A magazine about electronic music? Is the world ready?

ImageLast month Future Publishing launched a new title Electronic that promised to be ‘the ultimate electronic music magazine’. Given the fact that this launch followed the much publicized closure of ‘grown up’ rock monthly The Word, along with the continued decline in the music magazine market, it might be fair to say that Electronic represents a brave decision.

But is it? Launched initially as a one-off, with regular monthly editions if it sells enough, Electronic is a part of a list of niche magazines launched in recent times that cover Classic Rock, Blues Rock, Prog Rock and so on. It’s a move that seeks to emulate the Internet driven explosion in niche immersion.

The question now is whether Electronic can really be viewed as niche. Electronic music is over 100 years old and ranges from musique concrete tape-loop innovation to the latest permutation on the dub step kaleidoscope. Even for the most eclectic magazine it would be a tall order cover the true range of electronic musics.

What Electronic does so intelligently is draw parallels  between early innovators (Kraftwerk), the 1980’s emergence of the synth into the post-punk mainstream (Human League, Gary Numan, John Foxx) and 80s/90s dance music producers (Underworld, Detroit techno), subsequently linking this rich heritage to contemporary post-genre innovators (Purity Ring). In essence it’s the electronic music equivalent of Mojo, where thought provoking articles are offered across a range of genre developments but linked to a clearly defined rock canon (The Beatles, The Stones, Pink Floyd etc.)

The problem that faces Electronic magazine isn’t that it can’t claim a similar canon – the launch issue features cover stars Underworld in their only Olympics Interview, future editions could include cover artists ranging from Kraftwerk to Massive Attack, and New Order to The Prodigy. The main problem comes in the stylistic form that electronic music magazines have traditionally taken, i.e. slightly dumbed down, jargon-filled and superstar DJ obsessed. In short, mainstream dance magazines have been more closely aligned to lads mags like Front than serious music titles like  Mojo or indeed Rolling Stone.

Any magazine launch aiming to take electronic music seriously and in so doing capture a readership of 30-up armchair ravers with a love for syhthpop, acid house and drum & bass nostalgia, but with a continued interest in new musical developments would need to address the fact that the lads mag treatment won’t cut it. This readership is more enthralled by a well-written Simon Reynolds piece on the breakbeat continuum than a series of ‘avin’ it large in-jokes from the limited lexicon of DJ culture.

ImageThankfully Electronic comes courtesy of some of the first Muzik team (including original editor Push). As you might expect it features the same encyclopedic knowledge and lightness of touch that was a feature of Muzik in at least its first two years. It’s a publication written through obsession and delivered with passion with its readership community clearly in mind.

Push says: “The magazine is the first mainstream magazine to cover electronic music in all its different forms – from the early experimentalists of the 50s and 60s right through to the electronic artists of the present day. Along the way, we cover all kinds of electronic music – including sub-genres such as krautrock, synthpunk, synthpop, house, techno and ambient – and we approach each of them with equal enthusiasm!

“Some of the artists we write about have been around for many years, but we’ve tried to make a magazine that isn’t a retro title. It’s forward-looking in terms of look and feel, and we talk about a lot of new artists and new music alongside classic names like Kraftwerk and The Human League. And even with artists that might be deemed ‘classic’, many of them are still making music that is still very much of the future.”

Whether or not Electronic becomes a regular feature on the newsagent shelves remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting indication of the fear of competition in the highly aggressive music magazine marketplace that Mojo chose the same month to produce their own electronic music special.

ImageMojo’s version was a very predictable ‘must hear’ list of electronic music tracks built around a disappointingly convoluted Jon Savage feature on David Bowie’s debt to electronic music through his Berlin era albums, and post-Tin Machine solo output.

The coup de grace of course came not in the magazine content but in the choice of cover artists. Mojo’s canonic Low-period David Bowie image is likely to have attracted more fans of the history of electronic music than Electronic’s Olympic Games-era Underworld shot. Which would be a shame as the latter is by far the more interesting, informed and enjoyable read. Even if it doesn’t quite fit the niche music model.

Click here to read a sample of Electronic

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About stateofbass

Dr Martin James is Professor of Music Media Industries and course leader of BA(hons) Popular Music Journalism at Southampton Solent University. Martin is an internationally renowned music journalist who worked on the editorial teams of some of the biggest magazines on the International market. Over the last twenty years he has regularly contributed to almost every major music and lifestyle magazine, and numerous daily broadsheet newspapers. Martin has also written several Internationally published and critically acclaimed books about music. Since 2008 Martin has coordinated Southampton Solent University's associations with some of the UKs finest independent festivals including Glade, Bestival, Camp Bestival and Blissfields. In 2009 Martin organized the University's first music industries conference 'Solent Music Industries Live Event' (SMILE), featuring some of the biggest names in the world of music sharing their knowledge with students. SMILE is now an annual one-week event in Solent's calendar. Martin has also played in numerous bands to varying degrees of success!
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2 Responses to A magazine about electronic music? Is the world ready?

  1. Joe Fonebone says:

    I wish the magazine well but I didn’t buy it because of that high cover cost of £7.99. For me that’s a one-off book purchase price.
    There appears to be a line that is being blurred in publishing as to what constitutes a magazine as opposed to a book. I note that a high cover is explained by there being no advertising in the publication which, with the relatively high cover cost, brings it much closer to being a book. Quite how many people would pay £7.99 a month is debateable. Perhaps make it quarterly?
    Oh and in my view putting a CD on the cover is pointless if it contains tracks that most fans with an interest in electronic music would already have

  2. stateofbass says:

    Can’t comment in detail on many of these points as I didn’t work on the magazine but I think you answer your own question about high cost with your comment on minimal advertising. I would imagine, as with other similarly launched niche titles the cost will come down when it’s a monthly.
    The issue of the blurred line between magazine and books is interesting in the light of the numerous ‘special editions’ that have emerged in recent years. Will give this some thought and blog about it in due course… thanks.
    Covermount CDs… I get your point about the easy availability of the tracks but licensing issues and the internet makes it pretty impossible. I preferred to think of this CD as Mark Jones’ personal take on the ethos of the magazine. And always nice to hear a lot of these tracks again.

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