Another day, another article about the death of the music magazine
Spot the connection. Spin Magazine and… uh… Spin Magazine.
It’s probably just coincidence.
(You tell me how the above cover differs from a cover for the U.K.’s legendarily pointless Q Magazine – “the music magazine for people who don’t really like music”.)
It’s the end of another magazine era.
In another triumph of digital media over legacy media, Buzzmedia said Tuesday that it would buy Spin Media LLC, the 27-year-old music magazine that chronicled the rise of alternative rock in the 1990s. During the last decade, Spin has seen its circulation erode, along that of many other magazine publishers. But New York-based Spin’s problems are particularly acute, because it competed with lightning quick blogs that reinvented both music consumption and criticism.
In contrast, Los Angeles’ Buzzmedia has captured a large swath of Web traffic by buying and partnering with niche tastemakers and A-list celebrity sites alike. It owns or handles advertising for the prominent music blog Stereogum; Hype Machine, an aggregator that streams songs from hundreds of other blogs; and Idolator, a former subsidiary of Nick Denton’s Gawker Media. Buzzmedia also purchased electronic publication XLR8R, which ended the print version of its magazine last year and became an online-only publication.
Spin cut its publishing schedule in half and now comes out only every two months, but the future of its expensive print operation is uncertain. Tyler Goldman, CEO of Buzzmedia, told the New York Times that “print is important for Spin,” but he hasn’t decided on a specific role for the print version of the magazine.
If Spin does end its print edition, it will join a vast graveyard of publications, including Blender, which ended its print edition in 2009, and Paste, which suspended its print operations in 2010 and now publishes only online. Rolling Stone, one of the last survivors, has won much of its recent influence through its investigative journalism articles and features, rather than rely solely on music content. Spin also changed the format of its many of its album reviews, relegating them to Tweet-size chunks in an attempt to be comprehensive.
Do I think it’s a bad thing that Spin Magazine are phasing out music reviews? Fuck no. In the main, these reviews are filler: poorly-written (or, at least, poorly thought-through) and serving no purpose except to (presumably) please advertisers and record labels, they fail to engage on even the most rudimentary level with their target audience, the reader. Honestly, I wish more magazines and websites would follow their lead – but this has NOTHING to do with demand from readers for music reviews, and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that most music critics can’t write reviews for shit. Why does music criticism exist? To create discourse around music. Will a bunch of near-incomprehensible, 140-character ‘reviews’, written in jargon, help do this? I really doubt it. (Yeah yeah. I know. This article exists. Whatever.)
Do critics matter anymore? the Digital Music News headline asks.
Did they ever?
The next logical step for Spin Magazine would be to stop listening to music altogether. It’s such a fucking pain in the ass.