MEDIA: ROCK MAGAZINES - It’s only rock’n’roll, so do we still like it? Whether you’re a fan of the Gallaghers or not, it can’t be denied that the current lack of such high-profile acts is adversely affecting the ind

When old rock stars stop selling records they either go and live on prairie farms or die of heroin overdoses. For rock music magazines in times of slump, the choice is simple - redesign or close.

When old rock stars stop selling records they either go and live on

prairie farms or die of heroin overdoses. For rock music magazines in

times of slump, the choice is simple - redesign or close.

In the mid-1990s the country’s music magazines - whose fortunes track

those of the music industry pretty closely - were riding high with huge

sales on the back of the popularity of Britpop acts like Blur and


Now, post-Britpop, the rock music press is in something of a crisis.

Less music is being sold overall and more critically, there is no sign

of the next new wave of talent.

The last ABC figures (July - Dec 1999) saw sales plummet. The two IPC

weekly tabloids Melody Maker and NME were down to 32,115 and 76,079

respectively (NME falling more than 14,000 copies). While EMAP’s monthly

A4-sized grown-up music magazine Q saw a slight increase to 211,229, the

younger, more flippant Select was down more than 15,000 to 56,049.

All four titles have had to react to the downturn created by the end of

Britpop and the hiatus that has followed. Even the relatively buoyant Q

has had to resort to themed issues rather than featuring specific acts

on its cover. Most recently, this month has seen the relaunch of Select

with a new design and an older, classier readership with less of an

obsession with guitar music. Select, which only launched in 1990, is

perhaps the most vulnerable title in the market having been very

successful during Britpop but now really having to start again.

The NME has recently appointed its youngest-ever editor and adopted a

more catholic approach to the music scene. The recent obsession with

alternative guitar rock will go and the paper is also seeking to

re-establish the political credentials that generated the respect of

former generations of readers.

The most radical move has been Melody Maker’s. The 73-year-old magazine

is seriously threatened by the present downturn, with the format change

prior to Christmas looking like a last gasp. Despite the fact that for

the most part of its life, Melody Maker has been the magazine read by

practising musicians, the paper has been relaunched in an A4 format and

is targeting ’fans’ - young people characterised by an unbridled

enthusiasm for their favourite acts .

Those involved remain confident that new acts will come along to revive

interest in music magazines. Everything could change within a year

should a new sensation arrive, they say. The question is will the next

big thing get here soon enough?

NME - Ben Knowles

Position: Editor

ABC: 76,079

Publisher: IPC

Frequency: Weekly, tabloid

’The loss of circulation that NME suffered recently reflects the

problems of the music industry overall. I feel quite optimistic now

though - there are a lot of genuinely exciting new UK bands around.

’The paper has been going for 48 years and it has only really been

exclusively about guitar music in the last few years. So if we can go

back to bringing people a fairly wide ranging music paper and cover the

best new music quicker than anyone else, then there is a market there.

We have recruited the comedian Mark Thomas as a writer and we also

featured Ken Livingstone recently. The paper has always been culturally

aware and that makes it unique.’

MELODY MAKER - Mark Sutherland

Position: Editor

ABC: 32,115

Format: IPC

Frequency: Weekly, A4

’The paper changed format nine weeks before the end of the last research

period so the figure we got did not reflect that move. For the last nine

weeks we sold 38,000 and the sales have been growing since Christmas so

the new format is a significant success.

’We are seeing an influx of younger people reading the title. Our

readers are passionate about music which is why we are still also the

musicians’ music magazine.

’The scene is fairly static at the moment. The happening thing is the

rock bands and these are only on the live circuit, rather than in the

charts. It is not like the heady days of Britpop - you have to work much

harder now.’

Q - Andy Pemberton

Position: Editor

ABC: 211,229

Publisher: Emap Metro

Frequency: Monthly, tabloid

’Typically Q readers are late-20s male music lovers. But we do not

actually aim at them. We aim at the intelligent music lover who could be

any age.

’What is interesting about Q is that there were central tenets laid down

at the start of the magazine in 1986 that are so rock solid it is easy

to keep on track. It is a broad church, for people who also have other

things in their life besides music. It is also about whatever is

successful at the time so we can cover anything.

’We have been affected in some ways by the fact that there is little

around at the moment. We have done one themed issue and we are now doing

another about the top 100 British albums of all time.’

SELECT - Alexis Petridis

Position: Editor

ABC: 56,049

Publisher: Emap Metro

Frequency: Monthly, A4

’The thinking with our redesign is that we had ridden the Britpop thing

really well, but that is over now. There was a perception that it was a

student magazine so we have taken it up-market with the re-design. We

have paid more attention to the photographs and used more white space so

that it will look different to other music titles.

’We want pictures that make pop stars look like pop stars again. We have

changed our front section to make it more responsive and we are also

broadening the music we cover. It is about alternative music but that

does not have to mean alternative rock - it can be anything, although

guitar music will still be the meat of it.’

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