I subscribed to Gramophone without a break from when I went to university in 1970. However, when International Record Review first appeared I’d already got fed up with Gramophone and the superficiality of its reviews but I took both magazines side by side for a while and then ditched Gramophone. I continue to subscribe to IRR. I'm sure many other serious collectors would tell a similar story
IRR must have hurt Gramophone among serious collectors – I wonder what IRR’s circulation figures are – and MusicWeb must have cost them readers too. They went far too far down market in my opinion, becoming superficial and artist-led. As Ralph rightly says, it long ago abandoned proper rigour in its reviews, which is the main reason I gave up on it. I suspect that their editorial strategy was based on the assumption that there would be a new market of bright young things awaiting the down-market version which would more than compensate for the loss of the old fuddie-duddies. The fact that their digital sales are so pitiful – which even I find surprising – tends to show, I think, just how wrong that assumption was.
I’m sure part of the trouble was that after the sale to Haymarket the magazine became a small fish in a big pond of titles where the beancounters’ sales targets were the ruling influence. I doubt senior management at Haymarket understood Gramophone's niche market, still less how to respond to changes in that market.
I don’t know how Gramophone will fare with the new owners. These people may not understand their marketplace at all; on the other hand, the title may get more TLC as part of a smaller publishing group. It would be nice to think that the new owners will restore its authority. One key issue is what will happen to the online archive of Gramophone reviews.
It’s very sad to see a once-indispensable magazine – the ‘Thunderer’ of the classical music industry – brought so low.
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