29 Apr 2017

The end of New Zealand's last music magazine

From RNZ Music

NZ Musician has published its last print edition and will henceforth operate on a digital-only platform, ending an era in music journalism in New Zealand.

Richard Thorne

Richard Thorne Photo: Supplied

Owner and editor Richard Thorne has been there since the beginning.

"It was first published in 1988 which makes it 29 years, and I’ve essentially owned it for 28 of those. It was started by three gentlemen, one was a musical instrument retailer and two were Australians who were in New Zealand running music instrument importation companies. So the ethos in the beginning was to provide a vehicle to better market their products, their keyboards their guitars, their string and amplifiers etc."

It was a point of difference for NZMusician that it was targeted specifically at musicians, rather than music consumers.

"Going back 30 years Rip It Up was the main player in that field of music information and we had no desire to take that magazine head on in terms of the conversation they were having with their readers. We were looking to approach a similar market from a different angle. Theirs was more a consumer orientated title and ours was aimed at musicians because we  wanted then to buy the advertisers product."

The magazine was built on the most solid of financial models and used its solid advertising base to engage an audience with a keen appetite for local music. Interestingly, in recent years it has been tertiary institutions who have played a significant role in keeping the magazine going.

"We have literally outlasted everyone. I think it makes it all the more sad to be honest. Certainly, we’ve enjoyed a really strong subscriber base particularly through schools and libraries. There are plenty of individuals also who are dedicated readers and subscribe to it.

"I mean in New Zealand maybe four out of ten people play the guitar or are a musician in one way or the other and many of them live in rural areas and are interested to know what’s going on in the musical world and I think we’ve been a very effective conduit for those people.

"It was using the vehicle of music instrument advertising revenue to help us promote what we thought was worthwhile new New Zealand music. I like the word community and that’s where our thinking always came from, there is a music community and we hoped the magazine could help to foster that." 

The community will still be served via NZmusician.co.nz which may even enable the magazine to be more timely with its stories and features.

"We printed a magazine every two months and in the last over the following sixty days or so we would drip feed the articles the columns and the editorials, the artist features and reviews on a day by day basis. So instead of approaching the website content in that way we will be in a much more dynamic environment where we can be putting our features when those artists make themselves available and when the time is exactly right for them."

With print media suffering the world over, the end of a printed NZMusician is in some ways an inevitable eventuality, and for Richard the sadness is tempered with excitement for the future.  

"It’s probably been around for six or more years because the decline of print has been evident across the media landscape. I’ve really had six months or so to come to terms with this decision because I couldn’t just turn the tap off and walk away from it I really had to work my way through it as a project. 

"Redeveloping our website last year was an integral step towards feeling like we could put the print side of the business to bed and still have an option for our readers and advertisers."