THE MUSIC PRESS
Since the demise of Cut magazine, the thriving Scottish music industry has been bereft ofa publication to cover it. Tom Lappin asks why.
If you believe all you read in the music press. Scotland is the vital new source oftalent for the rock industry. Unfortunately when you hear such a rumour the odds are you'll hear it from an English source. While every single record company executive worth his expense account is rushing to sign up any band with the slightest Caledonian connection, Scotland lacks a regular national magazine or paper devoted to its own boom industry. While the national music press treats events like the Big Day as marginal and unimportant. Scotland has no voice in the print media with which to reply.
This somewhat surprising state of affairs has been in existence since the demise of Cut magazine in the summer of 1989. At one point Cut looked like providing a vital forum for the burgeoning Scottish music scene, and at the same time becoming a witty and provocative champion of regional publishing. Launched in 1986 by editor Neil Dalgleish and Edinburgh-based publisher Bill Sinclair. it began life as a no-frills music paper, and was welcomed by an audience sick of the patronising and inaccurate reporting fed to them by the London-based papers. Unfortunately its later issues pursued a spurious yuppie audience (and the glossier advertising contracts) and lost touch with a hardcore loyal following who wanted to read about Scottish bands rather than English hairdressers. Cut ended in a cloud of acrimony when it was sold to a London publisher who
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sacked the Edinburgh staffand attempted to move the whole operation to England. Needless to
say (‘ut never reappeared. Ironically
enough. it seems the final issue
~ achieved a substantially increased
Neil Dalgleish. who left Cut before
the magazine was sold. currently edits TLn, a colour magazine sponsored by Tennents and produced on a two-monthly basis as
part oftheir'l‘ennents Live! rock and
pop sponsorship campaign. His experiences have left him with a somewhat pessimistic view of the practicalities of a national Scottish music magazine. ‘lt takes such enormous amounts of money.’ he says, ‘that it would have to be a large company involved. People don‘t realise all the expense and work involved. When you launch a magazine, you have to have people who are totally committed to the project. That costs money, because you can‘t get people to work for nothing nowadays. Aside from that.
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I'm not sure ifthe audience is C\ en large enough to provide enough support for a glossy. well-produced publication.‘
He cites sponsorship as one possible solution. TLn‘s production and distribution costs are picked up by the brewery. TLn has built up a popular following by managing to steer clear of coming across too explicitly as a corporate mouthpiece for Tennents. and by staying fairly witty and irreverent. "I‘ennents don‘t really tell us what to put in the magazine,‘ he says. ‘If they have something they want to see go in. we’ll talk about it with them. and if it‘s a good idea we’ll do it. but otherwise we'll explain why it wouldn’t fit in. Normally they just want to have a quick look at the magazine before it goes to print.’
TLn’s 100,000 free circulation provides a vital information source for readers in the further-flung corners ofScotland. Where it falls down is in its slight reluctance to be
too critical, and its understandable
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concentration on signed or name bands. The other end of the market is covered by Substance, a scrufﬁer, but perhaps more sparky publication produced on a roughly three-monthly basis.
‘What sets Substance apart from the rest of the crop is its coverage of local bands and its demo reviews,’ says Substance founder Craig McLean. ‘We can cover the new up-and-coming bands more quickly than the nationals, and give them a sort of kick from up here rather than have them being forced to go down to London and rely on the London media.‘ Substance’s inky newsprint and cheerful iconoclasm are
. reminiscent of a fanzine. although
Mclean doesn't appreciate the associations. ‘We’re not a fanzine,’ he stresses. ‘That conjures up images ofstaples and photocopiers. We’re not like that. We consider ourselves a proper music paper, reasonably well-written and informative without being pretentious.‘ With a budget cut to the bone, and unpaid staff (‘We do it out of luurve ofthe music‘) Substance needs to raise at least £2000 worth of advertising revenue before it can cover its printing and distribution costs. With a free circulation of30,000, Substance certainly reaches a wider audience than a fanzine.
Although TLn and Substance are entertaining, informative and worthy in their different ways, they do not entirely fill the gap. TLn’s production dates often make the news and reviews sections seem rather dated. while the appearance of Substance is always subject to its frail financial situation. Since the death of Cut, the Scottish music industry has been occasionally enlivened with a rumour ofa new magazine project. Last year, there was much speculation about an imminent publication with the provisional title, Sputnik, but it predictably failed to materialise. As Neil Dalgleish emphasises, ﬁnancial considerations remain the most daunting stumbling block. ‘It’s all very well talking about all the cheap equipment available,’ he says, ‘but if you want to launch a new magazine, it‘s going to cost you serious money.’
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The List 13-26July199071