Music History

A Must Listen: The Decline and Fall of British Music Magazines

There was a time when I spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year on music magazines. Most of that went to British publications: Q, Mojo, The Word, Uncut, Vox, Select, Sounds, Record Collector, The NME, Melody Maker, Kerrang–the shopping list seemed endless.

I gladly paid inflated prices for magazines two months out of date because British music writing was (and still is) the best in the world. These publications were a lifeline for me both as a music fan, a documentarian and a broadcaster. They were my crack.

Now? Not so much. I get the hard copy of Record Collector whenever I’m in a book store (which isn’t that often anymore) and I’ll buy a Q or Mojo when I’m flying somewhere. Otherwise I either get the electronic versions on my iPad–or nothing at all. And I’m not alone, either.

At one point, 250,000 people a week bought The NME. The latest weekly figures put circulation at less than 15,000. All the other magazines seem precipitous drops in readership–if they still exist at all.

What happened? This BBC 4 feature (forwarded by Jon) explains a lot. If you’ve ever been a fan of British music writing, this 28 minute documentary will explain everything about what’s gone wrong.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38516 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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