Time Rewind: Can the Music Magazine Make a Comeback?
I'm just thinking out loud, venting, maybe just wishing upon a star: I wish music magazines were still a thing. Social media has changed the world in ways not even its creators expected; it has turned everything into a sprint. Today we are fed information faster than we can process it, so we take what we perceive as valuable and move on to the next thing. Today, we have no time for a solid argument. I miss those arguments, miss the 2,000-word review of a new artist, the way it changed my mind and made me hate that artist, or love them. Can that ever be the case again?
NME printed its last weekly issue last year. Now an online-only publication, the music magazine giant joins the ranks of half-deceased music periodicals like Spin. It makes sense though, people no longer need to be told what to listen to, they can find it on their own, and that is a good thing. What I believe is harmed above all else is the marriage of music and literature; it is going through a painful divorce. Music journalism is changing, as is music consumption, and consumption of art in general.
Today's zombie versions of NME and Spin churn out constant news, on a cycle, as most online music publications do. The point is to generate content, not necessarily thought, not necessarily stories. You need only compare any online music magazine's news cycle with this famous 2003 cover story from Spin about The Strokes. The story is over 4,000 words of riveting, heart-pounding journalism, just as exciting as seeing The Strokes live. Stories of this kind live in nooks of the internet, in websites such as Aquarium Drunkard or Popjustice.
The literature is lost; the reader skims through a music article the same way they would scroll through their Instagram feed; they are seeking information, not a story. So how can music magazines return to prominence? Through a love of literature, through education, through a new generation of voracious readers. It may sound like a fantasy now, but all things tend to cycle back, and I firmly believe music magazines will be cool again. I think the youth will want to return to a place in time where the artist's story was as important as the music.
Longreads has an impressive piece that details the fall and potential rebirth of music magazines here. Sit down and read it, wind back the clock, remember a time where entertainment took its time, where stories were brewed, by men and women committed to their telling. The world may be on fast-forward, but it is never too late to stop and hit the rewind button.