An update on Tone Madison’s events coverage

The thoughtful, informative local events calendar we want to provide you is a long ways off.
An illustration shows multi-colored images of a keyboard, a turntable, a microphone, speakers, a "play" button," and sliders and indicators from a soundboard, all arranged in a grid-like pattern.
Illustration by Shaysa Sidebottom.

The thoughtful, informative local events calendar we want to provide you is a long ways off.

You may have noticed that Tone Madison hasn’t really had much of an events calendar since the pandemic started, even though in-person events have been back for a good while. For now, we’re pausing our efforts to ramp that back up. Our writers and editors will still be previewing shows and screenings, just not in that particular format, and not as often as we’d like. We’ll still have a calendar built into the site to keep you posted on upcoming events Tone Madison is hosting.

Simply put, we don’t have the capacity to maintain a calendar that meets our readers’ standards, week in and week out. We hope that will come with time, as we raise more funding and can devote more staff hours to the site in general. Our readers have often told us over the years that they look to us to find out about local events. They value the fact that informed, opinionated people are making decisions about what events we highlight, that we don’t serve as simply a free publicity channel for venues and concert promoters. They value our focus on interesting local music that might not get a whole lot of coverage otherwise.

We really want to get back to doing events previews at full strength, just without sacrificing the more in-depth coverage that occupies most of our working hours. If we’ve got to choose between publishing a dozen solid calendar previews or one extended interview/reported feature/analysis, we’re going to pick the latter every time. 


If you’d like to help us step it up, please consider donating to support our work or sponsoring us with your business or organization’s marketing/giving budget. Doing more costs more. It’s just that simple. The good news is that we can make a small amount of money go far, and that most of our budget is spent on paying people for their work—which means that money stays right here in our community. 

Tone Madison got started in fall 2014. The following spring, we began publishing a weekly selection of event previews. These were all events we picked out based on what felt most compelling and worthy of attention—with a particular focus on the unusual, local, off-the-radar events that keep Madison interesting. We tried to write about these events in a thoughtful way, not simply repackaging press releases or running submitted promotional copy. Minus some ups and downs and holiday breaks, we kept this up until the pandemic shut things down in March 2020.

All that events coverage from week to week happened because a handful of us were overextending ourselves to a ridiculous degree—aka the story of every scrappy creative project in Madison ever. It wasn’t sustainable in the first place. And it really wasn’t sustainable once we got serious about the need to step up our fundraising, recruit more writers, expand our political coverage, and operate like a somewhat grown-up publication without burning ourselves out. The pandemic threw several wrenches into the works: rescheduled bookings, changing public-health rules, and our own reluctance to abandon safety concerns in our coverage decisions. 

Putting together an events calendar seems like it should be pretty easy, but in practice it’s incredibly messy and time-consuming. I don’t say that to complain, because we love doing this work. It’s just that it takes a whole lot of care and decision-making to bring you something useful and trustworthy. Isthmus is able to maintain a sizable events listing because it employs a calendar editor who basically just does that full-time (the wonderful Bob Koch, a musician and an incredibly knowledgeable music writer when he gets the time to do that). Our friends at Madison Minutes also send out a hefty weekly events roundup for paid members—which I happen to know is also a whole lot of work. 

Tone Madison right now supports a largely part-time staff—the equivalent of about 2.5 full-time employees if you add up our hours in a typical week. Those hours are already filled with work—editing and writing, coordinating stories with numerous freelance contributors, raising money, and all the little day-to-day tasks of publishing online.

Take it from someone who’s been doing calendar things in one form or another since 2006: this can become a feed-the-beast problem, taking time and energy away from all the other work we care about doing. Scraping through listings on various websites and emails, double-checking info, trying to add in events that get booked or announced last-minute (and folks in Madison do put on a lot of great stuff without providing a whole lot of advance notice, bless them all), updating for cancellations/venue changes/lineup changes, occasionally getting screamed at by an aggrieved promoter or musician—well, it can add up. (Yes, there are automated tools for gathering event listings, but they’re buggy and unreliable.) That’s before you get into the writing part.

We’ve still got our eyes out for worthwhile events around Madison (and you can keep sending us info about your events at [email protected]). We still love writing about them. For now, we can only do so much with what we’ve got. 

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