An American MOJO?

I don’t subscribe to MOJO or read it with any regularity whatsoever anymore — I did for a few years when I worked at the record store — in part because of the daunting price tag (I think it runs around $13 here) and in part because I’m just not that compelled by its contents very often (though whenever I do look at an issue, I’m usually pretty impressed and think I should spend more time with it), but in any case I confess to being very much in awe of its success. I have no idea about the actual success of MOJO, in terms of sales and advertising revenues, but the fact that it’s still going and still has a readership outside the UK… must mean something. I’ve never understood why an American company didn’t try to capitalize on that success — to produce, in effect, an American version. One that would:

1) appeal largely to an older (i.e., my age and up) demographic;
2) appeal primarily to a demographic that wants 3,000-word articles, sometimes about icons of rock, sometimes about lesser-knowns, like, I dunno, the bassist in Budgie or something;
3) excite the senses with great layout and design;
4) convince readers that they are holding something worth preserving (see #2 and #3 above);
5) convince readers that they are getting in many ways “definitive” accounts of whoever/whatever it is they’re reading about (and in many cases, they just might be).

Why am I thinking all this? Because of the stuff I’m coming across right now about a revived Creem. Purely from a business (never mind a critical) perspective, a revived Creem (at least as it’s being touted at the moment) seems like such a non-starter right out of the gate. The key concept would seem to be “irreverence.” To which I ask: for whom? Irreverence is cheap right now; indeed, it’s free, because it’s everywhere. I’m guessing that the only kind of music magazine that could actually sell right now would be the complete opposite of that, something highly reverent of its subject matter (which does not necessarily preclude a sense of fun or mischief, though it might preclude to some degree having writers with personalities on board), a publication with a “coffee table” sort of aesthetic, a ‘zine that actually comes close to approximating a book. Not saying I would necessarily buy such a thing. Just a hunch that it could be done and might be done with a modicum of success.

6 thoughts on “An American MOJO?

  1. Dude you have been killing it on this site lately. I’m so glad you decided to keep this space! I also RSS’d that McLuhan side project. I never heard of him before. SO COOL

  2. It’s funny you mention that. I think an American Mojo has been tried at least twice that I can recall. Both were insider-called “failures” and eventually yanked.
    The original Revolver — put out by Brad Tolinski and Tom Beaujour and the folks behind Guitar World back then — was an attempt at an American Mojo. After six or so issues they killed it and turned it into a heavy metal fan magazine.
    I think the problem there was the articles were not long enough and the photographs were not as lavish.
    Remember, Mojo is a thick magazine.
    Not enough record reviews either.
    Same thing with Tracks, which was edited by Alan Light.
    It went a little longer than the original Revolver.
    Same problem though.
    Short articles and a lack of lavish photography and long record reviews.
    Something that has happened to American magazines — music and otherwise — is pages and pages of short blubs with photos and graphs.
    The mag experts say that’s what we like here but you would never see that reading Mojo, Uncut and Classic Rock — all hugely sucessful English music magazines.
    BTW — Blender — which I grew to love over time — failed too. Blender was filled with short stuff.
    I don’t know what it all means but if a copy of Mojo or Uncut or Classic Rock has a feature or two on bands that I’m interested in, I don’t mind plopping down $10 bucks every once in while.
    Now excuse me while I go patiently wait in the corner for the relaunch of Musician Magazine.
    I wish.

  3. I heartily agree with your list of (the original) MOJO’s attributes, Scott. The high price discouraged me from ever subscribing, but I bought many monthly issues of MOJO in the ’90s and early ’00s. I loved the comprehensive band histories (I still have those of my fave bands, the Animals, Love, Byrds, Zombies, etc., on file for permanent reference), as well as the this-month-in-rock-history features (which concentrated on the apocalyptic late ’60s during the time I was following the mag.)

    But beginning sometime in the ’00s, it seemed that whenever I would browse through a new MOJO at the newsstand, I would find 1.) a CD of music discussed in the issue taped to the cover, or 2.) a cover feature about The 100 Best Bassists Of All Time! or 3.) depressingly, *both* marketing genuflections to (in my mind) a potential reader already suffering from ADHD. I wanted MOJO to stay long-form-intellectual like it had been in the beginning, and I would generally put the CD-and-or-cocklength-tally-adorned issues back on the shelf. Sadly, after a while, I stopped even looking at MOJO, let alone buying it.

    I guess I should check a newsstand (do they still exist?) to see what MOJO is doing these days. Maybe it’ll be time to get back on board.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.