Mirror, Mirror on the wall…
So it's 2001, CD sales are at their peak, the
internet's certainly out there, but broadband's not even on the
agenda for most people. Exclusive content commands a premium price.
And because Twitter and Facebook and MP3 blogs haven't been
invented yet, it's possible to be a business magazine publisher and
a "gatekeeper" to content about the music
That was the Music Week I left 10 years
So I took a particular interest in the news
yesterday, that the UK music industry's trade paper has been sold
to independent publisher Intent Media, familiar to many ERA members
through its ownership of games industry trade
As is the nature of things, 10 years ago we never
realised quite how good things really were. But the numbers tell
their own story.
It's less than five years since the magazine's owner
reputedly turned down an offer of £10m for Music
Week alone. Now the magazine has gone to a new owner with
three other titles and their spin-offs for less than a quarter of
that, just £2.4m.
The declared turnover of the four titles sold
yesterday is £5.4m. Ten years ago, the turnover of the Music
Week Group alone - then comprising Music Week and
the now-defunct MBI, fono anddotmusic.com - was
Subscriber numbers to Music Week are now
barely a third of what they were at the magazine's
Which all means that over the past
decade, Music Week's decline has not just mirrored that
of the music business, it has exceeded it.
Many will simply shrug their shoulders at these
developments. It's inevitable isn't it?
Everyone knows the music business has shrunk.
Many businesses have done far worse. Think of Musiczone,
Woolworths, Zavvi and the hundreds of independent stores which
have closed for good.
Even those print publications not exposed to a
declining market like music are shrinking in on themselves. On the
same day the Music Weeksale was announced business publisher
Centaur said it was closing the print editions of its business
magazines New Media Age and Design Week. Only last
week The Guardian announced it will be transitioning to a
In magazine and newspaper publishing, just as in
music, digital continues to drive out physical. The culture of free
has slashed the price content can command. And because creating,
shipping and selling physical product is inherently more expensive,
it is bound to suffer.
Much is gained in the transition to digital -
immediacy (the idea of sending print magazines via post these days
just seems quaint), convenience, targeted
But just as with music itself, we should not pretend
that the erosion of the physical product does not also come with
disadvantages, and those disadvantages are more subtle than you'd
In the case of a trade paper, its most important
function may be actually independent of the content, the news and
data it contains.
It is to hold up a mirror to the industry it
represents. It's a magnifying mirror which makes that business look
bigger. Take it away and the business is
It's directly comparable to music itself retaining a
store presence on the High Street. Take it away and music is
diminished. The very existence of a thriving physical business is a
tangible sign of status and vitality.
Lose that function and something is
That's why we should wish the Music
Week team and their new owners all the very best. In a very
real sense we need them and the mirror they put up to our
Because if you have no mirror, how do you know what
you really look like?