by carl wilson

Blended, Chopped & Screwed

britneyblender.jpg

In answer to the question on the cover above, it seems that Britney has at least outlasted Blender. This morning I got an email from one of my editors there, Jonah Weiner, giving me the news, which was a nice courtesy, considering that I've only written a handful of reviews for the magazine. This is the first time that a publication I actually work for has joined the print-media death march, though I'm sure it won't be the last. (Though to those who wonder, despite the layoffs I am fairly confident The Globe and Mail will survive for the forseeable future.) My sincere condolences to all the staff and to Blender readers.

The shocking part is that I had figured Blender was the most commercially savvy one in the music-magazine market - they built their business on photos (especially of scantily clad pop starlets), best-ever/worst-ever/most-outrageous sorts of lists, titillation and trivia, backed up for credibility with a review section full of some of the best working music writers struggling (for a good paycheque) to squeeze wit and insight into tiny little capsule reviews. I hated its glibnesss, but it wasn't snobby - it was pro-pop, pro-hip-hop and pro-indie all at once - and it certainly seemed saleable; if even they can't survive, I'm not sure there really is a music magazine market. Curiously, a lot of the more niche-oriented publications - rap magazines and metal magazines in particular - seem to be doing well still, when I thought they'd probably be the most easily displaced by fan sites and blogs. Perhaps cliqueishness (and even snobbishness) is actually a safer marketing bet?

I still think there is room in the market for one more readership-oriented music publication, one aimed at the same audience that buys books about music. Something close exists in the UK (Mojo and, to a degree, The Wire) but a North American one might bring less of that musty British muso feel - like a general-interest version of No Depression, a great mag that was hampered by the narrowness of its "alt-country" focus. (ND continues to live online and as a twice-yearly "bookazine".) Given events like Blender's closing, though, I am less hopeful of ever convincing a publishing company of that idea. Sigh.

PS: Does this include the Indian edition of Blender, which I just discovered 5 minutes ago? If not, I want a subscription.

General | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 26 at 12:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)

 

COMMENTS


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Posted by jorikvardanov on April 24, 2009 4:30 AM

 

 

Jordan,

Sasha's comment devalues "omnivore" on the grounds of its lackadaisical indiscrimination. A palette that says, "It's all tasty!" ("sexy/gross/wacky") isn't very interesting -- it's superficial; whereas the genre/fan mags are passionate (I'd include classical and jazz mags too, but don't know how they're faring), or at least very engaged (what Sasha's saying), as is the approach of Carl's book; which is, "yes, I hate this, but others love it -- WHY?"

Rolling Stone survives by being People for pop fans with first-rate left-leaning political reporting -- both of which aspects I like. I like its music writing better than Mojo or Uncut too, both of which seem *too* classic-rock-nostalgia focused.

I never read Blender, so can't say. Never read Spin either.

Posted by john on April 2, 2009 10:00 AM

 

 

Hi Sasha. The incomprehension is mutual -- I wasn't much of a Blender reader, and was therefore unable to follow your and Carl's uses of the words omnivore and omnivorism.

(I did used to read Omni. Just for the fantasy art.)

I enjoy a good general critique of an editorial stance. From here, this critique seems to be of the me-popist-you-rockist form, the "you say you listen to everything but what about Britney what about country" refrain, the denial-of-(your)-pleasure attack. I simultaneously sympathize with and cringe at this line of argument. I too want to point to the action, and be pointed there. But that I too is so close to me too -- there's no grounding for that metaphysics of taste, except the usual might making right.

Let me beat you to it: I'm sure I don't understand what I've just written either. But I still have no idea what devalues omnivore in your comment.

Posted by Jordan on April 1, 2009 2:05 PM

 

 

Jordan I am interested in your opinion on this issue but I actually have no idea what you mean. What do you mean?

Posted by Sasha on April 1, 2009 12:17 PM

 

 

Wait, *what* about omnivorism? I get the impression you're talking about eating everything down one aisle of the grocery store, in the grocery store, not to speak ill of the closed-down.

Posted by Jordan on March 30, 2009 12:42 PM

 

 

You bring up Mojo and Uncut--that's basically what RS is doing more of (features on Rush and Pink Floyd tied to nothing in particular), and what Spin has been doing a lot of over the past three years. I don't think it's a coincidence that this switchover has improved Spin tremendously, and that they've been better than either Blender or RS for much of that time.

Posted by Matos W.K. on March 27, 2009 5:44 PM

 

 

That seems dead on to me, Sasha. The thing about the omnivore is that it's a leveling stance - everything is equivalent to everything else - and that definitely seemed the case with Blender, with its kind of laddish omnivorism that found something sexy-gross-wacky in everything. Yes, nothing human should be alien to us, but the thornier, more rewarding thing is to get that just because it's not alien doesn't mean you understand it, that everything human is specific and tricky. Still that's a confusing set of metrics through which to understand the commercial success or failure of a magazine - though there is something to the fact that The New Yorker, with its continual interest in *detail*, survives through wave after wave of media fashions.

Posted by carl on March 27, 2009 5:19 PM

 

 

What if the multi-faceted slickness was itself a problem? This isn't to say that Blender didn't have some solid articles, but personally, I find that the glib, all-embracing, all-knowing model ("i know your game, Cyndi Lauper. I know your game, Bohren.") can be as irritating and boring as a rockist model, because it involves zero personal risk. The model is like accusing someone of taking something too seriously in order to dismiss an argument: Attacking the seemingly lackadaisical nature of that accusation always makes the accused seem defensive.

This is of course also not to say that I'm equating this to the call for more acceptance that your book implies; but the kind you ask for really implicates you in an ongoing wrestling match with your concerns & frustrations, whereas the "i like this, i like this" hysteria of the cultural omnivore does not.

Posted by Sasha on March 27, 2009 12:46 PM

 

 

Join the club. Mag i wrote for frequently out west shuffled off this inky coil last week.

Posted by Christopher Frey on March 26, 2009 8:21 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson