On Losing (And Trying To Save) The Music Press

This morning brings bleak rumors surrounding the fate of JazzTimes magazine. Since its creation in 1970, JazzTimes has won armloads of awards and been a crucial voice in the jazz world, so seeing it fold would be a devastating blow. Expect more word to come out in the hours ahead.

As if that weren't bad enough, yesterday was an awful day to run a music magazine: Performing Songwriter and Radio & Records both announced that they're folding outright, while Paste remains in the midst of a desperate fundraising drive in an effort to stay afloat. These are troubled times for the economy in general — and print media in particular — but this has been an unusually grim and sad 24 hours.

Losing old favorites and saving another, after the jump.

For those unfamiliar with the magazines that went under yesterday, Radio & Records spent 36 years as a music-industry trade publication; it hung on as long as it could while the industry it chronicled sputtered and faded. Its airplay charts are moving over to Billboard — the two publications belong to the same parent company — but the staff has been laid off, effective immediately. It's a cold, unceremonious end: A trip to the Web site prompts a redirect to Billboard.

The 16-year-old Performing Songwriter — a lovely, Nashville-based magazine that exuded passion for the craft of writing smart roots music — received a more emotional send-off in the form of a letter from editor and publisher Lydia Hutchinson, who opens her last column with these words: "There's nothing I've ever let go of that wasn't ripped to shreds with red, agonizing, regret-stained claw marks. But not this time. This time there's only a complete sense of peace and gratitude."

If there's one tiny bright spot in all of this, it's that it's not too late to save another voice in the music press: Paste magazine. (Full disclosure: Between my 12 years at The Onion's A.V. Club and my past three years at NPR Music, I spent 17 months nourishing my soul with a healthy regimen of nap-taking, snack-eating and writing freelance album reviews for Paste. I stopped early in 2006, but maintain several cordial relationships there.)

Paste, like many music magazines, has struggled financially in recent years, and the magazine's representatives say they're one $300,000 fundraising drive from being back on sure footing — while insisting that the business plan is in place to prevent future shortfalls. Over the past few weeks, they've asked readers to contribute what they can, and Paste reps say they're two-thirds of the way to raising what they need.

I'll try to spare the spiel about Paste's worthiness — though I've long found it to be a bastion of smart, passionate writing about more than just music — and cut to the part where nearly 150 artists donated MP3s (many of them rarities or even exclusives) to the cause. Which means that a donation of any size unlocks a "vault" containing a treasure trove of free music. In other words, a terrific vehicle for music discovery is repaying its humble benefactors by offering them a boatload of additional music discoveries. I'm not here to tell anyone what to do, but you don't have to be terribly altruistic to buy into that deal, and help save a fine music magazine in the process.

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