Ex-Emap boss predicts music magazines will merge

Dwindling circulations and falling advertising revenues will force a number of small music magazines to merge this year, a former Emap executive has predicted.

Dharmash Mistry, Emap’s former head of digital operations, said the outlook for the music magazine industry in 2009 was one of “fewer, small [titles] with less staffing”.

Mistry, who left Bauer last year following its £1.1bn acquisition of Emap’s consumer magazines and radio stations, was among a panel of industry experts interviewed for a newly published report on the state of music publishing.

The project, commissioned by independent record label Marrakesh Records, sought to find out whether music magazines would have a future in the coming year.

In the last set of consumer magazine ABCs, covering the first half of 2008, all but two titles reported year-on-year declines – with Bauer’s heavy metal weekly Kerrang down 28 per cent.

“There will always be a need for a lean-back, photography-rich read with longer features, which the web is less able to deliver,” Mistry said in the Music Industry in 2009 report.

“However, there will be further consolidation in the sector due to lower circulations and significantly less endemic music advertising. So fewer, small music magazines with less staffing.”

NME news editor Paul Stokes said music magazines needed to concentrate on serving a niche and offering value for money.

“I think the music press is going to have to accept that we are specialist interest publications, like aircraft magazines or gardening mags,” he said.

“Like the resurgence of vinyl, you can’t overestimate people’s attachment to lovingly made, beautiful physical products.

“Music magazines can do pictures, longer articles and portability better than the web and I feel we’re doing to have to play to those strengths more and more.”

Will Kinsman, the associate editor of Clash magazine and a former editor of The Fly, added: “I am confident there is still a demand for the printed word. The challenge is for magazines to adapt to the changing climate.

“The publishers who prosper will be those that fully embrace and integrate their print, online and mobile platforms.”

Uncut and The Fly were the only music magazines audited by ABC to report a year-on-year circulation increase in the last set of results, covering the first half of 2008.

IPC Media’s NME saw its circulation fall 17 per cent year on year to 56,284 – a loss of almost 12,000 sales on the same period last year.

Q retained the title of biggest-selling music monthly, but lost 17,000 sales, or 13.1 per cent of its circulation, with an average sale of 113,174. Mojo fell five per cent to 106,367.

Circulation data for the second half of 2008 is due to be published by ABC on 12 February.

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