A Collection Of Vintage Music Press Advertising

Promotional material from the glory days of the music magazines.

As much as the digital revolution and the spread of downloadable music have changed the record industry beyond all recognition, it’s nothing compared to the wholesale decimation that the music press has suffered. There seems little more superfluous to most people now than a weekly or monthly magazine covering the latest releases when that information is available every day – every hour, in fact – online. While there is still a market for the more specialist and nostalgic music magazines (bought, primarily, by an older readership), the music newspapers of yesteryear now seem like ancient memory.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, things were very different, with no less than four weekly tabloid music newspapers competing for attention. The NME, Sounds, Melody Maker and Record Mirror all had slightly different – though often interchangeable – readership demographics and all four – certain in the post-punk era – had an almost pathetically desperate need to be cool, their fingers on the ever-changing pulse of fickle music fashions. They were joined by glossier, magazine format titles like Smash Hits, Kerrang! and other short-lived affairs, as well as the monthlies that tended to be either genre-specific or pompously bland. One by one, they bit the dust, the slow and painful decline of the NME being the most pitiful to watch.

One of the delights of the music press was the ads for albums, singles and tours. Often, these would appear in titles that hated the bands being advertised but which would happily take the ad money anyway, suggesting a record label promotional budget that was excessive – why would you place ads for metal bands in the determinedly indie NME unless you had more money than sense? But back then, the music press was the only place to find out about new releases and new tours – and the ads often played a major role in raising awareness. It was also a bit of an ego boost for bands to see that they were worthy of full-page ads – and of course, there was a similar subliminal effect on fans. None of this seems remotely important anymore, of course.

Here, then, is a small collection of vintage music press ads – one that will continue to grow as we continue to liberate old music magazines from our archives. As ever, readers are encouraged to send in material from their own collections.

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