Magazine article The Spectator

On the Move

Magazine article The Spectator

On the Move

Article excerpt

Just as the remaining copies of the first (and so far only) edition of Muso are beginning to look a little tired after several months on the pop shelf of my local bookstore, so BBC Music Magazine is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The style of the two journals is instructive. You will recall that 'Muso is not just a classical magazine. It's a lifestyle statement.' It lists really quite serious artists such as Ian Bostridge as 'the most bankable - and bonkable - in the business', and is a gift to journalists who are looking for facile quotations. It has the earnestness of the teenager, a mission to make the unbearably trivial as 'relevant' as possible. BBC Music Magazine, by contrast, hopes to present serious topics in the most engaging way they will allow. The result is a busy, wordy, pell-mell, almost-punchy magazine on the surface, which rarely underestimates the quality of its raw material. There is an honesty in this which excites my admiration, especially in the current commercial climate, at the same time that I feel uneasy at the too-evident mandate to improve and educate. But that is the BBC; and the formula, with such backing, has proved durable.

Muso has no such backing. To make its mark, if it has, the editors have found it necessary to shock. It is no secret that BBC Music Magazine could not have survived as it is without the support of the Corporation, but the editor, Helen Wallace, has done well to muffle the more condescendingly Protestant impulses of Auntie with the result that her journal outsells its nearest rivals by roughly double - BBC Music 78,000, Gramophone 50,000, Classic FM 40,000. Of the 78,000, a third are subscribers in the UK, a third subscribers in the US and a third are sold at the newsstands. And if I object to the slightest whiff of being preached at that may be my problem, since the readership in the 16-24 age group amounts to 27 per cent of the total, whereas Gramophone hardly registers a single reader in that category. Women make up 43 per cent.

Perhaps it is the double-act of the breezy-bright presentation which masks all sorts of thought-provoking material - educational, eccentric, reviews, competitions, listings, drop-ins - which has caught the eye of so many people, and held it. …

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