The shock news that the Covid-19 pandemic has left Bauer Media assessing its options for the future of Q and Planet Rock highlight the tough reality faced by many titles right now. Here, Music Week's deputy editor looks at why music magazines are still so important to the industry...
Long, long before any title entertained printing the laboriously crafted gibberish I like to call my writing, music magazines changed my life. To this day, I still consider certain covers, features and reviews as much a part of my DNA as the music they spotlighted. For one, I wouldn’t have even discovered some of my favourite acts without them.
Music magazines matter to me. I recognise just how deeply unsurprising that must be to read: ‘Music journalist says music magazines are important – gasp!’ But now more than ever I feel compelled to stress this point. Yes, headlines proclaiming the end of days for print media have echoed for decades – a status quo of perpetual crisis. A lot of magazines have, sadly, been lost, but there is a flipside: a lot of magazines survived and continue to produce fantastic issues. But since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the story has changed. Many titles are now scrambling to find new subscription models, others have temporarily suspended publication to wait out the storm.
It was the shock news of Bauer Media stating that it was assessing its options for the future of Q and sister title Planet Rock that really drove the stark reality home for many. The public outcry and flurry of new subscriptions to affected titles has been both heartening and revelatory. For a lot of people, magazines are still one of the best ways to get to know artists in a deep, meaningful way. This is not, of course, to discredit, the incredible music writing done online, but rather to emphasise that music titles still play a major role in breaking acts and building legacies. Here, it’s worth remembering: many of the interviews that break the internet and generate millions of clicks are first harvested from the pages of print media.
It’s worth remembering: many of the interviews that break the internet and generate millions of clicks are first harvested from the pages of print media
Never judge a magazine by its cover. In the here and now, the pages of many titles revolve around celebrating music that doesn’t always get the recognition or chart showing it deserves. Now more than ever, regardless of whether they service a large or niche audience, the feeling lingers that every one we have left matters. And every one is worth fighting for.
I often find myself wishing I could flick through a new issue of Hip-Hop Connection, the irreverent UK publication that frequently gave my favourite artists a borderline lethal critical drubbing yet always lured me back each month with its passion, wit and incisive writing. It was shuttered 11 years ago. I still miss it. It’s a reminder that while the internet will always be here, some music magazines won’t. And it shouldn’t just be music journalists that hear alarm bells when contemplating that prospect.