GQ Starting a Music Section That's Not For Nerds
GQ, the men's fashion title that Anthony Bourdain called a magazine "about picking socks," is introducing a music section to its website. The goal is to help demystify the sonic landscape for readers who don't normally frequent enthusiast sites like Pitchfork.com.
"This is not a channel for music nerds," said Howard Mittman, GQ's VP-publisher. The section is currently live on GQ.com, but is not teased from the magazine's homepage. Mr. Mittman said its rollout will be gradual as GQ prepares for a redesign of its site scheduled for later this year.
Other media outlets have stepped into this void. Vice rolled out a music section it calls "Noisey" in 2011. BuzzFeed introduced its own section dedicated to the topic in 2012.
Consumer demand for music is at an all-time high, with the rise of streaming services such as Spotify, Beats and Pandora. But actual music sales were down 4.9% year-over-year through the first half of 2014, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
"It makes sense for GQ to move in there," said Joe Killian, "music impresario" at Radical Media, a production company that often pairs brands with musical acts. "Within the music industry they'll be welcomed and embraced with open arms."
Rebuilding digital staff
GQ has a history of covering music, writing about new tracks and emerging artists as well as profiling and photographing musical icons. Its fashion shoots regularly include musicians.
The magazine's current style editor, Will Welch, previously served as deputy editor of The Fader, an independent music magazine. However, GQ hasn't made any splashy hires to edit the new section. In the final months of 2014, the magazine laid off several members of its digital staff amid a broader reshuffling, according to several people familiar with the brand. It tapped Mike Hofman from Glamour.com as executive digital director to reshape GQ's digital coverage.
GQ and Glamour are both owned by the same parent company, Conde Nast, which also publishes Vogue, Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit and The New Yorker. This week, Conde Nast announced the creation of a new department that will enlist the magazines' editors to consult with advertisers and help them create articles and videos.
Nearly all the Conde Nast magazines are under pressure to grow their digital audiences and revenue associated with digital-advertising sales. The company has suffered from an industry-wide decline in print ad pages, contributing to layoffs at Conde Nast last year.
A music section has the potential to help GQ attract more visitors to its site, which drew 5.1 million unique visitors in December, according to analytics firm ComScore. That marks a 27% decline from the previous year, ComScore said. (Mr. Mittman disputed that figure, saying GQ.com had 8.3 million unique visitors, a 16% year-over-year increase.)
It can also help boost digital ad revenue, which accounts for roughly 20% of GQ's total ad sales
Grammy's after-after party
Music coverage is part of GQ's broader push around the topic and coincides with its February edition, the magazine's first-ever music issue. GQ is also planning an invite-only "after-after party" at this year's Grammy awards in L.A. Feb. 8. It marks GQ's first attempt at hosting such a Grammys soiree, which Mr. Mittman said will become an annual event.
"We want to build a party that musicians want to be at, not have to be at," he added.
The Grammy's party is reminiscent of GQ sibling title Vanity Fair, which throws arguably one of most exclusive after-parties following the Academy Awards.
"If you look at the Oscars, the Super Bowl or NBA All-Star weekend, there are various versions of a fanfest or after-party," said Mr. Killian of Radical Media. "But I would say the Grammy's are wanting something like that from a media outlet. There isn't any one event that brings together brands, style, fashion, music and advertisers."
Giorgio Armani is co-sponsoring the Grammy's event with GQ, which is also running ads for the fashion house in its magazine and online.
Mr. Mittman, who served as publisher of Wired magazine until he was tapped to lead GQ's business side last September, said to expect more new sections on GQ.com. "This will be the first, and over the year I hope you'll see several more," he said.