The End of an Era


No Depression, the bimonthly magazine covering a broad range of American
roots music since 1995, will bring to an end its print publication with
its 75th issue in May-June 2008.

Plans to expand the publication's website ( with
additional content will move forward, though it will in no way replace
the print edition.

The magazine's March-April issue, currently en route to subscribers and
stores, includes the following note from publishers Grant Alden, Peter
Blackstock and Kyla Fairchild as its Page 2 Hello Stranger column:

Dear Friends:

Barring the intercession of unknown angels, you hold in your hands the
next-to-the-last edition of No Depression we will publish. It is
difficult even to type those words, so please know that we have not come
lightly to this decision.
In the thirteen years since we began plotting and publishing No
Depression, we have taken pride not only in the quality of the work we
were able to offer our readers, but in the way we insisted upon doing
business. We have never inflated our numbers; we have always paid our
bills (and, especially, our freelancers) on time. And we have always
tried our best to tell the truth.
First things, then: If you have a subscription to ND, please know
that we will do our very best to take care of you. We will be
negotiating with a handful of magazines who may be interested in
fulfulling your subscription. That is the best we can do under the
Those circumstances are both complicated and painfully simple. The
simple answer is that advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what
it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that
number to continue to decline.
The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and
industrywide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of
the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from
reductions in, say, GM's print advertising budget; our size meant they
weren't going to buy space in our pages, regardless.
On the other hand, because we're a niche title we are dependent
upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That
is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are
dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.
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.
The decline of brick and mortar music retail means we have fewer
newsstands on which to sell our magazine, and small labels have fewer
venues that might embrace and hand-sell their music. Ditto for
independent bookstores. Paper manufacturers have consolidated and begun
closing mills to cut production; we've been told to expect three price
increases in 2008. Last year there was a shift in postal regulations,
written by and for big publishers, which shifted costs down to smaller
publishers whose economies of scale are unable to take advantage of
advanced sorting techniques.
Then there's the economy
The cumulative toll of those forces makes it increasingly
difficult for all small magazines to survive. 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.
ND has never been a big business. It was started with a $2,000
loan from Peter's savings account (the only monetary investment ever
provided, or sought by, the magazine). We have five more or less
full-time employees, including we three who own the magazine. We have
always worked from spare bedrooms and drawn what seemed modest salaries.
What makes this especially painful and particularly frustrating is
that our readership has not significantly declined, our newsstand
sell-through remains among the best in our portion of the industry, and
our passion for and pleasure in the music has in no way diminished. We
still have shelves full of first-rate music we'd love to tell you about.
And we have taken great pride in being one of the last bastions of
the long-form article, despite the received wisdom throughout publishing
that shorter is better. We were particularly gratified to be nominated
for our third Utne award last year.
Our cards are now on the table.
Though we will do this at greater length next issue, we should
like particularly to thank the advertisers who have stuck with us these
many years; the writers, illustrators, and photographers who have worked
for far less than they're worth; and our readers: You.
Thank you all. It has been our great joy to serve you.

No Depression published its first issue in September 1995 (with Son Volt
on the cover) and continued quarterly for its first year, switching to
bimonthly in September 1996. ND received an Utne Magazine Award for Arts
& Literature Coverage in 2001 and has been nominated for the award
several times (including in 2007). The Chicago Tribune ranked No
Depression #20 in its 2004 list of the nation's Top 50 magazines of any

Artists who have appeared on the cover of No Depression over the years
include Johnny Cash (2002), Wilco (1996), Willie Nelson (2004), Ryan
Adams' seminal band Whiskeytown (1997), the Drive-By Truckers (2003),
Ralph Stanley (1998), Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint (2006), Gillian
Welch (2001), Lyle Lovett (2003), Porter Wagoner (2007), and Alejandro
Escovedo (1998, as Artist of the Decade).


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