Niche titles gain from music's 'purple patch'

By Colin Crummy

Specialist dance title Mixmag is to be relaunched in May as confidence grows in the niche music titles, fuelled by the popularity of downloading, digital players and a vibrant British scene.

The monthly magazine, bought by Development Hell last November from Emap, is currently undergoing a redesign.

It will return to being perfect bound to cater for the "older and more stylish reader rather than a 16-year-old firsttime clubber," according to publisher Jerry Perkins.

The title now sells 42,234 copies a month, down 8.5 per cent year on year, but Perkins said the company was optimistic about its future.

"Mixmag is the market leader and almost created the dance market," he told Press Gazette.

"It’s analogous to Kerrang! 15 years ago: it’s not seen as particularly fashionable at the moment but it’s got a core group of readers and advertisers.

"It will only be a matter of time before the dance scene comes back, and in the meantime we’re investing."

Two niche titles gained the biggest hikes in sales in the ABCs as Emap’s rock title, Kerrang! sold 76,165 copies a week, up 23.2 per cent year on year, and Development Hell’s The Word went up 22.1 per cent to 34,753.

Kerrang! editor Paul Brannigan said the general upturn in the market was due to the rise of downloading and readers’ eagerness to investigate music history.

While acknowledging that the popularity of NME-style guitar-based music was having a "trickle down effect" on sales generally, he said Kerrang! was "genuinely alternative" to music coverage across the mainstream rock titles, tabloids and broadsheets.

He said: "If you pick up NME, Q and Mojo it’s the same narrow consensus as to what represents music in this country.

"When your dad is listening to KT Tunstall and James Blunt, it doesn’t make a 14-year-old want to.

"When The Guardian has a major rock star [Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos] as a food correspondent — that’s not rock ‘n’ roll to our readers."

But Mark Ellen, editor of The Word, said: "Weirdly, I don’t think the boom in bands affects us because I think our readers have grown out of that. I’d like to think that The Word is impervious to fashion."

Elsewhere, IPC’s music weekly NME saw its second consecutive sales rise since its relaunch last year, up 9.7 per cent to 76,792, while stablemate Uncut was the only magazine to lose sales, down 3.5 per cent.

Publisher Emap held the top two positions in the market, with market leader Q up 5.1 per cent and heavyweight music monthly Mojo beating rival Uncut for the second consecutive period.

Tim Brooks, managing director of IPC ignite!, said the boom for the sector reflected the fact that the British music scene was "going through a fantastic purple patch".

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