Behind the scenes: Crack magazine

by Steve Watson in February 2015
Everything

When it comes to discovering new music at home or in the office, there’s just no beating the web. But while the internet has upended the business of paid-for music magazines, a few free titles are still carving out a place for themselves by reaching people while they’re out and about in pubs, bars and clubs.

Bristol-based free sheet Crack has been expanding across the UK for the last five years, and this issue it made the leap across to Berlin for the first time. I caught up with managing director and creative director Jake Applebee to find out more about their expansion, and discovered that for Crack magazine, a strong local identity is just as important as the need to keep moving forward.

Crack-cover

Why make a print magazine about music these days? Isn’t the web the natural home for music now?
When we started the magazine I’d just graduated from a graphics course and I was really keen to produce something I could actually hold in my hands. That was our probably naïve starting point, but five years down the line I still think the printed page carries a lot of value.

And of course you also do a lot on the web. Where do you strike the balance with that? Does one lead the other?
For everyone who works here, the print magazine is where the passion is. Once it’s out there you can’t correct a mistake like you can online, so a lot of effort goes into getting it right. And we release the magazine first, so I’d say print definitely leads for us.

Crack-magazine

Would you mind me asking how many copies you’re printing at the moment?
We printed 41,000 for the current issue, which increased for the move to Berlin. That’s compared to our first run, which was about 5,000, so our print bill keeps getting bigger and bigger but it’s been merited – the magazines always get picked up and the move to Berlin has really buoyed everyone in the office.

Tell me about that – what’s behind the move to Berlin?
We know lots of people out there and it’s an amazing place. And a Berlin edition is a continuation for us because we already have separate editions in the UK. That has really been key to our survival; we’ve got different versions for London, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester, and it all gets a bit complicated but we figure it out!

We could have expanded further within the UK, but we felt like that wouldn’t really change the perspective of the magazine that much, so we got a really good quote to ship them out to Berlin and we decided to take a gamble. Berlin is one of the most culturally important cities in the world, and I think it’s really good for the magazine to be seen out there.

Crack-magazine

Do you think your local focus is connected to the appeal of print? Because you can really target it to specific places in specific cities.
It’s important that the magazine has a dialogue with its readers – some people think we’re just a Bristol magazine and some people think we’re just a London magazine, and that’s really important. I hope that if people feel like the magazine is being made for them, they’ll buy into it a bit more.

And of course you’re also involved with running the Simple Things festival in Bristol and you’ve got your own pub too. What’s going on with that?
Yeah – for me one of the most important things with making a magazine is trying to move forward. If we were just making the magazine and that’s all we ever did I think we’d struggle to survive in the future, and part of that is thinking, well you’ve got your audience but what other avenues can you use that audience for?

We’ve been really excited to work on Simple Things over the last couple of years, and the pub has been great too. We know a guy who runs a couple of pubs in Bristol – he’s advertised with us for years, and we started talking about opening a place together. He bring the know-how because we wouldn’t know what we’re doing, and we’ve tailoring it to the aesthetics to our audience.

It opened in May last year and it’s really good – it’s lovely to have meetings there and the nicest thing is that it’s not just a hipster hangout. It’s a lovely little spot in the centre of town, and it’s just a really nice place to hang out.

Ready for more music magazines? Check out our interview with Ben House from The Wire





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