Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Press under pressure

Towards the end of May, the Guardian's Laura Snapes took the temperature of the UK's music publications and (perhaps surprisingly) found some signs of good health, even in the midst of a pandemic that had eradicated their revenue base overnight. From Q, which appears to be enjoying a new lease of life, to smaller magazines that are (or were) managing to stay afloat in their own specific niches, she flagged up the way in which many now have closer relationships with both readers and musicians, creating a mutually enriching community.

A month on, and unfortunately the picture looks significantly bleaker, as grim reality truly sets in. Q may have got a temporary stay of execution, with editor Ted Kessler and his staff having feared the worst when producing the most recent issue, but others have been less fortunate. Take Mixmag, for instance, the print edition of which is now on pause, with the loss of all of its staff. Likewise the print edition of John Robb's Louder Than War, "on hiatus for the foreseeable future".

Crack and Loud And Quiet were already fighting for their survival by seeking support in the form of subscriptions, and a similarly urgent appeal is now being made by Stereogum, which escaped its corporate shackles earlier this year only to find itself torpedoed by coronavirus. As part of the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign they've launched, you can buy a Save Stereogum album featuring covers performed by a who's who of Noughties indie-rock royalty.

Finally, spare a thought for Ronan Munro. July would have marked the 300th issue of Nightshift, his magazine tirelessly championing the Oxfordshire music scene - an incredible achievement. For a publication built around its listings and live reviews sections, as well as a free one wholly dependent on advertising, coronavirus is a fundamental existential threat.

I'm certainly not alone in hoping fervently that Nightshift - and the other publications and websites mentioned above - can survive, but, with the return of live music in a recognisable form still largely a pipe dream, hope is pretty much all we have at the present moment.

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