The demise of the music press

While music magazines have been struggling for a long time, the news last week that independent titles Plan B and The Knowledge were closing still came as a blow to the industry.

Plan B’s fifth anniversary issue, due out on 1st June, will be its last. The title was launched in 2004 by former Vox editor Everett True as an alternative to the mainstream music press and claims an unaudited circulation of 11,000. Despite this, publisher Frances Morgan was forced to call time on the title stating: “The current economic climate, combined with the situation of the music industry – to which, whether we like it or not, the fortunes of a commercial monthly music mag are inextricably linked – has made it ever harder for us to continue producing the magazine the way we want to.”

Meanwhile, the last issue of drum and bass magazine The Knowledge will be published on 12th June. After more than a decade in print the title is now focusing its energies online. In a statement to Press Gazette the editorial team said: “We’ve been busy building our new website for some months now and we were initially planning to run it alongside the magazine but the further down the road we’ve gone with the site, the more potential we have seen for the magazine online. There is so much more we can do and it makes the paper version seem so dated, so we have decided to move the magazine over to the web.”

The move online makes a lot of sense – especially for a title aimed at a web-savvy audience of drum and bass fans. But curiously as all this doom and gloom was happening, an alternative model for music publishing was unveiled by a fairly unlikely source.

Book publisher Faber has joined together with Domino Records (home to the Arctic Monkeys, Four Tet, Franz Ferdinand, Tricky and others) to launch a twice yearly journal which promises “an opportunity for writers to stretch out and go off-map to share their thoughts and ideas, and a canvas for artists and photographers to exhibit beautiful, unusual and diverse works.”

Retailing at £12, the first issue will be launched on 24th June, will feature an extract from Nick Cave’s new novel The Death Of Bunny Munro and will be “backed by high spec production and design values, and showcased within lush, desirable packaging.”

As traditional music magazines continue to drop like flies then, these three examples illustrate that publishers are faced with a clear choice – close, go online, or go premium. So which option is the most sensible? Obviously we at the IAB would argue that investing in online is the best way to go – the example of NME’s continuing online expansion in the face of a 24.3 per cent drop in circulation year-on-year is a good case in point. Watch this space…

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