music press

music press
   The last decade has seen an increase in the academic research and analysis of popular music, largely due to the current trend of popular culture studies. The music press consists of a vast range of publications, the majority of which deal with popular music, and mainly that which is in, or is likely to be in, the UK Top 40 charts. The music press is largely based around so-called ‘lifestyle’ magazines, such as Q or The Face, which focus on the more avant-garde aspect of the culture of popular music; in the 1980s, they were commonly known as ‘style Bibles’. Other publications of this genre, such as Mojo and Vox, have a similar format but are slightly less ‘arty’ and have a more general appeal. The most popular type of publication is what are known as ‘the weeklies’, including Melody Maker and New Musical Express (commonly known as NME); the general format consists of interviews with the latest big name, reviews of the latest album and single releases, reviews of live gigs, plenty of photos, plenty of adverts, a national gig guide and various chart listings. The youth or teenage market is catered for with publications such as Smash Hits, with its printed song lyrics of the latest chart hits and mini biographies of the latest pop sensation. These types of magazines follow the trends rather than set them. The teen market is flooded with rather flimsy but glossy biographies of the latest pin-ups, consisting of lots of photos and little text, or small magazines which fold out into full-size posters. They are orientated towards the superstar status of the performer or band, rather than their musicianship. This type of publication is as accessible as the music it writes about. Image is the all-important factor. It is a rarity for a music paper or magazine to feature a picture of a record on its front cover.
   There are also publications which cater specifically for the individual musician, such as Modern Drummer and Guitar Weekly. Trade magazines which cater more for musicians and technicians who wish to trade in or buy musical instruments or recording equipment are widely available. An indication of the changes in both availability and consumer trends of these publications is that until fairly recently, they were not to be located on the shelves of High Street newsagents, but had to be ordered through a newsagent or distributor; today, however, they are to be found at most major newsagents across the country.
   There are also locally based magazines known as fanzines, the majority of which are produced by fans of a particular type of music or musician. Although usually rather unsophisticated, being mainly photocopies of self-produced material, they are of great value to the local music scene, promoting the regions, bands and venues which would otherwise not gain a mention in the national music press. Fanzines originated with the onset of punk in the 1970s. Following the do-it-yourself ethos of punk, they were non-commercial publications and therefore had more street credibility. The authorship was often anonymous. They help to define a local scene and identify with that community. Due to the absence of material, both published and recorded, of the more obscure artists, fanzines were a highly useful source of information. They often provided a springboard into mainstream journalism. More recently, fanzines have become a standard follow-up to most genres and types of artists. Their role has turned out to be of significant value as an ongoing source of information for the alternative genres that are constantly emerging within popular music. Some of them can even be found on the shelves of the local record store or newsagents.
   Also to be found on the shelves in any major booksellers are biographies, autobiographies, rare record collecting magazines, books dedicated to the top 100 singles, histories of pop and rock music, genre-oriented books, era-oriented books and gender-oriented books. There is a considerable amount of literature being devoted to popular music. Catalogues have emerged in the last decade to keep up with the trend of musical textual analysis. There are many essays devoted to pop music and its varying genres in many cultural anthologies and journals.
   The music industry is one of the biggest businesses in the world, and the music press plays a significant role within that industry. It is an essential marketing tool, playing a key role in the promotion of its products. The press will often play the role of ‘gatekeeper’, providing initial critical feedback on new releases.
   The emergence of the Internet as a means of global communication has brought a new dimension to how popular music is promoted and received. There are now on-line music journals, with most major music magazines running websites; news and reviews are updated on a daily basis, and the information is accessible twenty-four hours a day. Another new format is the CD-ROM. A multimedia journal called Nautilus CD initiated the first CDRomagazine, published in the early 1990s, heralding a whole new genre called ROMags. These emulate the style of an authentic music magazine but with the added bonus of video footage and musical accompaniment of image and text. Images can be enhanced by the viewer, or additional music or text can be chosen. The potential of the media coverage of music is constantly being explored and extended, but as in pop music itself, the original format sits easily beside its modern counterpart.
   See also: DJs; record labels
   Further reading
    Shuker, R. (1998) Key Concepts in Popular Music, London: Routledge (the most concise and comprehensive study of popular music).
   ALICE BENNETT

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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