The Story of Total Music

Some of you may already know that our brave, nay foolhardy, attempt to drag the concept of quality free music magazine publishing kicking and screaming into the 21st century fell at the one remaining big wobbly hurdle, i.e. advertising indifference back in 2004. Having laboured manfully to deliver six issues of our lovely printed magazine we hit a metaphorical brick wall and what follows is the full gruesome story.

Launching at the end of 2003 Total Music magazine was introduced to an eagerly waiting world with the following announcement…

Launch Poster

‘Total Music is a new consumer monthly from the same team that helmed Making Music through its most consistently successful period. This launch will carry forward that title’s highly respected mixture of artist interviews, news and product reviews, but will add a fresh emphasis on the everyday practicalities of life for the working musician. All of this will be brought to you by a core staff with long-standing careers in journalism and sales. Our freelance team, meanwhile, boasts some of the best names in the business and will be packed full of indispensable news and advice for musos of all levels, along with product reviews and regular sector round-ups. There will be extensive coverage aimed at guitarists, bassists, drummers, keyboardists, string players…you name it, there will be something for everyone. We will also feature frequent updates on the educational possibilities for musicians across the UK. Total Music will be available through MI stores, music colleges, recording and rehearsal studios and other affiliated outlets all across the UK in an initial print-run of 40,000 copies, and leaving the best until last, it will be FREE to all readers. That’s right – a new, inclusive music magazine for precisely nought pence every month.’

Sounds pretty exciting huh? I certainly wanted to read it, and so with a dedicated team who often worked long into the evening for nothing more than a big hug, we set about producing and distributing the new magazine. Sadly a project such as this relies very heavily on advertising revenue and, as we soon discovered, the advertising budgets were often in the hands of people who, just as an example, had no idea who JJ Cale was! – yes, this was a genuine representative of a huge guitar company – or how about the ad sales boss at a bass string manufacturer who took extreme exception to us mentioning that strings are ‘given’ to famous musicians – which they are – and then promptly turned up several weeks later in a shamelessly shoddy, self-serving double page advertorial masquerading as a feature. Add to that agency’s who flatly refuse to even talk to new publications (and who regularly allocate their ‘clients’ advertising budget according to all manner of incestuous, self-serving reasons but seldom, if ever, to new areas where they might actually reach some new customers) and frankly we were on a hiding to nothing.

A selection of Total Music magazine covers

A selection of Total Music magazine covers

Sour grapes? Possibly. You can’t work for over a year on a project that you genuinely believe to be exciting and groundbreaking only to see it fail due to apathy, small-mindedness and beliefs so rooted in the past it’s easy to see why so many musical instrument manufacturers are sliding backwards into the primordial ooze.

We believed, and still believe, that not all free mags have to be one part editorial to nineteen parts advertising with the results printed on toilet paper. Who knows, at some distant point in the future the concept of picking up a good quality, well written, well produced and beautifully designed magazine with a sensible spread of quality ads for free may be commonplace (most commuters now expect to find a free newspaper on their journey to and from work), indeed if the conditions were right we might even be willing to throw caution to the wind and try once again, but sadly not right now.

However (still reading? Well done you) – following the tried and trusted convention of offsetting bad news with good news – as one door slammed resolutely shut another creaked enticingly open due to the website you are currently perusing going from strength to strength, attracting numerous visitors almost from day one and in very short order attracting many thousands of regular readers. We have therefore decided, as of the 1st of November 2004,to throw all of our weight behind this website, which should now be the first port of call for those of you looking for informative, funny and witty features, album, DVD, live and book reviews and the latest music news or touring information. We will also feature regular competitions.

We hope this is the start of something big and welcome your thoughts, ideas or just your rambling incoherent rants, we are also more than open to contributions (we especially want to start developing the live review section outside of the normal London based music venues, so if you think you can write live reviews, and/or take decent live pics we want to hear from you).







 Andy Basire (Editor)