'Tracks' targets 30+ music fan

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Tracks, a magazine that plans to target over-30 music fans, has secured up to $5 million in funding and is set for a Nov. 18 launch.

The money comes from investor-entrepreneur Frank Wood, who sold a group of radio stations in 1997 for nearly $550 million.

"There's a big, bored, underserved audience out there," Mr. Wood said, while fishing for bluefish off of Cape Cod. "They feel disconnected. No one addresses them directly. Certainly, radio doesn't."

The magazine was co-founded by Publisher John Rollins, Chief Operating Officer Dana Sacher and Editor in Chief Alan Light; all boast former associations with Spin or Vibe on their resumes. Earlier this year, Tracks announced a deal with World Publications, publisher of Saveur and Garden Design, to handle back-office business functions, amid hopes the title would publish two issues before the end of '03.

Mr. Wood will serve as chairman of Tracks' parent company Sub Rosa Communications (which was formerly called Good Music Media) to Mr. Rollins' CEO.

The title will distribute 100,000 copies for its first issue-a smaller print run than previously reckoned-and publish quarterly before publishing every other month in late '04. A one-time full-color page costs $8,000. Mr. Rollins said advertisers signed up thus far include music labels like Universal and spirits purveyor Absolut. The title is slated to hit ten-times-a-year frequency in 2006.

The latest entrant in the music category was Dennis Publishing's Blender, which launched in May `01 (and was Advertising Age's 2002 Launch of the Year). This year, few music magazines are setting ad-page records-Rolling Stone's off 3.4% through July, and Spin's down 13.5%-but both posted newsstand sales increases for the first half of `03. Blender's circulation was not audited in the most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, but its rate base of 410,000 is slated to rise to 525,000 early next year. Blender's ad pages through July were less than Miller Publishing's Spin or Rolling Stone.

MTV mags

The news about Tracks breaks just as media buyers are hearing about plans for two test issues of a younger-skewing MTV magazine. The first of those, pegged around its "Spankin' New" franchise, will hit newsstands in October with a press run of about 300,000, an MTV spokeswoman said, aimed at a core audience of 18-24-year-olds, which is also MTV's core audience. MTV will produce its magazine independently. Previous talks with potential partner Hearst Magazines ended without an agreement.

Mr. Rollins described Tracks' target reader as "approaching 40," with a couple of kids, a commuter who does much of his shopping at mall-based stores. "He's got a busy life. He loved music and still does, but he can't keep up on it as much."

no inside job

"I don't want it to be super-insidery, total music geek," Mr. Light said, who said a cover subject for the launch issue remained undecided. The edit and art staff would number around a dozen, including Managing Editor Perry Van der Meer, formerly of Talk and The New Yorker, and Vibe's former Art Director Ellen Fanning. The musical universe Tracks will focus on is suggested by the artists appearing on its promotional CDs, which range from Neil Young to rock darlings The Strokes to star DJ Felix Da Housecat to rappers The Roots.

"It's one of those long shots you take from time to time," Mr. Wood said. "But I think it's got a very good shot of coming home."

"Also, I've got to say, it's big fun," Mr. Wood said. "What's more fun than a magazine launch?" (Starting a rock band, perhaps, but Mr. Wood dismissed that possibility.)

One media buyer thinks Tracks could fare well. "They've got some potential," said Steve Greenberger, senior VP-director of print at Zenith Media, New York, who was formerly associate publisher for Wenner Media's iconic Rolling Stone. "My advertisers would be interested in it. Music is a very, very strong draw."

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