Author: By John Harris
The rock weekly Melody Maker announced yesterday that it was ceasing publication, some 74 years after it was founded.
Publishers IPC Magazines – also responsible for Loaded, TV Times, Marie Claire, and Melody Maker‘s long-time rival New Musical Express – said that the magazine’s Christmas issue would be its last. In classic magazine style, the title would be folded into its biggest selling competitor, thus creating a more sizeable, broad-based NME.
Mike Soutar, managing director of IPC Music & Sport, said yesterday: “Market conditions in the indie rock music magazine sector are extremely tough, as evidenced only two weeks ago when EMAP closed Select magazine. Over the last year, Melody Maker’s circulation has dipped to a point where we could not sustain the costs of publishing on a weekly basis.”
Ten years ago, when Select was founded by the United Media Group, the newsagents’ shelves bulged with music magazines. There were five weeklies: Record Mirror, Sounds, the heavy metal bible Kerrang!, Melody Maker and NME. EMAP had founded the upmarket monthly Q in 1986, and would go on to establish Mojo. With the teen-oriented fortnightly Smash Hits selling upwards of 200,000, the picture was one of rude market health.
What has happened since represents nothing less than the death of the alternative sector. Record Mirror, Sounds, Select and Melody Maker have gone; NME is gamely hanging in there, but the days of exponential circulation rises seem to have gone forever.
Yet many can clearly remember the days of Britpop, when the music press was restored to an importance it had not seen since the days of punk rock. The era of Blur, Oasis et al, lasted until 1997, whereupon the rot started to set in. The kind of floppy-haired rock groups who had colonised the charts and dominated music press covers fell from grace, to be replaced by the likes of The Spice Girls and Boyzone.
The reason, apparently confirmed by both IPC’s and EMAP’s research, is that the basis of both the magazines’ readerships and the music they consume is shrinking fast. “Alternative” culture is founded on stereotypical outsiders: the kind of non-conformists who express their youthful dissent via records, magazines and the formation of rock groups.
The generations that have grown up in the slipstream of Thatcherism have no such pretensions – for them, the adult world seems to be something to engage with not reject. A prolonged economic boom is one factor; their liberal parents are another.
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