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Q Magazine – The Music Press in the 1980s

Stephen Hill | Monday July 06, 2009

Categories: Magazines, More on Magazines, Music Press, News

Q Magazine was launched by EMAP in 1986. With Dave Hepworth and Mark Ellen as editors, it was very much a grown up version of Smash Hits.

When discussing the legacy of EMAP in the transformation of the mores of the music press in the 1980s it should be mentioned that the legacy of Q has been considered in much more detail than that of Smash HitsEamonn Forde has written extensively on the role of Q in establishing the ‘monoglottic’ corporate register of Smash Hits in the mainstream of rock journalism:

Building on Smash Hits’ market success and emphasis on a clearly defined and adhered to monoglottic house-style, the mainstream rise of Q since 1986 symbolized the passing of the belief that the music press could hector and dictate the taste patterns of its readership, placing emphasis on its role as a branded consumer guide. (Forde, 2001, 28)

Forde views Q as a key moment in inaugurating a new corporate sensibility, which has seen many ‘monoglottic’ titles develop laterally as ‘panportfolio’ consumer brands.  He suggests that cost-cutting exercises have seen premises merge and an over reliance on free-lance writers who since 2000 have been forced to sign over copyright to the magazines. 

Like Forde, Gudmundsson et al view the legacy of EMAP to be one of segmentation and polarization: ‘Smash Hits for teenagers, Select for young male rock fans. Mixmag for dance enthusiasts, and Kerrang! for heavy metal fans’. (Gudmundsson et al, 2001, 57). They are in agreement with Forde that Q focused rock journalism on the consumption of popular music product and that it deployed a more anodyne register in it treatment of popular music.  What they overlook, however, is that these changes might be irrelevant to the purpose of music journalism.

Forde, it would seem has a particularly rose tinted view of music journalism in the 1970s. He also bemoans the lack of access to stars resulting in the decline of New Journalism style,...


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