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Downturn hurting mags too

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Saturday, Oct 11, 2008

One thing I forgot in my previous post about economic hard-times and the music biz is that another part of the industry is gonna get hit too- that would be the magazine/publishing trade.  As this Business Week article points out, ad dollars, which were already going south are gonna sink even more with this uber-recession in effect.  What that means is that many magazines which were already struggling to begin with are gonna get hit even harder. 

For some, this is gonna be a lethal blow and that’s worrisome.  I know, you don’t trust the media, right?  But when fine pubs like No Depression and Harp have to go under, that means that a lot of indie and alt-country bands who deserve recognition are gonna have to look around harder and elsewhere for it.  Of course, ND has been reborn online but will it have the same impact that it did as a print publication, especially since it made its name in print?  Similarly, Harp has transformed as Blurt but I have the same worry about them (disclosure- I write for them occasionally).

If some of these mags don’t close down, they’ll have to cut corners.  Even more.  That means less pages, less reviews, less full-time and freelance writers and as a result, these publications will get more insular, having less space to cover bands and not being able to cover bands in the same detail as before and having less voices to hear.  If I had to guess, I would also say that the already stingy word count for many reviews are now going to shrink to haiku length.  That’s a cute idea that’s been exploited by a few web sites and I’ve even seen pretty memorable one-word reviews (Greil Marcus on Sonic Youth’s “Sister”: abrasive).  But that ain’t always gonna do the trick- we still need discussions, arguments, conversations, opinions, details, contrary views, fights, etc..  The more and more we lose out on that, the more we lose out on appreciating and understanding music, forcing us into online forums, bulletin boards, mailing lists and newsgroups take up the slack.

Wanna get really depressed?  Listen to some economics talk about the situation on CNN’s Your $$$$$ and one common theme comes up- right now, there’s no economist out there who’ll go out on a limb and even predict when the current financial mess is gonna clear itself up.  What that means is that whoever wins in November (please let it be Obama), they’re still going to inherit this mess WELL into ‘09 and maybe even beyond.  This kind of prolonged economic hurt is gonna wipe out more and more mags for sure and I for one ain’t looking forward to the bloodshed.  I’m also not looking forward to looking at my 401K statements.

The silver lining is that markets usually correct themselves in the end- it’s just a matter of WHEN it happens.  For some mags, it’ll be too late unfortunately.

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