Today the British music publishing stalwart Q Magazine announced its closure with the last issue to be published on 28 July.
I have been a subscriber for longer than I can remember with any certainty but something in the region of 15 years. I’ve certainly been a reader for about 18 years. It has long been a bible of musical knowledge. While I have not read it as voraciously as I have got older and had life competing for attention, my subscription has lasted to the very end.
From the feature length insights and artist access not granted to just any publication, the lighter features like Cash for Questions, The Last Word and The Records That Made Them, Q has been the cornerstone of British music journalism for over three decades. It was targeted at the music-lover market that is somewhat more mature than the petulance and rebellion of NME. At times for me growing up with it, it felt almost too mature and boring but I stuck with it as the review section would offer a vital insight to the latest releases.
My favourite reviews were always the short, 100-ish word 1-star reviews. The artistry found in being as cutting and damning in as few words as possible was a truly magnificent thing to witness. I presume being able to make the reader feel wounded on behalf of the artist while also smiling was part of the interview process to work for them.
Q magazine has played host to all the music journalists I look toward for opinion at some point in their career. It seems to be the natural home ground for any commentators worth their salt including Pete Paphides, Laura Snapes and Eve Barlow among many, many others.
This is undoubtedly a painful and sad day. The outpouring from fans and the industry has been touching. Sadly this sentiment clearly didn’t offer enough financial support. The team even published their personal emails touting for job offers… damn…
So what now? When even American music journalism titans like Stereogum are struggling to stay afloat – resorting to kickstarter to raise funds to stay independent, and Pitchfork now being owned by Conde Nast the outlook doesn’t look too rosey for publications whether in print or online. One could argue that Q failed to adapt to the times, much the same as NME. There is no doubt that in the age of instant, free news coverage, paywalls are frowned upon and financial survival in the industry is tougher than ever.
I do believe there is still a market for written interviews and long form pieces on music. However, finding the right platform and getting the attention of music fans is a very difficult thing to do. I’m still in the early days of this project but the prospect of building an audience is baffling to me. I do this as a hobby in the evenings after work and on quiet weekends (there have been a lot of those lately!). I don’t do it for anything other than passion (though of course being paid would be excellent!). I can’t imagine the ingenuity and stress involved in maintaining people’s livelihoods with something so fickle.
I’m sure those employed at the magazine will land on their feet but one less outlet is one less outlet, not only for those directly employed but also for the raft of freelance contributors, meaning one less place to find work. One is left to wonder, are we really going to be reduced to Pitchfork and Fantano for our music news and reviews? Those are both great sources, don’t get me wrong, but a plethora of voices is better to get the different takes, especially in a world where algorithms do the curation and guidance, a trusted human voice is always appreciated for cutting through the noise.
I’m sad to see Q magazine go. I hope that a new venture rises from the ashes of Q and the rubble NME has become. I hope that Stereogum survives (they have hit their target but who knows whats coming down the track) and that other sites like the Quietus and Pitchfork remain in rude health (though the Quietus seems to be struggling in the pandemic too). We will have to see.
Farewell Q Mag, it was wonderful. I never did solve a spine clue though… Damn.