Music magazines, once the go-to source for information about chart-topping hitmakers, niche genres, or some combination of both are struggling to remain relevant and competitive in the internet age. Many music mags folded, while others either went whole hog into making a splash online. Taking a cue from our stories about other forms of media fighting to remain soluble, we decided to look online and see how some of the more noteworthy pulp and paper publications stacked up (heh) with regard to their internet presence.
Founded: 2004, which is weirdly years after most publications decided that putting out a physical magazine was as financially promising as having your death metal band tour Utah.
Self-description: "America's Only Monthly Metal Magazine"
Cover Story: A piece on Ghost (no, not this band Ghost), a surprisingly pop-loving heavy metal act whose identities may be secret, but whose love for Satan is unabashed.
Can You Read the Damn Cover Story Online?: No. And the rest of the magazine is presented in truncated form, wherein you have to purchase the issue online to get to the bottom of, say, the "delicious mystery" of Anaal Nathrakh.
Other Online Features: As befitting their devotion to the old school, Decibel launched a "Flexi Series" wherein a "7 single comes to subscribers or can be purchased all on its own.
Verdict: Hard to say, since we were barely allowed to read anything. As we were soon to learn, however, this was the rule and not the exception.
Self-description: "International DIY punk fanzine, radio show, and record label. By the punks, for the punks since 1977."
Cover Story: We've got a few features on the front page, one of which is an interview with John Morton of electric eels.
Can You Read the Damn Cover Story Online?: 'Fraid not, but if past exposure to the magazine is any indication, half of the writing will be about how awesome it is to be punk rock, and the other half about how much it blows to sell out. Fuck you, Green Day!
Other Online Features: A section called "Life During Wartime Interviews" is a section of interviews the staff at radio station KBOO's program "Life During Wartime" conducts with bands playing in their studio. Sample question for the band Bellicose Minds: "There has been some level of success with the band. Was that expected?"
Also, there's a section on punk comics.
Verdict: This mag is even harder to explore online than Decibel...why even have a website? It's the sort of contradiction in terms you'd expect from a magazine that gets down on bands not being punk enough, but which apparently had no qualms with being sold alongside Yarn Monthly at Borders (R.I.P.).
Magazine: Alternative Press
Self-Description: The magazine's "company overview" section on Facebook is full of "we're just like you!" talk that says nothing about the kind of music they cover. Now that "alternative" as a descriptor is just about dead save for in the parlance of we-stopped-listening-to-music-after-1997 Gen Xers, maybe a better name for the mag would be "Tweemo Press."
Cover Story: It's the "complete tell-all oral history of Taking Back Sunday," now apparently in written form.
Can You Read the Damn Cover Story Online?: No, damn it! I'm dying to know if this band was actually formed in a mall, or if they just sound like they were.
Other Online Features: You've got quite a bit, actually - music festival photos, reviews, and older features from the magazine's back pages. For example, here's a piece with Deftones' Chino Moreno talks about his band's 2000 album White Pony, making this the first time anyone has spoken and/or thought about that record since rap rock went the way of M.C. Hammer pants.
Verdict: Let's put it this way: maybe it's a good thing that more of this magazine's written material isn't available online, given their choice of coverage.
Magazine: New Musical Express (NME)
Self-description: "The world's longest-running music weekly," this British publication is struggling with slumping sales. Wikipedia reports that "[i]n the first half of 2010, the magazine's circulation was 33,875, 53% down on a 2003 figure of 72,442."
Cover Story: Behind the scenes with the now-defunct label Creation, a company that helped launch the careers of Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and many more.
Can You Read the Damn Cover Story Online?: Nope. Too bad - this looks like an interesting piece.
Other Online Features: Information overload, in kind of a bad way. Among the many, many blips and graphics vying for your attention, readers can wander across movie previews(?), places to buy concert tickets, or they can learn more about NME-related franchises like "NME Radio" and "Club NME." If the music magazine thing doesn't work, maybe they can also host cruises featuring reunited C86 bands.
Verdict: The website is overloaded and headache-inducing, the opposite of how most of us like our music journalism.