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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First No Depression, Now Harp?!

posted by on March 18 at 10:49 AM


I’m surprised this sad news hasn’t been posted yet:

According to Glenn Sabin, Guthrie’s CEO, the publication struggled to become profitable. “We purchased Harp in 2003, and it quickly became a first class product that was highly acclaimed for its often irreverent editorial approach and strong graphical package. Unfortunately, Harp’s critical acclaim never translated into sustaining commercial success. Harp’s lifecycle was ill timed with the precipitous decline of the music software industry, coupled with the consolidation of the consumer magazine newsstand business and rising paper and postage costs”.

Sabin saw Harp’s demise as reflective of the changes both in the music industry and in print consumer publishing. Sabin continued, “This story isn’t new. Print consumer publishing and the music industry are undergoing a revolutionary period. Legal digital sales are not even close to making up for the loss in physical product sales and the pervasiveness of illegal digital downloads. And with smaller revenues, labels are inevitably spending less money for print and other forms of advertising and promotion.”

Gah, ain’t that story ridiculously familiar. I spent my plane rides to and from SXSW poring through No Depression and Harp—the former, the all-too-recent victim of such music-print pitfalls, and the latter, the supposed replacement for my refined musical bathroom reading needs. And they’re both really darn good—balanced and varied coverage (yes, even No Depression steps outside the Lucinda Williams echelon) with a solid, authoritative editorial voice (as in, NOT Paste). What’s shocking is that there’s still at least one more issue of ND in the can, set to come out in a month or so, but Harp’s immediately through. Dead. Done. No mas.

I’m all for blogs—uh, obviously—but are we seeing the beginning of the end for the truly independent feature-heavy musical perspective? The last part’s the key—long, reporting-intensive stories that range from multi-interview expositions on a band to ruminations on all ends of the industry. Pitchfork has its columns sidebar, but I’m not printing those out and taking them to the can, and I don’t know who is. What I do know is that these two magazine closures are the beginning of a severe domino effect, devastating for other small publishers and wild for new ventures trying to step in and catch the windfall (“We’ll target the music fans whose eyes you just lost with our, er, bong-shaped MP3 player line”).

(By the way, I do not know if that last part in parentheses is actually a business strategy that Grandy and co. are looking into. Hey, times is tough.)

Since nothing has been announced as far as a continuing online presence, I assume this is it for Harp as an entity, though that’s not to say its core staff won’t come up with something. Still, Harp, the beloved paper product, will be missed. Best of luck to Scott Crawford and the rest of the mag’s tiny full-time crew.

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so so so so so upsetting.

Posted by ashley | March 18, 2008 11:50 AM

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