“If there’s a war against drugs going on, and people on drugs are winning, you know what that means, right?” – Bill Hicks
As long as the magazine Mass Appeal was around, I’d never actually seen one until fairly recently.
The Barnes and Noble by my house doesn’t carry it, but I just so happened to be in a Borders one day, and this magazine caught my eye. It wasn’t Mass Appeal. It was some art magazine with a smokin’ hot white chick on the cover.
So I went over, picked it up and flipped through it. But come to find out, it wasn’t actually pornography or anything. So I put it back on the shelf. Then I looked over, and was like, “Whoa, there’s Mass Appeal. I’ve read about that on the Internets!
Come to find out, book stores don’t carry Mass Appeal alongside the rest of the music magazines. They carry it down by the art magazines, and the weird trust fund baby literary journals and what have you.
Er, they used to, I should say. Just the other day, it was announced that Mass Appeal has become the latest in a long line of niche music-related magazines to go out of business.
In that regard, it joins the likes of the alt-country bible No Depression, and Harp, which I understand is (was) like a more boring version of Paste (with Paste, of course, being the best music magazine evar) – both of which have waved bye bye in the past few months.
And I guess, if you wanted to, you could include our failed sister publication, Scratch, in that litany – though I tend to think of Scratch more so as an offshoot of XXL, owned and operated by the same people, rather than a distinct entity unto itself.
But whatever. Why split hairs at a time like this? The bottom line is that the magazine game is fucked the fuck up.
The issue of Mass Appeal I ended up reading was the one right before this most recent one, with The Game on the cover. I can’t remember who was on the cover, but I think it was some actor no one ever heard of. In fact, that may have been one of the issues that led them to go out of business. And in that sense, their decision to put The Game on the cover could be viewed as a last ditch effort to boost sales, not unlike when Lil’ Wayne showed up on the cover of XXL four times in six months right before Elliott Wilson was let go.
Think about it. Mass Appeal was supposed to be some sort of trendy urban youth magazine for kids in New York. The Game isn’t even from New York. In retrospect, they probably should have just gone ahead and put an attractive woman on the cover. I’ve been to New York before, so I know what it’s like. You can hardly swing a dead cat without hitting a woman with her body in order. (That is, if you’re in the white part of town.) It’s so not like that here in the Midwest.
Another issue might have been the fact that I’m just not sure how many people were interested in reading about the kind of shit they covered. The issue I skimmed had a few hip-hop stories, which I thought was… you know, relevant to me on a personal level, but there was a lot of stories about skateboarding, and wearing tight pants, and spraypainting on shit, and that sort of thing. Which was just not as relevant to a brother such as myself, coming from where I’m from.
I’m not saying they should have switched their content up in order to stay in business. No, I encourage everyone to stick to their vision, even if I don’t find their vision particularly manly. [||] I’m just saying.
Fortunately, I don’t see that as being as much of an issue here at XXL. True, it’s the rare occasion when I flip through an issue of XXL and find anything that interests me in the least bit. But I’m assuming that’s just because I’m smarter than everyone else. And anyway, XXL seems to have gotten along just fine these past 10 years or so without any financial contribution from yours truly. So I’m assuming that XXL, with its lowest common denominator focus, might not be in as much danger in this current downturn.
In fact, the ideal situation for me, financially, would be if all of these smaller hip-hop magazines went out of business, and XXL was the only one left standing. Probably not everyone who used to read, say, Mass Appeal would be interested in switching over to XXL, but I’m sure we’d stand to absorb at least some of their readership. Which would be more than we had before. And I know sometimes a magazine will even buy up the rest of a failed magazine’s circulation. So that could be something management might want to look into.
The only potential downside I can see is that whoever used to write Mass Appeal might now be reduced to blogging, if they can’t talk Vibe magazine into hiring them. Which, theoretically, would mean that they’d be competing with me. And you guys know I don’t like to exert any more effort than I absolutely have to. I can’t say I’m sweating it too much though. If these people couldn’t make it in the world of print journalism, where you can get money to write shit people don’t even want to read, what’s to suggest they’re gonna have any success on the Internets?
What do you hip-hop journalists think? Is it really such a huge tragedy that so many of these niche publications are going under, or is hip-hop journalism’s only really worthwhile contribution these days the fact that it subsidizes the yeoman’s work that I do here? Speak on it.