Ten years ago, Arnie Goodman and I conceived a publication which was, in our view, a true music magazine. No politics, no blockbuster film reviews, no gossip. Elmore would cover real music, grown organically in the fertile Delta of the blues and on the porches of people we call Folk. We wanted to celebrate and foster American popular music: music with substance and a melody. No urban poetry, no primal screams and no world or classical music (no offense). We’d cover blues, jazz, country, folk and rock by real musicians playing real instruments. American music with a history, no more, no less.
Elmore’s “Saving American Music” motto came from our desire to throw out another lifeline to artists—new or established, young or old—who produce good music. For the last decade, Elmore has celebrated important artists like Les Paul, Béla Fleck, Robert Johnson, Bill Monroe, Bill Graham and Billy Joe Shaver, artists and innovators whose names ought to be as familiar as Miles Davis, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash…or Justin Bieber and Britney Spears.
A dangerous tide runs increasingly deep, however, and anyone who knows music’s economic problems will be familiar with this perception: Art and information should be free. Today, people want to consume, but they don’t want to buy, and that includes Elmore and most other magazines, whether print or digital. How readers expect artists and writers to pay the rent or get to a gig remains a mystery to me.
It’s no secret that print media is in big trouble, mostly because print’s handicaps are 90% economic, an especially tough spot when purchasing is deemed optional. Printing and distribution costs must be recouped somehow, either through advertising or consumer revenue, and Elmore is caught between advertisers like record labels which are squeezed for revenue and the hefty percentage of music fans who have downsized their reading habits. In the five years ending in 2013, the magazine business has shrunk by 40%. Music-oriented and book retailers are nearly extinct (like Tower Records, Virgin, J&R, Borders).
Two recent events have adversely affected Elmore. First, the distributor which put this and other magazines (People, Us Weekly, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, etc.) into the remaining outlets across the country (Barnes & Noble, Costco, CVS, Rite Aid, etc.) abruptly went under, sinking 6,000 of its own employees and untold ripple-effect jobs with it. The very next day our printer—the largest in the country and one which sends us regular notices about paper- and ink-price increases—proudly announced their acquisition of the nation’s third-largest magazine printer. Big business printers now have gone from half a dozen five years ago, down to two. Our printer anticipates economies of scale, but we anticipate uncompetitive pricing.
This will be Elmore Magazine’s last print edition for the foreseeable future. Elmore will continue to support music online, and we hope to return in some form once the deep pockets have sorted out their differences. Until then, please continue to read Elmore at elmoremagazine.com.
For now, it’s free. —Suzanne Cadgène