Q Magazine, a cornerstone of rock journalism in the UK, is to close after 34 years.
“The [coronavirus] pandemic did for us and there was nothing more to it than that,” said the editor Ted Kessler in a tweet.
He also shared the editor’s letter for the final issue, due on July 28, in which he said: “I must apologise for my failure to keep Q afloat.”
“The pandemic and lockdown has further accelerated the trends already affecting the publishing industry,” Chris Duncan, the chief executive of UK Publishing at Q’s owners Bauer Media, told The Guardian. “Some titles that were already challenged, unfortunately, are not expected to be sustainable after the crisis.”
The magazine’s circulation had fallen to 28,000 per month from a peak of 200,000 in 2001.
The final issue of Q. On sale Tuesday 28 July. pic.twitter.com/STYJ2snH5m
— Q Magazine (@QMagazine) July 20, 2020
Founded in 1986 by Smash Hits writers Mark Ellen and David Hepworth, Q arrived at the same time as the CD revolution took off and its glossy format chimed perfectly with the times. Its hefty and comprehensive reviews section not only covered new releases, but the welter of re-issues that were starting to appear as record labels plundered their archives to bolster the new format.
Q’s first cover star was Paul McCartney, closely followed by Rod Stewart and Elton John (Headline: “The wit, the wisdom, the wardrobe”). Future editions saw the likes of Madonna, Prince, Kate Bush, Nirvana, a pregnant Britney Spears and a naked Terence Trent D’Arby grace the cover. Former editor Danny Kelly later said he’d worked out that D’Arby was “the only star beautiful enough and egotistical enough to get their kit off”.
The magazine flourished during the Britpop years, but saw its reputation stall in the mid-2010s with a listicle format (“the 10 greatest gigs of all time” or “the 120 greatest stories in rock ‘n’ roll”) that minimised the strength of its journalism.
More recently, the magazine had rediscovered its voice under Kessler, who was appointed editor in 2017, and promoted revealing, in-depth interviews with the likes of Lana Del Rey, Tame Impala and The Streets; alongside deep dives into the back catalogues of The Specials and the Beastie Boys.
However, in May, Q’s owner Bauer Media put the title under review, along with a number of others in its portfolio, as sales and advertising revenues diminished during the coronavirus pandemic.
The penultimate issue of the magazine read like a eulogy, with writers past and present recalling their most memorable interviews of the last 34 years.
Writer Adrian Deevoy recalled a 1991 encounter with Madonna, where she declared: “Everyone probably thinks I’m a raving nymphomaniac, when the truth is I’d rather read a book.” Elsewhere, Dorian Lynskey recounted a trip to Argentina with Noel Gallagher, where the erstwhile Oasis guitarist demanded a DJ played Madonna’s “Hung Up”, and slow-danced with Bono to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”
Bono appeared on the magazine’s last page, too, reflecting on its fate. “I’m gonna miss it if it goes, because it had everything I want from a music mag,” he said. “All the serious and all the silly…The scholarship deftly done”.
The magazine will publish one final issue after those words. Kessler shared an image of the cover on Twitter, suggesting it will be another trawl through the archives, under the headline: “Adventures with Legends, 1986 – 2020”.
In his editor’s letter, he wrote: “”We’ve been a lean operation for all of my tenure, employing a variety of ways to help keep our head above water in an extremely challenging print market. Hopefully these final issues will provide inspiration to someone canny enough to fill that huge, Q-shaped hole on the news stand.”
Tim Burgess, frontman of the Charlatans, was among those paying tribute, saying: “Sad news … Q was good to us over the years, I learned much from its pages, ever since I bought the very first copy.”
Baxter Dury wrote on Twitter,” Brilliant magazine, brilliant editor, this is very sad news.”
Sleaford Mods added that “an article in Q” was something “musicians dream about achieving” and sent best wishes to Kessler and the rest of the staff.