by Andria Lisle
A mere three years after purchasing the 16-year old Vibe magazine from founder Quincy Jones, the Wicks Group pulled the plug this week, dumping the hip-hop publication on the top of a dust heap already laden with genre-specific music magazines such as No Depression, Harp, and Blender that ceased publishing in recent months. Daily Finance broke the news, followed by this update from The New York Times:
The closure of Vibe leaves just two large-circulation music magazines, XXL and The Source, focusing on hip-hop and R&B. The Source has had its own troubles, going through a bankruptcy and emerging under new ownership last year.
In a memo to staff members announcing the closure, Steve Aaron, chief of the Vibe Media Group, wrote that for months, the company tried in vain to either find new investors or “to restructure the huge debt on our small company.”
“The print advertising collapse hit Vibe hard, especially as key ad categories like automotive and fashion, which represented the bulk of our top 10 advertisers, have stopped advertising or gone out of business,” he wrote.
The news might not be all bad.
Jones apparently told EbonyJet.com that he's trying to buy back Vibe from the Wicks Group. Said Jones: “They just messed my magazine all up, but I’m gonna get it back. You better believe it, I’m’a take it online because print and all that stuff is over.”
Meanwhile, the carnage continues: According to this Gawker tip, a beleaguered Spin magazine — an occasional employer of mine — laid off 20 percent of its entire staff yesterday and dropped all freelancers.
Coincidentally, I just received the new issue of Paste Magazine in the mail, with Belle and Sebastian's pasty frontman Stuart Murdoch sporting a tartan jacket on the cover. Will Murdoch's snooze-worthy cover shot really help sell copies?
Just a few years ago, Paste was literally decimating the competition: the magazine absorbed the subscription lists that once belonged to fallen music rags like Tracks and the aforementioned Harp. I've freelanced for Paste off-and-on, interviewing the likes of Duran Duran and former James frontman Tim Booth for the magazine.
Last month, however, the editors at Paste launched this campaign to save their publication, a move eerily similar to the Oxford American's next-to-last-ditch effort a few years back.
Sadly, Paste seems to be getting thinner and thinner — partly due to the fact that the magazine no longer comes with a CD (instead, subscribers can download the featured music online). The new issue, Paste's second annual International Issue, which weighs in at just 72 pages, is less than a half-mm thick, although maybe the magazine is dieting down to its bikini weight for the summer. And although a page 4 letter from editor Josh Jackson thanks readers for having "literally saved our company and allowed us to keep publishing," there's a Paste Magazine Benefit Concert scheduled for NYC's Webster Hall on July 25.