Australian publications in the 19th century often reported on opera and popular concerts. Australian Musical News (1911–63) focused more on classical music. As popular music became more commercial and internationally influenced, magazines provided important connections between audiences and artists.
The local rock and pop industries benefited from an increasingly sophisticated music press from the 1960s, beginning with Go-Set in 1966. Published weekly in Melbourne until 1974, the teen-oriented title introduced the first national pop record charts and featured contributors including Stan ‘The Man’ Rofe, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, Lily Brett and Vince Lovegrove.
Interestingly, Go-Set predated the iconic international popular music magazine Rolling Stone by a year. Rolling Stone Australia was initially published by Go-Set’s co-founder, Phillip Frazer, in Melbourne in 1970 as a supplement in Revolution, a monthly counter-culture spin-off from Go-Set. When the Australian stand-alone version of Rolling Stone was released, it included local and international reports, and is one of the longest surviving international editions still in circulation. By 2013 it was published by the Bauer Media Group, with a circulation of 18,000.
Influenced by the British rock magazines New Musical Express and Melody Maker, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine, 1975–89), Juke (1975–94) and Roadrunner: Australia’s Independent Music Paper (c. 1978–79) also provided fans with intelligent interviews and analysis. Following these were Australian versions of international pop titles like Smash Hits (1984–2007), Kerrang (2001–05), focusing on heavy rock music, and the Australian version of Classic Rock (2008– ). A relatively distinct local voice, Juice (1993–2003), was published as an alternative voice. ABC classical music titles such as 24 Hours (1989–2003) and Limelight (2003– ) focused on the most popular Australian and international artists of the day.
Within the music magazine landscape in Australia, Rolling Stone is considered by publicists, record labels and artist managers to be a ‘long-lead’ publication—one with which publicists communicate in advance about editorial coverage. These include the weekend magazines that are published with newspapers, broader culture/style magazines such as frankie (2004– ), key music magazines like triple j magazine (2005– ) and trade publication The Music Network (1994–2013). These are usually published monthly and are key ‘taste-making’ publications. In addition, the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), the Australian Music Industry Directory (AMID) and the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) have circulated trade oriented long-lead publications from time to time.
Zines, magazines and newspapers are often referred to as the ‘street press’ because they are available free to consumers from outlets such as cafes, bars, clubs, live music venues and record stores. They are subsidised by advertising, and their editorial coverage sometimes correlates with advertising spending. These publications have varied over time in terms of funding, expertise, exposure and support; however, they remain important touchstones for artists, audiences and music enthusiasts, and have been an important resource for up-and-coming artists, journalists and photographers.
While the front covers of street press magazines are often secured a long way out by publicists, these magazines are often used by live music promoters, due to their wide distribution and fast publication. Artists and promoters can sometimes pay to get editorial coverage and advertisements in a package deal with a short turn-around time to publication.
Most major capital cities (and some regional centres) have had dedicated street press or community music press at some point; however, as with much media in recent times, these have also undergone changes in terms of ownership, networking and sharing of resources. A good example of this is Street Press Australia (SPA), which now owns formerly independent titles including Drum Media (Sydney, 1990– ); Perth, 2006– ), Inpress (Melbourne, 1988– ) and Time Off (Brisbane, 2004– ). The change in ownership, and the changing nature of media and music consumption, have meant that content is now shared broadly across these titles. In August 2013, SPA’s four titles were all rebranded as The Music, with additional features in each city edition, a move that also allowed for the consolidation of the print titles with the company’s internet presence, theMusic.com.au. Beyond SPA’s suite of publications are other street publications, including Brag (Sydney, 2003– ), Beat Magazine (Melbourne, 1989– ), Rip It Up Magazine (Adelaide, 1989– ) and X press Magazine (Perth, 1990– ).
Specific music genres have their own publications. The development of jazz in Australia was covered notably in Australian Band News, established in 1906 and continuing as Music Maker until 1972. In the country music field, the monthly Capital News has been published out of Tamworth since 1989, while Country Update (1996– ) is published quarterly.
The enduring challenge for any niche publisher in Australia, with its small population, is to survive commercially. For example, during publication of its 361 monthly issues, Opera Australia/Opera-Opera (1978–2007) was supported by the finances and professional diligence of its sole editor, David Gyger. Such Australian publishing requires subsidy—in ‘cash and kind’—by all who are associated with it. Music Forum (1996– ), the monthly organ of the Music Council of Australia, publishes serious material on music education, music and society, composition, music and political policy as well as reviews of recordings, largely thanks to the benevolence of the editor, Dr Richard Letts.
The significance of print titles has diminished in the digital age, as online magazines, websites, gig guides and blogs have largely superseded them. These include the Oz Music Project (archived at Pandora) and sites dedicated to specific genres like inthemix (dance), FasterLouder (rock), and Mess+Noise (indie/alternative), which over the last decade have developed strong followings locally as well as internationally, covering Australian music as well as international artists visiting here.
Consumers can now access editorial content from leading international magazines and blogs such as Pitchfork.com and NME.com, and promoters can use Facebook and other social media to advertise shows to consumers.
REFs: S. Groth and S. Sennett, Sean (eds), Off The Record (2010); D. Kent, The Place of Go-Set in Rock and Pop Music Culture in Australia, 1966 to 1974 (2002).