After 13 solid years, alt-country magazine No Depression is moseying off into the sunset. Fans of the publication — which helped break the careers of artists like Ryan Adams and Wilco — are understandably bummed, as are many of the niche acts the mag covered.
This article from The News & Observer was written by onetime ND scribe David Menconi. It's a pretty good eulogy.
What's behind the shutdown of one of the most beloved rags in American music? Shrinking advertising revenue, for one. But publishers Grant Alden, Peter Blackstock and Kyla Fairchild also point to a changing media and retail environment as factors in their decision. Here's an excerpt of the announcement from the most recent issue:
Those circumstances are both complicated and painfully simple. The simple answer is that advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that number to continue to decline.
The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and industrywide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from reductions in, say, GM's print advertising budget; our size meant they weren't going to buy space in our pages, regardless.
On the other hand, because we're a niche title we are dependent upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.
That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving downloadable world, what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print.
The decline of brick and mortar music retail means we have fewer newsstands on which to sell our magazine, and small labels have fewer venues that might embrace and hand-sell their music. Ditto for independent bookstores. . .
What makes the news particularly, um, depressing is that the magazine still has a loyal readership and high sell-through rates. But that's apparently not enough to offset the losses in ad revenue.
No Depression will continue to operate its website, but readers only have one more physical issue to look forward to. And the independent Americana, folk and country acts who have come to depend on the magazine for publicity will no doubt have a tougher trail to tread.