This is What Music Magazines Should Be Doing to Protect Themselves

Like many other old media industries, the magazine industry is being pummelled in the digital age.  As more people become accustomed to getting all their information online (tablets are a bit part of this), circulation numbers for physical copies shrink.  

When those numbers fall, so does advertising revenue.  If they fall below a certain point, then the magazine goes the way of Newsweek, Blender and so many others.

Fortunately, some magazines have begun to make the transition to tablet-friendly digital editions.  Q magazine–one of my favourite UK publications–has done a terrific job of this.

No more being two issues behind with the newsstand copy.  A subscription is far cheaper.  There’s more multimedia content. And most importantly, I won’t have to move in a couple of years.

Doing what I do for a living, I keep every single music magazine I buy, carefully storing them on shelving units in the basement.  But over the decades, those back issues have taken over a substantial amount of floorspace.  We’ve already had to move once because of my music collections.  My wife won’t stand for another.

“Throw. Them. Out.” she’s said sternly on a number of occasions.  “What are they good for?  Rats?  A fire hazard?”

“But honey!” I whine, “I need them for research!  If I throw them away, who knows what valuable information will disappear forever!”

This concern now strikes me as very primitive.  In the digital era where storage is cheap cheap cheap, every single publisher should make all back issues available for browsing and purchase.  Every. Single. One.

Think how cool it would be to mine old issues of Creem (defunct), Circus (defunct), Crawdaddy (defunct), Sounds (defunct), Select (defunct), The Face ( (defunct) and Melody Maker (defunct)!  What could be uncovered in old Rolling Stones?  I didn’t pick up on Q until about issue #75. What did I miss?

This is why I hope publishers follow in the footsteps of Gramophone, a classical music magazine, that has made 1,000 back issues available.  For a fee, of course.

Read more on the subject here.

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.

2 thoughts on “This is What Music Magazines Should Be Doing to Protect Themselves

  • November 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I've never really been a magazine guy, but I picked up a couple of subscriptions since they came to the Canadian Google Play (Android) store to read on my tablet. Unfortunately they don't seem to have a single music one on there yet, otherwise I'd check them out.

    Back when I was young, magazine subscriptions were absurdly expensive for Canadians, especially kids — often effectively four times the American price if I remember correctly. Then around the time I'd probably have been the most likely to start reading magazines regularly, the internet came of age.

    It's not so much that I'm used to getting this kind of stuff for free online, but I just appreciate the breadth of opinions easily available. I've always found the magazines I have checked out to sound kind of uninformed.

    That said, I now find them handy for stuff I'm interested in, but not really invested in, and they're pretty damn cheap on the Google store for annual subscriptions. I might even subscribe to Wired because I can't really keep up with their RSS feed and it's nice to not depend on an internet-connection for the content.

    I'm impressed with how easy to read they are on my (7") Nexus 7. The text is a little small fully zoomed out. Pinch-to-zoom and panning with my finger works okay, but they also have a really nice easily-accessible "text-only" mode that reads like a novel. The relevant photos are usually still embedded in the text.

  • November 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Make sure you check out the amazon app store as well.
    You can install the Amazon appstore onto any recent Android device, including the Nexus 7.

    Gramophone, Musicweek and Jazzwise are available there, along with other magazines released as part of the Amazon Kindle HD release.


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