Record labels hit by demise of music magazines

Sat Apr 5, 2008 5:41am EDT
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By Cortney Harding

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Harp magazine, which folded last month, is at least the third music magazine to cease publishing in 2008, joining alt-country title No Depression and indie rock mag Resonance in the dead pool.

For a certain section of the indie world focused on a more mature, college-educated demographic, the loss of Harp and No Depression hit especially hard.

"Those two outlets really spoke to our consumer," says John Biondolillo, general manager at Dave Matthews' ATO Records, which handles such critical darlings as singer/songwriters Patty Griffin and David Gray.

Josh Wittman, group marketing director at Redeye Distribution and Yep Roc Records, home of Dave Alvin and Billy Bragg, calls them "core publications for us, and it's very disappointing to see them go."

The closures of the two magazines might also reflect larger trends for indie labels promoting triple A and alt-country acts. "In the last 18 months, our focus has begun to shift away from print ads and towards online and TV advertising," Biondolillo says. Other labels have sought alternative print publications for advertising: Wittman says that Redeye and Yep Roc's full page ads will now appear in Filter magazine.

Still, some are taking this opportunity to question the value of print ads in general. Sean Hoess, co-founder of Velour Recordings, home of such artists as Kaki King and Sonya Kitchell, says, "When you look at the cost of print ads versus the cost of online ads, it's doubtful whether buying print ads will continue to make sense for indies. And with these two magazines folding, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one coming to this conclusion."

Many labels are taking their ad dollars to the Web. New West Records co-founder/president Cameron Strang says that in the past five years, "the Internet has become much more important for us. We now have staff members dedicated to growing our online presence, and the social networking sites and blogs are a big part of our outreach strategy." New West's acts include John Hiatt and Steve Earle.

Velour's Hoess says that his label also has an intensive online strategy, but that there are limits to the power of the Web for labels of his ilk. "We have the viral tools, the blog ads, all the online stuff," he says, "but there is no magic bullet. We have a very literate audience and they are not as zeroed in on the blog buzz as other crowds are."   Continued...