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Music Industry

The Print Magazines That I Miss

I love writing for a music magazine! I currently am a regular contributor to Fiddler. I work with a great editor (Mary Larsen), I have learned to appreciate the violin more, so much so that I have gone from a disgruntled beginner to a disgruntled intermediate player, and most important, I have become friends with a number of musicians in the bluegrass, klezmer, folk, and Americana folds.

I have written for a number of other magazines over the years, but that has dropped off due to a number of reasons such as difficult editors/not getting paid, financial situations ceasing publication, or the decision to go strictly online (which results in lack of pay many times as well).
Hitting the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble is pathetic. The choice for music-related magazines is minimal, and what is there is more trendy/gossipy than intellectual or industry oriented (with a few exceptions like Guitar Player).

Yes, times change, and perhaps the current young generation is content with getting its information from the web instead of a hard-copy magazine. When I was a young and easily influenced beginning musician, I salivated over the numerous music magazines that were available, either as intelligent criticism of the current music trends or as helpful mentoring in becoming a better musician. One can get any lesson for any instrument on YouTube, as well as personal reviews of equipment. However, it just isn’t the same as relying on that monthly music ‘zine that either came to your door or was waiting for you at the bookstore to get valued information and advice.

I have been thinking lately of some of the print magazines that I miss getting my hands on over the years. Here are a few of them, and I hope that it may bring back some fond memories for you.

Blitz – As a teenager in the early 1980s, I was getting into the punk/new wave scene both as a listener and musician. When I discovered Blitz, I thought that I had found the Holy Grail! It hailed itself as “The Rock and Roll Magazine for Thinking People,” and it was. This was more than the local fanzine, even though it covered musicians primarily from California. However, those were the bands that I was into at that time. The Plimsouls, The Blasters, X, The Long Ryders, Green on Red, The Dream Syndicate, The Bangles, Blood on the Saddle, the list goes on. They also covered a lot of European bands that were making a name for themselves in the US, as well as bands from the 1960s that still had a cult following. I remember the first issue that I got. Josie Cotton was on the cover. The writing was not pretentious like Rolling Stone, more down to Earth without being moronic. There were three or four artist articles, then a ton of album reviews that I relied on heavily. It started in 1975, but was no longer being printed by the mid 1990s. There is a Facebook page run by the old staff, but I don’t do FB, so I pass.

Frets – This was (and still is, I believe) a sister publication to Guitar Player (which also had another sister called Keyboard for those interested in that instrument family). Started in 1979, this was a magazine for those interested in acoustic music, no matter what the genre. While most of it seemed to lean toward bluegrass artists, there was also ample coverage of jazz, international, acoustic pop, and folk. Also in variance were the musical instruments covered. Besides guitar, there were regular articles on players of mandolin, banjo, fiddle, even autoharp, sitar, and bouzuki. That may have been its weakness, as it is very hard to find a large readership that is into many acoustic instruments from many musical formats. By 1985, the content seemed to lean mostly with acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars, although there were some great stories on the New Grass Revival and Mark O’Connor. The original magazine folded in August 1989, but was brought back about a decade later covering almost only acoustic guitars, most likely to compete against Acoustic Guitar magazine and to keep that audience that wasn’t interested in electric guitars satisfied (like the original publication in 1979). I haven’t seen hide nor hair of this magazine in over a decade, and the website (www.fretsmag.com) has information dating from 2006.

Bluegrass Now – This was an alternative to Bluegrass Unlimited when it was alive. It was bi-monthly, so it was not as timely as BU. During its last few years in the early 2000s, I wrote a few articles for it. I got along great with the editorial staff, but there were some financial difficulties within the magazine. In 2003, it chose to go online-only, but could not garnish enough interest from the bluegrass community to survive (trust me, this community will always love its hard-copy reading). There were one or two other bluegrass-centric magazines that dropped by the wayside as well. BU was fortunate to partner with the Bluegrass Hall of Fame to ensure its continuance. BN was more in-depth with its interviews, a quality that BU seems to be moving toward. However, snagging an authorship in BU is nearly impossible, as it has its regular contributors. So I do wish that there were more bluegrass print publications out there, but I can understand the financial reasons why there are not.

These are just three of the many magazines that I miss. Getting information off of the internet is not the same. I enjoyed getting a different magazine each week and reading it cover-to-cover, keeping it with me so that I could read a little at school, at a restaurant, at home, waiting in the car, or a dozen other situations. Surfing on your phone is irritating.

Chew on it and comment.