So it’s all falling down around us. Across our country the presses are falling silent, jobs are flaking away in the thousands, surviving broadsheets are chopped to easy-to swallow tabloids; and one day the newsagent joins the ranks of irrelevantly-named institutions – along with the record shop and the video store.
It’s been a brutal couple of months, between the shock announcement of two printing plants and 1,900 jobs to be axed at Fairfax, editors of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald stepping down along with News Corp’s decision to split off its ailing publishing sector from its growing entertainment division. With the sudden closure of Brisbane street press Rave and the disappearance of Tasmania’s Sauce magazine, music lovers can’t help but be affected.
Even Scene magazine publisher Howard Duggan is far from surprised by the demise of Rave, assuring readers that they can expect more street presses to fold.
“It has been clear for quite a few years that the writing has been on the walls for print and it is simply a matter of time when all the titles are gone and the order that they disappear is of no consequence,” said Duggan.
The news was so grim that the managing director of Street Press Australia Craig Treweek felt he needed to issue a lengthy statement entitled ‘Rumours Of Our Death Are Grossly Exaggerated,’ a six point dissertation that essentially shouted ‘we’re not going anywhere.’
The article asserted that both print and digital are still relevant, albeit if they adapted to the changing climate in a survival of the fittest. “Are times tough?” writes Treweek, “yes they are… but like any industry that suffers a decline, those that face the challenges head on and embrace them will survive.”
The very fact that Street Press Australia felt compelled to clarify their future in such a way should demonstrate enough the state of print media; and let’s not forget, while all the street press publications are now racing online after largely ignoring for years the opportunity they had to become the dominate voice online, how many digital publications are racing to open a street press?
‘It’s a bit sad’, we say. ‘I just like the feel of a paper’, we say. Then we read about it online. Because in reality, how many of you read all this news about the demise of print media actually – in a newspaper or in street press itself?
So is this really the end of print media? And what does that mean for music? What does a printless future really mean for artists, music journalists, and the fans?
Let’s start with the musos. Assuming you’d like to make it big someday, (or maybe just not be working at Athlete’s Foot trying to ignore the creeps that really enjoy having their feet touched) – let me ask you a question. If Rolling Stone and every other music mag were cleared from newsagents tomorrow, if you never tripped over a stack of Beat on a drunken walk home again – would you panic?
If you want exposure for your music, whether it’s an album review, an interview or a gig listing, digital trumps print in almost every way. Print can’t give you the same power to pinpoint your audience, to be so accessible worldwide, to interact immediately with your fans, and most importantly – to share your music.
The biggest blow really is a sentimental one. We all have different ideas of success, but is there satisfaction like seeing a shining mention of your band in real paper and ink? Or, in the words of Dr. Hook, there’s nothing like “the thrill that will getcha when you get your picture on the cover on the Rolling Stone.”
So what do the bare street stoops and empty magazine racks mean for music journalists? Do we really have to go and get real jobs?
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