by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Niche Warriors & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he magazines are falling! Last week, former Inlander contributor and current Billboard staffer Cortney Harding reported a double-edged story about the death of various music magazines. The story was spurred by the demise of Harp, a magazine for aging hipsters that made space in its pages for 13-year-old Nirvana post-project Foo Fighters alongside ultra-underground spaz king Dan Deacon. (Alt country mag No Depression and indie-rock focused Resonance have also been shuttered in 2008.)
The insanely well-reported story has several independent label representatives talking out of both sides of their mouths. Especially John Biondolillo, general manager of Dave Matthews' experimental ATO records, which operates with the freedom of an indie label but has a big-ass distribution deal with Sony BMG's RED Distribution.
Harding has Biondolillo saying the loss of Harp and No Depression would sting the label because "Those two outlets really spoke to our consumer." Soon after, however, he admits that "In the last 18 months, our focus has begun to shift away from print ads and towards online and TV advertising."
Well, OK, so those outlets used to speak to his consumer. Now Two and a Half Men does. There's the problem, I think. Marginally indie magazines like Harp have the same basic demographic as the average television viewer: white, male, aging. Why would anyone advertise in Harp when they could advertise on NBC, or better, on the Internet?
There's infinite, free, hyper-precise content online -- a huge percentage of which is dedicated to music. People watch TV for its general appeal. People use the Internet for its ultra-specificity. Certain -- OK, most -- magazines are trying to do both. That shit just don't work, and as a result, subscription numbers are dropping. If I'm a Dan Deacon fan, why would I want to read a story about Foo Fighters? I wouldn't. The reverse is also true. The Internet has made us a culture of niche warriors. You gotta either get onboard with that or go so general that your magazine becomes a collection of Kanye and Springsteen features. And in that case, you better write the hell out of that Boss piece. Otherwise I'll just replace you in my reading schedule with, like,