Fleeing from Pigeons Records

A record label and blog from the same idiot that gave you Bearded Magazine

What now for Plan C?

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!

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Fanzine of this Day: Niche Homo

One of the great things about getting Bearded into places like WHSmiths and Borders is that people look at the magazine in a different light. It gives a certain amount of kudos to the title and people respect that. What it also does is give more exposure to the magazine, which in turn attracts people who want to get into writing in ‘proper’ music magazines.

Now Bearded may not have been a proper music magazine (at least in my eyes), and it attributed pretty much its entire identity to fanzine culture. It was, therefore, strange – but ultimately uplifting – to have been besieged by different types of fanzines from people who wanted to write for my proper music magazine.

These people are much like myself, but with a much more sensible head on their shoulders. All I wanted to do was make a fanzine, I just made it too nice, and the receipt of fanzines has left me yearning what I set out to do in the first place.

One such fanzine was Niche Homo, which was sent to me by Nick Jones, one of many people I get writing to me daily asking to contribute to Bearded. Even though that upon (unexpected) receipt of this fanzine I misplaced it in a semi-drunken rush to get home from a Saturday’s drinking, I had got through enough of the Leeds-based zine to find one of the jewels of fanzines that you never get in proper magazines – in depth/full interview conversations.

At the heart of Niche Homo, and the thing that turned me off upon first glancing at a copy, was that there was A LOT of text. Anyone who has seen Bearded could guess that cramming pages with words is something I don’t like, and there was enough text in Niche Homo to probably fill a blank copy of the bible. When I started reading though, I discovered that all this text was so mischievously pointless, that it served a massive point – to show us what we don’t read when browsing an interview in a magazine.

For a proper magazine, pagination (or how many pages there are to normal people) is king. It controls a lot of costs and publishers don’t like a lot of them (well they do, but usually refuse to due to cost). Therefore all articles must be cut down to the bare bones. What then gets cut is a lot of the random mumbling that are insignificant waste to a casual reader (or an uninformed editor) but are absolute factoid gold to a crazed but dedicated fanboy.

From memory, the Niche Homo piece that did it was their Fucked Up interview. Everybody from Plan B to NME has featured Fucked Up, but this interview with frontman Damian Abraham was the best I read. It enlightened us to how Vice (Records, although they do the magazine as well) reacted to the band not signing with them, it also talked at length about Damian’s absence from the band, different spheres of power and influence in the band dynamic and other musings that most publishers would cut because it talked about other titles or veered away from the subject matter. To me though, it was brilliant, and I’m ruing my misplaced copy…

As you can tell – I love fanzines, so if you want to send me yours, please do. You can contact me using this form:

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