Planet Rock Magazine issue 1, May 2017

Bauer’s new monthly magazine, a companion to the DAB radio station of the same name,  finally launched this month with a very nice cover, a reflective silver effect front and back featuring the Motörhead ‘Snaggletooth’ logo. With former Kerrang! editor Phil Alexander in charge, and with several writers known to music mag readers contributing, this is a top quality publication as expected. It is clear Bauer have indeed sunk a lot of time, effort (and money) into its launch.

Screenshot from 2017-05-27 21-55-37

Planet Rock Magazine issue1

So what do you get for your fiver (cover price)?  No covermount CD (though they may issue one occasionally in future issues), but the expected mix of in-depth features on classic rock bands (Aerosmith and indeed, Motörhead feature in the launch issue, with an extensive interview with sole surviving member of the ‘classic’ ‘Head line-up ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke taking several pages); a staggering TEN pages devoted to Def Leppard and the convoluted process behind the making of their seminal ‘Hysteria’ album, excellent pictorial content, reviews of the latest albums and live shows, and a few more offbeat features – for example The Hairy Bikers quiz Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr about his favourite foods. Another Planet Rock presenter (Alice Cooper) is also featured, with an anecdote about how he, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees were persuaded to pose for a photo with Canadian singer Anne Murray, who was known more for middle-of-the-road pop than hard livin’ rock ‘n’ roll!

In addition, the magazine provides a run-down of gigs in the upcoming month that Planet Rock readers/listeners should be interested in attending.

The magazine is a very good read, but you will forget it is a new publication because the style, the layout and overall ‘feel’ of this magazine apes the long-standing Classic Rock magazine almost exactly. The impression is that of Bauer (a large multimedia concern) parking their tanks on the lawn occupied exclusively by Classic Rock until now. There has been a lot of effort put into this publication – it hasn’t just been thrown together – and that suggests they’ve been planning this for a long time, even before CR’s publishers Team Rock went under at the end of 2016, with the magazine only rescued from closure by previous owners Future Publishing. Bauer are a much bigger operation than Future or Team Rock, and they must have eyed the healthy circulation of Classic Rock with some envy. Bauer have also recently disposed of weekly mag Kerrang! after having published it for around two decades; I’m no media analyst but the demographic of older rock music fans who still spend money on gigs and albums, is one that must have been more appealing to Bauer than the transient readership of Kerrang!

This is however a niche market; the people who buy albums on physical format still and travel to see gigs are by and large the same people who were doing so 20, 30 years ago. Newer bands are noticing that the people who come out to see them are in many cases considerably older than themselves; they won’t mind who comes out to see them as long as somebody does, of course, but it does make me think (as one of these older fans!) whether there’s longevity in this business for say, Joanne Shaw Taylor when her fans are in many cases twenty years older than she is. There is just one national radio station devoted to this kind of music (and it was a struggle to get that, much less keep it on-air!) and I cannot see how the market can sustain two printed publications covering pretty much the same ground, classic rock bands of the past alongside newer bands who fit in with the genre’s overall sound and style. (Not to mention the independent Rock Candy magazine which has also recently launched, but that focuses exclusively on bands of yesteryear.)

I can only conclude that Bauer are aiming to ’embrace, extend, extinguish’ the existing publication then; they are putting a great deal of resource into this magazine and if it does steal readers from Classic Rock, it is inevitable that Classic Rock magazine will either fold or be swallowed up by Bauer, ultimately being ‘merged’ into the Planet Rock brand.

All that said – is the Planet Rock magazine worth checking out? Absolutely, if you like this kind of music and are a listener to the station, you will find much to enjoy in the accompanying magazine. I do predict that within a year, this magazine will be the only one available on the newsstand for fans of classic rock music, though.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Rock in print – new mag launches, is it a good sign?

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.

http://teamrock.com/classic-rock

https://www.rockcandymag.com/

http://www.planetrock.com/news/rock-news/planet-rock-to-launch-magazine/