No Depression, a bi-monthly magazine that covers a wide range of Americana and roots music, will cease publication of its print edition after the next (May/June) issue is delivered to subscribers. They will continue to publish online, with expansion of their web efforts continuing apace.
The publishers note a 64% drop in ad revenue over the past two years and the declining numbers of copies sold at retail outlets as primary in their decision to cease publication. The first issue of No Depression came in September 1995.
The current (March/April) issue contains a letter from the publishers to subscribers, which can also be read online. They expand a bit on their reasons for shutting down the presses, including the anxiety within the music industry during this period of uneasy transition, and the shrinking of the market for music in general.
That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving downloadable world, 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.
All in all, the letter shows an admirable – though understandably grudging – acceptance of reality, and may sadly be the first among many such letters we will read within the acoustic/folk/bluegrass community over the next few years. That said, the following quote seems a bit over the top:
Whatever the potentials of the web, it cannot be good for our democracy to see independent voices further marginalized. But that’s what’s happening. The big money on the web is being made, not surprisingly, primarily by big businesses.
Just as it is in every other aspect of the economy. Let’s shed a tear for the loss of No Depression, but democracy seems to be on a solid footing.