Kerrang’s new owner on why there’s a place for the rock bible in a ‘post-Vice’ world

Kerrang’s new owner on why there’s a place for the rock bible in a ‘post-Vice’ world

Last month newly-formed publisher Wasted Talent, snapped up Kerrang and defunct 90s style title the Face. Owner Jerry Perkins tells The Drum about his plans to hone both brands for a digital generation.

Kerrang, the Face and electronic dance and clubbing magazine Mixmag were brought together under the same publisher last month with the launch of newly-formed parent company Wasted Talent.

Having previously gone under the name of Mixmag Media, Wasted Talent will still publish Mixmag alongside its two freshly-acquired magazines, and music fans needn't be worried about what this means for the future of Kerrang, because its new publisher has its roots firmly planted in music.

Wasted Talent takes its name from a talent agency kickstarted by its chairman, Ian Flooks – who in the heydays of punk and new wave was responsible for signing acts like The Clash, Kraftwerk and Talking Heads.

For now, Wasted Talent is focused on recalibrating Kerrang and the Face for future generations.

As a title, Mixmag itself has found success by focusing on YouTube. The magazine, which started life as a dance-music newsletter in the 80s, now claims to reach over 20 million fans per month across its various YouTube channels. This is undoubtedly an attractive proposition for brands, like Smirnoff, which have worked with the platform to garner the attention from the hard-to-reach millennial audience. As a result of gains on the back of a strategy focused on branded content, Mixmag has opened offices in New York, Brazil, South Korea, France, China and more.

The Vice-like approach coupled with an international structure are tools chief executive, Jerry Perkins, will be using in his plans to refocus Kerrang’s resources on both editorial and advertiser-funded video content.

Global niche

One thing he is certain of, though, is that under his watch the brand won’t be selling out.

“Traditionally when you’re publishing a magazine and your sector is getting smaller you’ll taste the mainstream – for Kerrang that would be putting as many mainstream artists on the cover as possible. The best thing about digital is that you can stick to the messages that you really believe in and are passionate about, and promote the new artists that you really believe in," he told The Drum.

Lamenting on why this might be an attractive buy for marketers, he believes that Kerrang doesn't need to sell out to scale, because the readership is more like a fandom that transcends borders.

"In other words you can keep your integrity and offer advertisers brilliant targeting in a really good environment as well as scale – which is want everyone wants," he explained.

Perkins says that the social audiences around the brand are one of the "most valuable" things Wasted Talent has purchased. "They will be the apostles that can help us spread the word about what we’re doing on these channels," he adds.

As part of the deal, former Kerrang and The Face owner Bauer will retain the broadcast rights to the brand in the UK and Europe for Kerrang Radio and Kerrang TV. Perkins is adamant this won't affect his plans to hone the magazine's video output, pointing out the "big difference" between broadcast and video on demand and saying he believes the pair will be a "complimentary" business.

Championing talent

While Perkins remains tight-lipped on what's in store for The Face, he reveals that in an unprecedented move, Kerrang is poised to go monthly by the end of 2017. The 36 year-old weekly magazine currently has a yearly print circulation figure of 18,462, and while rivals like NME have gone free, Perkins believes investment in print is imperative.

Everyone from Prince to Paramore have featured on Kerrang's front cover and the boss thinks the print product is important for the talent in the industry it serves.

"You haven’t really made it as an alternative rock band until you’ve been on the cover of Kerrang," he asserted, adding that the magazine's role is to champion talent and serve as a physical embodiment of the brand for those who may not be familiar with it.

In a world where streaming platforms like Deezer and Spotify have made it part of their mission to promote fresh artists, it's notable that Perkins is of the view there is still a place for a traditional publisher to continue the mantle. He says that there is an opportunity to help curate and break talent in tandem with these platforms, as well as SoundCloud which is a central part of Mixmag's blueprint for the future.

Blurred lines

Just last month, some of the UK's largest online publishers including Hearst and Lad Bible revealed that the lines between church and state were "blurring" in their newsrooms as their branded content outfits become more sophisticated.

Perkins didn't go into specifics on how branded content would be produced from the Kerrang side, but did say the team will be tasked with producing content that is on message with the magazine's brand and which appeals to "tribe" it attracts.

"As a magazine editor, you could say ‘I want you to write 10 stories on behalf of a brand’ and journalists will probably say ‘that’s a compromise, I don’t want to do that’, but if you walked into a creative agency and said ‘here’s £500,000, what I want you to do is not to create ads but create great content’ they’d think it was the best job they’d ever had," he explained, without going into specifics on what his own approach to this would be.

For now, it's clear Perkins has spotted an opportunity in the market to hook up brands with rock fans via a trusted title like Kerrang and as for the Face he promises there are significant announcements to come before the year is out.

Intrigue around the relaunch of the latter is permeable with bygone chiefs and readers speaking out in praise of the move. Former editor Sheryl Garratt is among the enthused, telling the Guardian: "There is a real lack of good, longform journalism about popular culture in this country. There’s this perceived wisdom that people have a two-minute concentration span, but we would run 10,000 words on pop groups. Why can’t you do that about grime?"

One reader's comment, citing the Nathan Barley-esque magazine's rise from the ashes as "totally fucking Mexico," perfectly surmises the excitement around its re-tuning for the digital age.

Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. Based in London, she writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

All by Rebecca