Classic rock radio station Planet Rock, and their parent company Bauer Media, have announced the launch of Planet Rock magazine, an extension of the station’s output in written form. Taking into consideration the recent administration of Team Rock (BBC News, 2017) – a multimedia radio and magazine organisation – and the rise of streaming, which has 45% of all global music revenues with an estimated 68 million paying subscribers (IFPI, 2016), it is an interesting move for the media conglomerate. Whilst many podcasts and radio formats are moving into the streaming era with partnerships such as the one between That’s Not Metal Podcast, Spotify, and YouTube, it is a bold move from Bauer to move from radio to magazine rather than radio to streaming.
However, recent RAJAR (2017) reports suggest that 90% of the UK population tune into radio on a weekly basis, which is 48.7 million, with 31 million of them tuning in digitally. Therefore, whilst streaming is becoming an increasingly more prevalent revenue source, radio is maintaining and strengthening its overall audience in the UK. So, if the radio side of Planet Rock is healthy compared to some of its competitors (such as the now-defunct Team Rock Radio), why are they expanding the brand into a magazine, and more importantly, where do print magazines lie in the current market? Are they still important?
Nunes (2004) suggests that music journalism is acknowledged as an important space of mediation between artists and consumers, with journalists having played an historical role in the creation of discourse on popular music. Nunes further builds on the work of earlier scholars (Santos, 1994; Correia, 1997) by suggesting that music journalism plays a subservient role to commercial logic, concerned with reaching wider audiences, increased advertising avenues, and higher profits, rather than a traditionalistic inform and educate approach. In this light, it could be argued that this move is simply one of commercial gain, an attempt to extend the reach radio has given them into outward platforms. On the other hand, in more recent academic output, scholars have suggested that music journalism operates on the fringes of traditional journalism, using reviewing as a form of negotiating wider societal concerns, arguing as far to say that music journalists recovered the aesthetic and cultural values of youth and asserted the validity of their experience, offering a cultural and social criticism and commentary (Jensen, 2002 ; Fürsich, 2012; Fürsich and Avant-Mier, 2012). Building on this, I would argue that music journalists provide a platform to further an artist’s message via a review, as well as deliver their own ideological standpoint to a far larger audience. Perhaps, then, Planet Rock’s intentions are to move away from playing a role very much akin to aural wallpaper (Berland, 1990) – the idea that radio is a secondary medium which is there to act in the background, as if the listeners aren’t particularly listening too closely, and are concerned with carrying out the role of the promotional vehicle for records – and to instead create a more constructive and critical commentary of social concern through music.
Whilst understanding whether music journalism, particularly print magazines, is relevant or not in this day and age is almost impossible, it is important to acknowledge the polarising views on its function, and it is interesting to see how Planet Rock magazine markets itself against an increasingly more social and politically focused market within the music – and wider – journalistic circles.
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