do people still read music magazines?

Do People Still Read Music Magazines?

There’s always a debate as to whether people still read music magazines, as many print titles have switched to being solely digital platforms. Thankfully, music magazines are still thriving to this very day.

People still read music magazines thanks to steady circulation numbers and a strong fanbase within their niche, although many publications have switched publication frequency and direct format in recent decades.

Iconic titles such as Rolling Stone, Billboard and NME are all classic examples of leading titles that still maintain a physical magazine and maintaining a weighty presence in the industry.

It’s a surprising trend in a time where many leading publications face declining sales figures or have even halted physical production of their flagship title. So why do people still read music magazines?

When Did Music Magazines Become Popular?

In the media industry, magazines have always dedicated themselves to following particular topics.

Whether it be sport, film or television, there’s always an audience wanting to read about a subject. The music world is no different.

The idea of musical celebrity has engrossed readers from the very beginning.

This on its own gives publishers merit to publish a magazine focusing on music stars. It was this ability that got music magazines selling big numbers from the very start.

For example, the first issue of Rolling Stone in 1967 featured John Lennon on the cover bringing huge eyes to the publication at the height of Beatlemania.

As others popped up, it caused music fans worldwide to grab hold of music periodicals to get the scoops and views on the biggest acts in music.

This demand saw magazines score huge circulation figures in their prime.

For example, according to the UK newspaper The Independent, NME averaged a circulation of 300,000 units a week in 1964.

Establishing core readership bases gave these titles a weighty platform in the industry. One that could make or break careers.

Are Music Magazines Still Popular Today?

Compared to the heyday of the 1960s, the way audiences absorb content has changed significantly moving into the 21st century.

Even as early as the late 2000s, publications saw sales dipping to record lows as people switched to digital platforms like websites and social media to view articles and news instead.

For example, it was revealed that NME physical sales figures had dropped to 14,000 units in 2014 as a paid magazine. It was a far cry from the average 5 million hits (per Statista) that the website achieved in the same period.

The stark contrast in these figures has caused many iconic titles to cease publishing magazines full stop down the years, making the switch to solely digital publication.

If you think of famous media platforms such as Spin & Pitchfork, they no longer exist as physical publications. Instead, they have become digital platforms which host all their content online.

The switch to being based online has worked out for these publications.

Take Spin Magazinem which now averages over 1.3 million hits for web traffic a year (according to This huge uptick in visitors to the brand now generates revenue of between $2-5m a year. It’s a huge change in direction from using a physical publication process, where revenue is going to be lost if sales figures drop.

What Do Print Music Magazines Do Today?

Even though many magazines have disappeared from shelves entirely, some of the more famous brands still have a strong presence in the market – including with a physical publication.

Sitting alongside a web platform that covers all types of topics, some brands still feature a magazine highlighting their best content.

This often comes with a mix of exclusive interviews, glossy prints and themed issues.

However, they will also host supporting content online with videos, podcasts and discussion groups all linked to articles and comments.

It creates a joint portal that creates a community spread across all media formats.

How Rolling Stone Thrives Today

It’s a testament to why people read music magazines to this day. And few do this better than Rolling Stone. For example, the magazine published over 1000 issues in its lifetime so far.

The magazine has branched out considerably over the years, covering everything across music, film and pop culture. The result is a publication that is one of the leading brands today.

There have been some changes in the brand’s history. For example, the original magazine was published twice a week when it first launched in 1967. Nowadays, it has slimmed down to just one issue a month.

However, that still hasn’t stopped the brand from reaching new milestones – such as hitting its 1000th edition in 2023. So it’s no surprise that it has a strong readership base.

According to their press kit, they average a circulation of 423,000 subscribers a year with another 10,000 in single sales each month.

It’s an impressive feat that also features a website that brings in nearly 24 million users in annual traffic.

Having a core fan base of 25 million in the US alone shows how media brands can cross multiple media platforms in the modern industry.

Do People Still Read Music Magazines?

One thing though that magazines do have in their favor over digital equivalents is the following they receive from their readership.

Instead of jumping online, you will find that strong readership bases will be more than happy to pay and support the publication that brings them news and reviews on their favourite artists.

It’s a trend noted across all magazine platforms – not just music. A 2022 poll by YouGov highlighted this where an average of 52% of all participants from the UK and USA preferred reading print magazines over their digital counterparts.

The poll also highlighted that this was a trend that didn’t discriminate across age groups either.

This was showcased amongst British readers where 39% of 18-24 year olds preferred a printed magazine over a digital edition.

Furthermore, 45% of 25-34-year-olds agreed that they would rather read a printed edition.

It goes to show that readership bases are keen to support physical copies of a magazine over a digital copy no matter what their age bracket might be.

Showcasing niche followings

Where the dedication of music magazines also shines is the steady sales figure of publications dedicated to particular genres.

It’s here where people read music magazines to support fellow music lovers of a particular music type.

A great showcase for this is how metal magazines continue to thrive as part of the metal scene – complete with steady sales figures.

Take Metal Hammer magazine as proof of a thriving media franchise.

Dedicated to following heavy metal, Metal Hammer has maintained a steady following within the British metal scene.

It has maintained steady sales figures with The Guardian revealing a circulation of 20,000 for much of the 2010s.

It’s not just sales figures that mattered to the readership, but rather the existence of the brand itself.

Metal Hammer almost collapsed in 2014 due to parent company TeamRock going into financial straits.

However, the fans drove a Just Giving campaign to raise £78,000 to keep the brand going until it was sold to Future Publishing in 2017.

What this showed is that readership bases have strong connections with publications – particularly in niche genres.

It’s this sense of community that gives more emphasis to why people read music magazines even in the digital era.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are still plenty of reasons why many people surround themselves with music magazines.

Even when a digital alternative might be available.

For starters, some brands are iconic to music as a whole. And that will bring eyes to the product no matter what platform it is accessed. It’s why the likes of Rolling Stone can continue to be market leaders to this very day.

For some, launching onto the web has saved the entity as a whole and gives readers the chance to access more content than ever before.

But that isn’t what brings people to read music magazines. Many readers still prefer to enjoy physically reading magazines no matter their age or background.

This forges strong bonds between a title and its audience, particularly in niche genres where they can be much more influential in the scene.

All this showcases why magazines are still selling well to this day and why many people read music magazines without any hesitation.

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