Music Marketing Author and Course Instructor
Yes, I was humming the Boyz II Men song when I wrote that title.
I got an email yesterday announcing that one of my favorite magazines is ceasing publication. I've been a fan of No Depression, an amazing pub mostly covering the alt-country world (the magazine was named after the debut record from Uncle Tupelo, the band Jeff Tweedy was in prior to forming Wilco) since 1998 when I started advertising there for Rykodisc. The editorial was great, and the folks running it were absolute pleasures to deal with.
We all know the Internet has changed the music and publishing industries forever, and No Depression really was caught in the perfect storm between the two. The editors wrote a goodbye letter of sorts, which laid out their dilemma:advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that number to continue to decline.
The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and industry wide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from reductions in, say, GM’s print advertising budget; our size meant they weren’t going to buy space in our pages, regardless.
On the other hand, because we’re a niche title we are dependent upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.
That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving downloadable world, what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print.
The decline of brick and mortar music retail means we have fewer newsstands on which to sell our magazine, and small labels have fewer venues that might embrace and hand-sell their music. Ditto for independent bookstores. Paper manufacturers have consolidated and begun closing mills to cut production; we’ve been told to expect three price increases in 2008. Last year there was a shift in postal regulations, written by and for big publishers, which shifted costs down to smaller publishers whose economies of scale are unable to take advantage of advanced sorting techniques.â€
I get a lot of my music news updates from RSS feeds from maybe a dozen or so outlets, but I love kicking back with Paste, Magnet, Harp and No Depression as well. As Barack Obama says, change is what's happening, but in the case of No Depression, it doesn't mean that I have to like it.