Written by Richard Rogers (Music2Deal UK representative)
What do you look for when attempting to break into the music industry? What are the essential ingredients that help you on your way? Where can you ﬁnd information that propels you on to the next level as you choose a career in the mind boggling labyrinth that is the business of music? Here, in a regular series, our A&R man and Music2deal music expert Richard Rogers guides you through various tools printed or otherwise that Richard thinks are still worth shelling out for in 2019 to keep you ahead of the competition. The must haves for any musician, artist or songwriter. Basically the essentials needed with the information that you require with one or two not quite so essentials thrown in for comparison for good measure.
Music Week and the Music Week Directory
Let’s start off with a beauty. Music Week is the music trade weekly magazine that’s been with us for almost 60 years. Yup, established in 1959 it went through a barren spell in the early 2000s but with veteran Mark Sutherland at the helm as its current editor it still kicks as the ‘must have’ to riﬂe through to see what is happening in general within the music industry either in its weekly print copy or its online edition. These days it is published by Future Publishing, a reliable company that i’ve always found to ‘publish what they promise’ and deliver excellent readable magazines.
The Music Week print edition is glossy, has a pleasant feel about it and after all these years it’s still predominantly about the UK music industry though I always felt MW could expand into the European ﬁeld in more ways than one. The editorial isn’t bad and there are some great articles, one on the Indian Music Market by Mark Sutherland himself was excellent but was far to short eating up just a single written page of the magazine. With the dynamic importance of the Indian Market it could quite easily have been expanded and deserved to have taken up three pages. Just as the feature was really getting going and I was learning something the article stopped. Opportunity lost I thought.
In addition there was no mention of an article on India on the front of the magazine which was a bit daft. Head scratchingly the front cover just references Annie Mac which is ﬁne but eradicates all other features in the magazine for that week. In fact on page 49 they have a weekly article titled ‘That was the Music Week that was‘ that shows a previous Music Week from 15 or 25 years ago and this particular edition summoned from the archives from 2004 had in comparison 6 news stories on the cover which at least gives you a decent indicator of whats in the mag. At least let the audience know what’s in the magazine! Simple stuff really.
The two copies Music Week gave me to review were consecutive copies dated 23rd March and 1st April 2019 and Lewis Capaldi was number 1 in the singles chart for both those two weeks and incredibly the photo that adorns the ofﬁcial singles chart analysis page is the same photo in exactly the same position for both weeks. A bit lazy on the picture editing there and to cap it all that same photo is there again on the steaming page, the same photo used 3 times in two weeks. Hmmm.
I dealt with a lady called Rachael Hampton at MW who is the Senior Marketing Executive. She was exceptionally helpful. My ﬁrst review copies ended up at a very old address in Malta where I previously held a MW subscription, the second set went to a wrong town in Germany, none of this her fault I hasten to add so she sent out a third set herself that turned up on the same day as the set that went to the wrong German town. We got there in the end and she was extremely co-operative and communicative. Another person to mention whom MW still have on board after donkeys years is the great music chart analyst Alan Jones who is retained as a Chart Consultant and he along with Fred Dellar at the NME were my heroes. The ofﬁcial charts were compulsive reading (they still are) and Jones input was the highlight of the magazine and as a music nerd that was my lifeblood for the week.
One complaint I do have is the printed information nowadays in text on the UK singles and albums charts are so small it’s hard to read it, nigh on impossible in some cases. In the pre digital days when record stores were far more relevant and still existed in great numbers they used to have a chart singles top 75 pullout that record stores could pin up on the wall in their shops if they so wished that went across two A4 sides. Now with no pullout following the demise of the high street record shop we can only read a single A4 page in Music Week containing a list of the top 75 singles and artists, the songwriters, the publishers, the label, the catalogue number, the producer, the distributor and so the list goes on. It’s too crammed up, it’s ridiculous really.
That’s a shame as the chart area is 15 pages long although it would be good to see both the singles and albums top 75 charts spread out over 2 pages each. The charts also currently include current position, last weeks position and the number of weeks on the chart but by expanding the chart to 2 pages so the text is larger and therefore readable you could also incorporate each tracks highest position and sales ﬁgures too. Perhaps even a comparable US chart position if appropriate. Maybe i’m going too far but what about the name of the studio the song was recorded at in addition. That would bring in a decent amount of new subscribers from both the recording studios front and acts looking to see where certain songs were recorded to potentially use that particular studio and furthermore for A&R departments. You can just see it, ‘Ah Ed Sheeran has just recorded his new single ‘Jenny Was A Man’ at Big Conker Studios in Ipswich, we must take our new signings The Ride The Bandwagon Club there immediately.’
As an avid music lover who wanted to buy a copy of music week in the 1980s but couldn’t afford a years subscription as a 17 year old or ﬁnd it in the high street shops (it’s a trade paper I hear you shout), I once took a train from Brighton to WH Smith in Victoria Station in London to speciﬁcally purchase a copy and return back to Brighton. That’s how valuable I felt Music Week was to both myself and the music industry as a whole. In my opinion it should be easier to locate and there should be more promotions on it to attract a far wider audience. It appears as if Music Week in the past has shot itself in the foot a little as it really has no competition on the magazine side. Personally i’d be out promoting at music schools, colleges and universities for a starter in MW’s boots.
However, MW is a far better read than it was 15 years ago although it seems layout wise to have gone a little too Smash Hits for my liking. So the million dollar question is, could Music Week be improved? The answer is a resounding yes.
There is quite a bit of advertising in the magazine so an extra 4 or even 8 pages wouldn’t go amiss as although it is not wafer thin it could be expanded. Immediately two pages for an extended UK singles and albums chart as mentioned above is an easy starter, with more features on european territories that could take up another two pages alone. More features on the people in the music industry performing duties such as copyright or accountancy or live promotion or working as a solicitor. The unsung heroes of the music industry.
Keep the magazine vibrant and fun but educational too. Focus more on the small labels and small publishers and also on the live front. It feels as if Music Week should be integrating its clients to a far greater degree and the best way to do this is by featuring them or their competition more in the magazine. There are lots of ways it could expand its customer base from a print point of view and the digital area could quite easily be expanded in parallel. I can see many other ways that Music Week could grow its subscription service but maybe it relies on being a round peg in a round hole and the powers that be are quite happy as is and expansion is not on the agenda. Whatever the state the potential with Music Week is enormous even now after all these years.
So despite its obvious drawbacks is Music Week relevant in todays music industry climate? Yes, probably now more than ever.
Is it worth the £179 subscription cost per annum? Again this is a yes however in the price you also get the Music Week Directory.
The Music Week Directory is a 300 page plus directory listing every UK contact under the sun from record companies and publishers to digital, business services and media. The whole shebang really, no wonder it is known as the Music Industry bible. It costs £50 on its own which is still worth dishing your hard earned dough on but incorporated into the yearly £179 subscription it’s a steal.
The layout is crisp and clean cut and i’ve always been surprised there aren’t more adverts to be honest. I don’t mean the Music Week subscription advert itself either which is predominantly a full page that is initially on page 37 but then replicated on page 55, 58, 72, 90, 115, 156, 162, 168, 222, 267, 279, 287, 304 and 311. Yes, really! A whole 15 pages of the same Music Week advert which smacks a bit of sales desperation. No subliminal message from MW here and if anything I think this might put the casual observer off from taking out a subscription!
Am I being picky? Maybe, but it’s a valid statement nonetheless and to be honest the directory is still an essential tome to have. What I feel is missing is having a list of which managers manage which artists that they had at one point in the directory many moons ago and was so so useful. Also a listing of record labels that garner to a particular genre ie a listing of EDM labels, Heavy Metal labels, Jazz labels etc. There’s certainly enough room, just take out 12 pages of the Music Week subscription advert for a start! European input would be beneﬁcial too.
So having laid out Music Week and the Music Week Directory on the table and taken them apart, it is still fundamentally worth acquiring them both. I would personally recommend the £179 print subscription with the directory included for free or the £249 print, digital and online edition again with the directory included.
In conclusion, it’s a no brainer. Music Week and its directory are an essential requirement if you are in the music industry despite there being huge scope for expansion and improvement.
Format: Printed and digital
Cost: £6 for a single printed copy. UK £179 for a years print subscription. Print, digital and online is £249 per year for the UK. Outside UK contact Rachael Hampton
Richard wasn’t paid by any company for the inclusion of any of the items here and this article is a personal opinion of someone with over 30 years professional experience in the Music industry. Richard has been employed in many sectors both full time and freelance for companies including Music2deal, BBC, Warner/Chappell Music, PRS, IMN, International Masters Publishers, Silverscope Records and Evershare Digital and written books on A&R, Eurovision and Depeche Mode.