This month the UK’s only national radio station devoted to rock music (Planet Rock, available on DAB and internet) announced it was to launch its own monthly magazine. On the face of it this made little sense, as there is already one long-established magazine covering this genre (Classic Rock magazine, recently saved from closure) and it is dubious at best as to whether the market can sustain two print magazines.
Off the back of that, another magazine has also launched. Rock Candy magazine is an independently-produced publication (‘actually printed on actual paper’, they promise!) available only by subscription and published by the team behind the record label of the same name, which specialises in reissuing long-lost albums. The publication boasts writers who were part of the team which wrote for Kerrang! magazine during that mag’s glory days of the mid-to-late 1980s, as they put it ‘written by those who were there’. Rock Candy differs from the existing Classic Rock mag in that it has promised to dedicate itself to 1970s/1980s era rock music. Certainly with names such as Malcolm Dome, Derek Oliver, Paul Suter and Howard Johnson writing, the claim that they were there is true (all wrote for Kerrang! during the 1980s) but, unless my memory cells are fading faster than I thought, at least some of these wrote for Classic Rock too in the past. Indeed, when THAT mag launched in 1998 it set out to reach the same sort of reader, the older generation who had maybe become disaffected by the sea-change earlier in the decade that saw many good bands swept aside.
However, Classic Rock has lasted this long not by rehashing the old bands over and over again (although they had a habit of giving covers to Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd on an almost bi-monthly basis at one stage!) but by also introducing its readers to newer bands who follow in the footsteps of the great of the past. There are certainly many who have come since, I’m thinking of The Answer for example who emerged around a decade ago, and definitely draw on the template set by the classic bands, or even Monster Truck as a more recent example. They had to do this, as one editorial they ran put it, ‘otherwise the mag would become a museum’. Similarly, I cannot see a magazine devoting itself only to older bands from decades ago having a shelf life. For one thing, its audience reach is both limited and ageing – your humble correspondent is now in his fifties and has been going to gigs for over 30 years, and with the best will in the world won’t be doing it for another 30! There aren’t that many like me around, and those who are still going to gigs still like to discover new music, albeit of a style that may remind us of those good old days of denim, leather and stacks of Marshalls piled high!
As regards the Planet Rock magazine, whose first issue will hit newsstands next month – it may catch on, with an established brand of its own to act as the hook and with a major publisher behind it (Bauer, owners of Planet Rock and – interestingly – publishers of Kerrang! until a day or so ago) but, will it have an impact on the existing publication? Classic Rock sells around 50000 issues a month, and only narrowly avoided closure at the end of 2016 when its parent company went bust. The title (and sister mag Metal Hammer) have been bought back by their previous publisher Future Publishing, for a fraction of what they sold the titles for. I suspect a long game is being played here by Bauer; they will throw resources at the Planet Rock magazine and if it succeeds, it will be at the expense of Classic Rock. With that title’s publisher not being as big as the Bauer organisation, it wouldn’t surprise me if the mag ended up in the hands of Bauer and ultimately be folded into the Planet Rock brand. The fact that Bauer have just disposed of the Kerrang! title is another factor, the circulation of that mag has nosedived in recent years and the company might prefer to get on board with the older demographic that is still going to gigs, buying records and reading about the classic bands.
Regardless, for a while at least there are three magazines covering this style of music and I intend to get a copy of Rock Candy mag in the near future in order to see for myself whether it lives up to its promises.