The Fall And Rise Of Music Magazines - HeadCount

The Fall And Rise Of Music Magazines

relixjuly2009cover-smallAt least in part because you're reading this instead of one of them, music magazines have been dropping and downsizing like mad over the past several months. Blender and Vibe are history, and both Rolling Stone and Spin have trimmed their staffs considerably in response to diminishing readership and ad pages. In today's Slate, former Blender staffer Jonah Weiner lays out what he believes are the three biggest reasons for the "music-mag death march":

1. There are fewer superstars, and the same musicians show up on every magazine cover....
2. Music mags have less to offer music lovers, and music lovers need them less than ever anyway....
3. Music magazines were an early version of social networking. But now there's this thing called "social networking"...

The upshot, for Weiner, is that the one thing music magazines often provided that you can't find online (yet) was in-depth feature writing such as this David Peisner feature in Spin about using music as torture. That music magazines can no longer afford that sort of reporting is clearly a shame.

Meanwhile, and, I'm guessing, coincidentally, venerable rock-pop journalist Robert Christgau yesterday waxed cautiously optimistic about the fate of music mags in another of his lively posts for the blog of the National Arts Journalism Program (talk about teaching an old dog new tricks; Christgau's posts have contained some of his most loose-limbed and personal writing in decades). Declaring that "not one, not two, but three music magazines are rising in their respective ways from the dead. On paper," Christgau praises (with only faint damnation) the new business models of Paste, JazzTimes, and, Relix, of which he says:

The least moribund of these is Relix, initially a Deadhead magazine, then a jam-band magazine, and now clearly trying to define for itself a market share not altogether dissimilar from that of Mojo in the U.K. Purchased from Zenbu Media Group May 4 by the newly formed Relix Media Group, all of whose members are described as "veterans of the magazine," it's now put out three issues under new management. Among the cover topics: Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, Wilco. Generationally, these choices are completely sane--Iggy is 62, and even Wilco is getting on. But the jam-band world is a tight little island, and to assume that people over 30 who are interested in attending live music share so much common ground is damn near visionary for the American music-mag business.