The closure of Plan B, confirmed yesterday, is testament to the sad times we’re living in.
As I’ve said before, I’m a massive fan of the internet, the opportunities it provides and its benefits to independent companies of all sorts – including print publishers. It is cheap and incongruous to blame the internet for a business not being sustainable in the modern age.
The reason Plan B has closed it doors (after its fifth anniversary issue printed next month), has been attributed to lower ad revenues, which is directly linked to the fall in revenues that independent record labels can generate during troubled times.
This is the key time of the year for music magazines to generate advertising revenue – being the dawn of the festival season – and the current issue of the magazine includes 22 pages of adverts (not all of which were paid for I’m sure). Picking up January’s copy of The Word (the closest mainstream mag I have to hand), I see 20 pages of ads.
Now the numbers are similar, but the clientele isn’t. Opening the front page of The Word shows a double page spread ad for BMW, another turn shows another DPS for Budweiser then you get a full page ad for Sony before you even get to the contents.
Plan B on the otherhand showcases a full page ad for HMV-owned retailer Fopp, then after the contents and editorial you get to a Wichita ad.
Clearly these aren’t the same situations, and it showcases the problem Bearded had from day one: you may have good intentions, but the people who want to support you are the same people you want to support – the little man without the money. In 2007, BMW posted a profit of €3.135 billion, Fopp went into administration.
What that says to me is that the arts community, the government, the music industry and others need to come together to support a magazine on the newsstand that can showcase work of those who don’t have the finances to promote themselves into the vision of the mainstream magazines.
It’s easy to point to sales figures, but the fact is that magazines don’t even get half of the money generated by sales, and it would take a staggering number of sales to make a magazine profitable without major advertising. That means magazines need branded adverts, like The Fly secured, or companies the size of BMW offering up a hefty cheque at the end of each month.
The problem then though is who is going to appreciate a major company-funded publication and trust them to provide an independent
insight to the music industry? The joy of magazines like Plan B and Bearded is that you knew what they were about from the moment you picked them up: wholesome music, intuitive design and fighting for the little man. We need someway to bring that back to the newsstand.
Afterall, you can’t read a computer screen in the bath!