Lueda Alia found more than just her voice online.
“Funnily enough, I started going on absolutepunk.net because when I first moved to Canada, I didn’t have friends; I could barely speak English,” said the 26-year-old Western Criminology student, who immigrated to Canada from Albania in 2001. “I became a member on the forums and I started talking to people. For years and years, music was all I had.”
Alia quickly blossomed in the online community, where fans united in their shared love of music off the mainstream grid.
“I was having a hard time making friends, so here I was connecting to other people who felt the same way, who liked the same music and made me feel less lonely,” Alia said.
Eventually, the owner of the website noticed she kept saying there “needed to be an editor to cover indie music.” He asked her to work for the site.
“I didn’t have any connections,” Alia said of her first dabbling in the music industry waters. “I didn’t know anybody. I just started to follow bands on MySpace.”
That was more than a decade ago.
Today, Alia is the CEO of madeofchalk.com, a multimedia music website. In less than a year, the site has grown a large international following, garnering attention from a wide array of publications and media, most recently NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly, last month.
“Over the years I’ve gone out to festivals, I’ve met up with my readers (from AbsolutePunk), and it’s been really awesome. Eventually, I wanted to do something that didn’t restrict me,” she continued.
“I went to Texas in 2012 for South by Southwest, a big music festival, and that’s when I first met all the people I work with in the music industry. They all urged me to do something on my own.”
Alia soon gathered a group of loyal readers and followers, and set out to launch madeofchalk.com. The site went live last February.
“Over the years, I had built a following. I created relationships with record labels, artists, publicists, managers – with just my computer and my headphones,” she said.
The Made of Chalk team consists of Alia’s readers, fans and followers from her time with AbsolutePunk. They all work ‘pro bono,’ calling the website a “labour of love,” dedicated to promoting music and artists they enjoy. The site even features professionally produced backstage videos, something you don’t see anywhere else, explained Alia, who also works for 24West, a marketing company based in New York.
“I know it’s going to lead somewhere. I haven’t really made money doing what I do. I’ve done it out of passion and wanting to help artists that I love,” she said, admitting the dedication to her work has made some of her studies difficult.
“One of the reasons I haven’t been doing well academically is I find it impossible to get permission to do a make-up exam, because maybe I was in NYC at a conference. I feel if I was doing something else, maybe science related, I’d be treated differently. I think it’s important for the school to encourage students to go into these fields and support them.”
Alia wants Western students to reach out if they have similar interests, if they enjoy music, or want to write.
“When I walk through the halls, I hear people talk about wanting to get into the music industry and they don’t know how to get started, they want to get an internship. They can reach out, I can connect them to someone, or they can start working for Made of Chalk,” she noted.
The website name comes from a song by one of her favourite bands, Crystal Castles, Alia added.
“They have a song called I Am Made of Chalk. These bands really helped me in tough times; they brought me out of whatever sad spot I was in, so I wanted something to be related to artists that mean something to me,” she explained.