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Michael Stuart comes out of the woods with his hands up

There are reports in the media this week that sales of music magazines may be in terminal decline – see here for an example, published today on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

The question is asked ‘Who reads them these days?’

I do, for one.

Whenever I travel by train or Tube into central London, to pass the time I like to have something to read that is not a newspaper and will take 45 minutes to an hour to finish, cover-to-cover. Qualifying in this regard are weekly motoring magazines AUTOCAR and AUTO EXPRESS and the monthly music magazines, e.g. MOJO, UNCUT and Q, with MOJO being my default selection – that is, unless I have made two or more London journeys within a four week period, in which case I’ve probably already read its latest edition.

Given that I ‘disconnected’ from popular music in about 1978, regularly buying a music magazine may seem an odd choice, but there is a method in my madness.

CSNYFirstly, the monthly music mags always feature bands and artistes from the past, i.e. my past. Their ‘retrospectives’ not only give me the opportunity to remind myself of the artiste(s) in question and their music, but often include historical details that I never knew before and also inform as to what happened to them after their period of being ‘hot’ ended and/or what they are doing with their lives now.

Secondly, in a vague sort of way, I like to ‘keep up’ with what’s new in the world of music. By this route, I have followed the careers of (for example) Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, Elbow and a hundred other bands/artistes over the decades … without ever having bought, or in some cases ever having heard, their music. In the case of Radiohead, definitely without ever having (knowingly at least) heard a single note of their music.

Thirdly, I like to flick through the reviews of new albums. These are traditionally divided into ‘new’ albums and then ‘re-issues’. The former I peruse almost in passing, normally taking an interest only in those offerings that are given four or five stars (out of five) – just in case I am going to discover something new and important that I might like.

The ‘re-issues’ are of interest largely because – rather like a literary fan might like to own a set of ‘the complete works’ of say Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Graham Greene or Evelyn Waugh proudly displayed on their bookshelves – I keep a vague look out for opportunities to acquire anthology or definitive versions of a particular artiste or band’s recorded output, these days of course re-mastered in high-definition digital sound, and/or enhanced with off-cuts and demo versions that may have been discovered in the vaults and have never previously been given a public airing. I don’t maintain that I’m ever going to play them, but it’s still a comforting thought to know that, if I ever did wish to, they are sitting on a shelf somewhere at home, ready and waiting for the purpose.

So yes, when the researchers and marketing gurus mount surveys and garner data in the cause of trying to understand the reasons why the sales figures of music magazines are currently in free-fall … and thence, perhaps, to suggest how this phenomenon might be arrested, I am that man who still buys them occasionally.

I don’t buy much music these days, mind – indeed I cannot recall the last time that I chose to listen to a music radio station and/or placed a CD on my hi-fi. I guess these facts will tell them something … and possibly not something they want to hear.



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About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts