Do we need a magazine?

Yes I know no-one’s reading right now but I just wanted to pop this in here so it’s in the archive at least… There’s a lot of discussion right now about whether we can have, or need, a “proper” magazine. There’s a lot of rumination on the glory days of the NME. Eden talks about France having three reggae zines, wheras here we have none. K-Punk and many others would really like a proper music/ culture publication. But Luka suspects such a beast would be poor. Here’s my take:

I certainly agree that the NME in the 80s was better than now. It had much better writing then, which it could afford, because it had a much bigger readership. It was physically larger, and it loomed larger over the cultural landscape to a far greater degree. (Pace Reynolds — MM never had the same kudos or clout. Never had the design or photography of NME either.) People forget what a paucity of media there was then: barriers to entry meant there was little scope for voices other than the big players. It was physically and financially very difficult even to do a fanzine. This was actually rather a good thing — the fanzine underground was very healthy then. Eden first became aware of me through my writing in zines like Grim Humour.

None of this is arguable or nostalgic. But it might be nostalgic to say we can go back to that. I’m not saying it’s nostalgic to want good writing about music and culture; not at all. But it might be nostalgic to want good writing that is supported by a SINGLE substantial medium, whether print or digital. The world is different now; not better, but different.

And probably worse, which is why it’s worth us old timers whingeing to people like Luke about how it used to be. We now have fewer large magazines, and a dwindling number of specialist titles, all owned by an ever smaller number of conglomerates. Worse, mainstream titles like newspapers cover the scene. Far from promoting the scene, as one would expect, this satiates many people so they don’t need a “proper” magazine, and even if it doesn’t, it captures loads of advertising revenue from smaller titles. It’s a lot like the revenge of bars and pubs on clubland: keep the punters drinking with ersatz DJing and they no longer have an appetite for real clubbing.

I suspect that we DO need a magazine — as in US lot, blogging round here. But it’s difficult to say whether THEY need a magazine — the non-bloggers, the uncommitted.

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