NEW: Here’s a breakdown of how these funds will be used:
Monthly operating expenses:
- Editor and writers: $2,600
- Administrator/designer/etc. (Dale at $25/hr x 20 hrs/wk.): $2,100
- Services and supplies (legal, bookkeeping, hosting, software, etc.): $500
- Taxes, licenses, misc.: $250
- Total monthly operating expenses: $5,450
- October’s expenses, which came due in November, are included (there was less than $300 in the bank when the campaign began on 11/1)
- After GoFundMe takes their cut, there should be about $27,700
- Between clearing our debt and covering monthly expenses, this will keep us going into the new year
I'm Dale Geist, and I started Country Queer three years ago to foster visibility and community for LGBTQ+ country artists and fans. Since then, we've spotlighted over 500 queer country artists, connected thousands of fans, and made a real difference in the lives of countless country queers. Without your support today, we'd have to shut down. With your support, though, we can keep going and growing, and together, keep building "a honky-tonk of our own."
The Full Story
I'd like to take a few minutes to share with you the story of Country Queer - why I created it, what we've accomplished, and why I'm asking you to help me keep it going.
[Dale intro video]
I started Country Queer because I’m fan of country and Americana, and I wasn’t seeing myself represented. I figured there had to be other people out there like me who longed to see themselves mirrored in the culture. It can be life-changing when you see people like you involved in the things you love.
Since I had a background in web design, I decided to launch an online magazine and start publishing articles about queer artists making country music. And, in order for us all to be seen and to see each other, I had some hats made that said “Country Queer”, and set up an Etsy store to sell them.
That was just over three years ago.
[Image: me looking serious in CQ hat, photo by Lauren Tabak]
[Image: CQ Website today]
What We’ve Accomplished
Slowly but steadily, we’ve reached more and more people and spotlighted more and more artists. When Country Queer started, I only knew of eight or nine queer country artists, but at this point we have covered over 500, and there’s no sign of slowing down.
They’re genuinely deserving, and many of them have told me that CQ has helped them grow their audience, get better gigs, and even get a record contract. I’m very proud of that.
[Video: Mary Gauthier, Lilli Lewis, and Jaimee Harris on CQ]
We now get over 11,000 visitors to our website every month, and we have over 14,000 followers on social media. Several times a week I get a note from someone who tells me how thrilled they are to know that something like Country Queer exists. I’ve expanded our merch offerings to stickers, shirts, pins, and patches, and I send out orders all over the country, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns. We’re helping people feel connected and show the world who they are. It's incredibly gratifying!
[Image: fan testimonials]
[Image: country queers flying the colors]
The other thing that Country Queer is doing is helping open the door of mainstream country to LGBTQ+ artists. We’ve gained some music industry followers in Nashville and have participated in and curated panels, written op-eds, and given interviews. Things are not going to change overnight, but this is extremely important work, because country music plays such a big part in American culture.
[Image: AmericanaFest panel]
A lot has changed since I started CQ. I've made mistakes and have learned a lot in the process. But it's important to me, and I believe it's important to a lot of fans and artists, that a space like this can grow and thrive online.
Overall, I think we’ve done a lot of good. I like to say that Country Queer is working to build “a honky-tonk of our own.”
But money has always been a challenge.
The Money Story
When I started CQ, I had a full-time job and was able to pay someone to help me get the website off the ground. After a few months, Cindy had to leave to promote her own album, and just days after that, Covid hit, the world went into lockdown, and I was laid off.
I had a hard decision to make: set Country Queer aside and look for a job, or dive in full-time and figure out the money as I went along. I believed in the mission, and I believed that enough people would see the value in it to make it work financially. I took a deep breath and committed to doing Country Queer full-time.
And CQ began to reach more people. With mostly volunteer contributors, expenses were manageable, and I was able to meet them by selling some ads and merch.
But I knew that as the world emerged from lockdown, CQ would have to become more professional if it was going to become sustainable. So, in 2021, I took out a loan and started paying all of our contributors.
Since then, we’ve continued to grow, spotlighting even more artists and reaching even more fans. But without a major sponsor or another reliable source of revenue, it’s been a constant struggle to meet expenses.
The question for Country Queer, financially, has always been, "Can we keep going and growing long enough to become sustainable?" My research shows that there are over 5 million LGBTQ+ fans of country music in America. If we can reach just 5% of them, we can attract enough sponsorship money and sell enough merchandise to keep going indefinitely. This is within our grasp.
Why I’m Fundraising
About a month ago when I checked the books, there was only one responsible conclusion I could draw: barring a miracle, I was going to have to shut down Country Queer. You can imagine how tough that was to swallow.
I had a hard conversation with CQ’s managing editor. Chris works tirelessly for low pay and does a great job. I had to tell him we only had enough money left to pay him for one more month. It felt awful to deliver this news to someone I appreciate so much. I’m sure it felt even worse to hear it.
Then I talked to a few friends. Every one of them said, “You can’t shut down Country Queer! It needs to exist.”
I agree. Remember I said I’d need to shut down CQ “barring a miracle”? Well, you're the miracle.
What Your Support Means
I’ve put my heart and soul and time and money into Country Queer for three years, because I believe in this work. Over that time, CQ has done a lot of good for a lot of people. If you agree that Country Queer needs to exist, this is your chance to help make it happen.
Here’s what your support will do: keep us going and growing. If we meet our goal, we can pay our editor and contributors for at least the next six months and continue building our audience. That alone could get Country Queer to the point of sustainability.
If we can exceed our goal, we can do even more. I’ve been sitting on a bunch of ideas for how CQ can serve even more artists and fans: a directory, a show calendar, a podcast, and, most exciting of all, live shows. All of this is completely achievable if we can raise enough money, and your contribution today makes a huge difference.
The more people Country Queer can reach, the more sustainable it becomes, and the more good it can do. Country Queer can keep building a honky-tonk of our own. And you can help.