“Q” Relaunch Inspires A Few Q’s, Not Too Many A’s

noah | September 26, 2008 10:00 am

In a way to stave off the rough climate faced by music magazines lately, the British dad-rock bible Q will unveil a redesign next week, one that, according to the Times Of London, will “effectively signal that the conventional music magazine is dead.” Such hyperbole! Well, apparently the new Q will try to broaden its base by looking at the world beyond music, I guess because the best way to attract an audience that’s ignoring your publication is to cover what other, more successful publications are already covering? Wait, that makes no sense to me either. Q editor Paul Rees tries to explain himself after the jump.

Paul Rees, editor of Q, is unapologetic. “The magazine we’ve been putting out has not been good enough,” he says, leafing through proofs of the new edition, which has also ditched its traditional red, white and black colour scheme.

“It’s not appealing to a big-enough group of people. We have drifted too close to being just another music magazine, and we’ve been losing readers. We’ve been a market leader for 22 years but there is so little reader loyalty these days. You’ve got to do more.” …

In abandoning the tried-and-tested music magazine format, Q is taking a big gamble. “We need to move away from the mainstream and start acting like a leading magazine and be innovative and bold,” Mr Rees says.

“Q is for people who like music but like other things as well. It’s like Top Gear. I know nothing about cars, but that is unmissable. They can take something that’s about cars and put a different spin on it. We want to do that with music.”

Other non-musical features include “Q Heroes”, which kicks off with Barack Obama; a travel page; and a hefty dose of film. The first edition features an interview with Oliver Stone, with Martin Scorsese promised in the near future.

“He’s a rock’n’roll film director,” Mr Rees says. “High School Musical and Sex and the City are not going to get reviews but the Coen brothers will. It’s about what your audience is interested in.”

Well, it’s good to see that the “dad rock” ethos of Q will stick around with these new features. Curiously, Q‘s own blog post on the revamp downplays the influx of non-music content in the redesign:

Paul Rees, Q Editor in Chief, said: “At a time when people have more choice than ever, we have been mindful to give readers not only more of all the things Q’s reputation has been founded upon – outstanding writing and photography, unparalleled access, extensive reviews, etc – but also more in general. In doing so, I believe Q now offers a genuinely different take on music and entertainment in general, befitting its status as a market leading magazine.”

New regular slots in the magazine include: The Q Challenge (in the first, James Morrison has to earn more than £20 by busking on the streets of Birmingham); David Quantick On…… (for the November issue David patrols the streets of London dressed as a schoolboy to tie in with our cover shoot); The Q Hero, in which an iconic figure is profiled; Rock ’n’ Roll Pilgrimage, how to visit the key music destinations; Alternative blue plaques (Q nominated sites of real national interest); The Diary Of… in which we look behind the scenes of a star doing out of the ordinary stuff (first up, Travis drummer Neil Primrose and his Le Mans race recollection).

Music remains at the core of the magazine however, with the Q50 – the month’s essential 50 tracks – and Q Review delivering the best information across musical genres about new releases and ‘how to buy’ guides around classic albums and artists.

Oh, and there’s a note at the end that states “There will also be a new emphasis on other forms of entertainment including films, books, radio and gadgets via an all-new Entertainment section.” Why would the Times piece imply that said “new emphasis” is going to become much more of the emphasis going forward? Is Q afraid that its decreased editorial loyalty to the topic of music will translate into even less reader loyalty? The nervousness that’s apparent here reminds me of when you go to your favorite frozen-yogurt place and find out that they’ve branched out into burritos–i.e., a last-ditch effort to widen the customer base that inevitably results in death. Oh well, Q, I’ll always remember you for introducing me to Blur in high school. Or wait, was that Select?

Q Magazine unveils stylish new look [Q] Music magazines struggle as traditional format dies [Times Of London]