One of my favorite publications, the music mag No Depression, is about to close its doors. Initially devoted to "alternative country (whatever that is)," the magazine soon covered a whole spectrum of American roots music, defined as broadly as the editors' very catholic tastes allowed. Now it is a victim of industry turmoil. "In this evolving downloadable world," the editors write, "what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print….What makes this especially painful and particularly frustrating is that our readership has not significantly declined, our newsstand sell-through remains among the best in our portion of the industry, and our passion for and pleasure in the music has in no way diminished. We still have shelves full of first-rate music we'd love to tell you about."
It's a shame. There's a lot of wonderful music writing online, but there is a particular pleasure in perusing a magazine that covers a wide breadth of topics that somehow, in the editors' hands, all feel like they're part of a whole. Every issue I read both taught me new things and deepened my appreciation for the things I already knew. The No Depression website will continue—appropriately, since the magazine itself emerged from a discussion group on AOL—but it looks like the site won't include nearly as much content as the journal that birthed it.
I wrote around a half-dozen articles for ND over the last 10 years, mostly record reviews. It didn't pay very well, but that wasn't the point—I wrote for it because I liked to see my writing there. (Well, that and the free subscription.) Any magazine whose definition of country music was eclectic enough to let me expound on the Kinks, the Pogues, and the 1970s Florida funk scene is fine by me. I miss it already.