Four Reasons Music Magazines Are Doing Almost As Well As The Music Business

noah | April 21, 2008 3:45 am

This year has been a rough one for music magazines: their ranks are thinning, the business they’re covering is becoming more notable for being one that’s putting out a product people don’t want to pay for than anything else, and now Crain’s New York Business puts into numbers what anyone who picked up a music magazine probably noticed already: Ad pages at the big four magazines are down substantially from last year’s tallies, even as the magazines are increasing their rate bases. (Only Spin has weathered the downturn, with its ad pages actually up 22% since 2007.) Why?

RJ Reynolds will not take being critiqued lightly. The tobacco company pulled all print advertising in the wake of the Camel/Rolling Stone kerfuffle; ads for its death sticks used to take up lots of space in all of the music mags.

The auto business isn’t doing so well, either. Car manufacturers have cut their magazine-ad spending by 21% across the board, meaning fewer crazy pull-outs that garnered big dollars for magazines.

The record business, well… It’s probably piling on to say this, isn’t it? Especially given the goodbye notes we’ve seen from departing magazines over the past few years. But it’s also notable that the amount of co-op advertising (advertisements from outlets that sell music that use ); in the May 2008 issue of Spin, for example, the only ad I can see from a retailer appears to be from Best Buy.)

It’s the Internet’s fault! Of course! “We’re putting money in Pandora and other music [sites] that in the olden days would probably all have gone to Rolling Stone,” Dentsu America’s executive media director Scott Daly told Crain’s. “We’re trying to reach young, early adopters–which Rolling Stone reaches, but it doesn’t have a lock on them.” And the magazines’ Web sites haven’t exactly filled the online void: “We tend to look for best of breed…. to date, we’ve typically found companion Web sites inferior to the printed product,” said Daly. (Perhaps Spin‘s recent online efforts, which include putting the entire magazine online, have helped it stop the bleeding.) One would argue that the hermetically sealed world of blogs probably isn’t the best alternative for advertisers interested in attracting people who want to actually experience things that are outside of their worldview, but my putting forth that argument could be one of the many reasons that I’ve been in the content business for so long.

Music magazines shaking and rattling [Crains; HT Chris Molanphy]