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Ian Anderson
Photo: Judith Burrows

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Issue. When we first grew from being a regional magazine into an international one in the mid-1980s, those yellow festival pages in our annual April issue had details of around fifty events. This year, for the first time, our festivals diary exceeds five hundred, and we’re aware that whilst our UK coverage is pretty exhaustive, there are still plenty more to track down across the rest of the EU (if you know of a local one to you that we’ve never spotted, please send us details). That’s one heck of a healthy scene!

In ye olden days, we used to laboriously upload that diary listing onto our web site. Now if you’re a subscriber you can simply download this issue for free onto your tablet or smartphone and have it to hand all year round, complete with live links to all the festivals’ own sites and emails.

That’s one of the upsides of the technical revolution that has swept through publishing in the past decade and it’s an area where web-based resources are clearly a useful adjunct. But the really interesting thing right now is how people seem to be sensibly re-evaluating the old physical-vs-digital debate in print media, in much the way that they’re doing with music. And horses are finding their courses.

Out in the great general public, extensive music buying has never been a majority sport. Even in the ‘good old days’ the average UK citizen bought only a few records a year, so bearing in mind the small minority of music nuts who bought dozens, that meant the majority never bought any at all. Back then, many just enjoyed listening for free on radio or home-taping, whereas now they stream for nuppence on Spotify.

But, as reported in Elizabeth Kinder’s investigation this issue into whatever happened to world music, that small minority are becoming much more discerning and getting re-engaged. Talking to Rough Trade’s Nigel House, she says “House points to a renaissance of interest generally in vinyl and CDs, with a new young crowd that is ‘not the woolly jumper brigade but very cool, who want premium products, whether the music is modern or classic re­issues. They are the new cogno­scenti. It’s the antithesis of the download, it’s no longer cool to buy from Amazon.’ And reading about the music is key. House points out that a lot of people come to the shop because of a review they’ve seen in the press.”

Whilst mainstream music publications like NME are going the way of major record labels and the dodo, without a roadmap and beholden to the shareholders, there has been a growth of truly independent magazines. Only a few hundred yards from fRoots HQ we now have an independent magazine shop whose carefully selected stock looks as different from the shouty covers and sound-bite pages of those on WH Smith’s shelves as the better enthusiast-run specialist record shop’s contents do from HMV’s. Regardless of the subject, what they all have in common is a dedication to readability, classic design, good original photography, production values and engaging a community of readers. It’s a real underground rebirth and one that gives us great encouragement.

Ian Anderson

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