Music magazine launches ‘Beard Aid’ business model

Independent free music magazine Bearded is launching a curious initiative to try to fund the magazine through reader donations. ‘BeardAid‘ asks readers to “give £2 a month in exchange for exclusive music content, free magazines, discounts and free entry to Bearded gigs as well as a host of freebies.”

So, a music club then? Well, only if you’ve got your Old Media hat on. Because the magazine is explicitly inviting readers to be part of their project, rather than simply paying money. I’ve spoken before about ‘punk capitalism‘ and this seems to me to be another example. Not only that, but it’s another symptom of the disintermediation of the media industry – more on that later.

As founder Gareth Main (disclosure: he’s a former student) puts it to the mailing list:

“To support Beardaid, we are asking for Bearded’s friends and everybody with a love for independent music to buy Bearded a metaphorical pint every month (or a half in London).

“£2 a month to ensure the only nationwide magazine dedicated to the independent music industry can continue providing coverage long into the future, £2 a month to secure very cheap advertising for independent labels to help give records vital publicity to keep going, the price of one cheap pint a month to keep the only music magazine that uses only 100% recycled materials in its production.

“We also have free web advertising for all supporters”

You can see what he’s doing here – and the name ‘BeardAid’ itself sends some very clear signals about the sort of enterprise this is, not about profit so much as a common cause:

“We are hoping we’ll be able to significantly reduce the cost of advertising to independent labels and other companies in the independent music industry – thus increasing their ability to reach a wider audience.”

Main admits that it is “a risky strategy” but for me it’s a clever one, that taps into the increasingly peer-to-peer nature of both the music and news industries – because this is aimed at both consumers and producers of music, on the reasonable assumption that increasingly they are one and the same. If a reader who is also an independent artist can get free advertising in Bearded for £2 per month – not to mention free albums and discounted gigs – doesn’t that make more sense than selling ads to record companies and magazines to readers?

Oh, and you get the magazine delivered free too.

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