weeklings


Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


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