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Old 11-04-2014, 01:12 PM
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Scott K Fish Scott K Fish is offline
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Default Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?
by Scott K Fish



If I can't have the cover story, I'm not doing an interview at all.

I witnessed three drummers flat out refuse Modern Drummer feature interviews because they wouldn't be cover stories. The drummer with the cover story had his photo on the magazine cover.

Two were jazz drummers. The third was a pop/country drummer who played with a big name in pop music who was years dead.

I understood why the drummers said no, but I thought it was shortsighted. An MD feature interview - with photos - was great publicity, easily parlayed into greater publicity.

During my time as MD's managing editor (1980-83), each issue generally had three or four feature stories: three feature interviews, and maybe a feature on a drum company, a cymbal manufacturer, or the history of jazz drumming.

The editorial staff - Features Editor Rick Mattingly, me, and Ron Spagnardi - discussed which drummers would have the cover story each month. Ron Spagnardi had the final word, but I don't remember any line-in-the-sand disagreements.

The key deciding factor, but not the sole factor, was: which drummer would sell the most magazines off newsstands? Modern Drummer depended on newsstand AND subscriber sales. Subscribers had paid in advance. Newsstand MD buyers had to be persuaded every month that the current issue was worth whatever it cost at the time.

That calculation was based on experience that started, I think, with MD's October/November 1979 special Gene Krupa issue. MD founder Ron Spagnardi told me at one staff meeting, the Krupa tribute was the lowest selling MD ever. That surprised Ron. He expected, because of who Krupa was, and what Krupa meant to all drummers - that drummers would scoop up that issue. They didn't.

One month the editorial staff wrestled over two feature interviews as the cover story. One was an outstanding, personal piece on Papa Jo Jones by Chip Stern - who was very close, spent a great deal of time with Papa Jo Jones. The second interview was with Slim Jim Phantom, drummer with a hot, rising band called Stray Cats.

Who was more deserving of the cover? Papa Jo Jones. No question. Who would sell more issues on newsstands? Papa Jo or Slim Jim? And if a Papa Jo issue suffered the same fate as the Krupa issue - not many drummers would read it anyway. Whereas, if a Slim Jim cover sold lots of issues - the Papa Jo interview would be in the hands of more drummers!

In the end - for the first time, I think - Ron split the difference, giving Papa Jo 90-percent of the cover with a Slim Jim photo insert on the lower right corner. If memory serves, that cover ended the single drummer photo on MD covers policy. Soon that real estate was used to promote more than one drummer.

-end-

Scott K Fish Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals
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Old 11-04-2014, 02:45 PM
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Bernhard Bernhard is offline
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

Scott: Great insight view - thanks a lot - let's keep them coming..... Again many thanks...

Bernhard
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Old 11-04-2014, 02:53 PM
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

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Scott: Great insight view - thanks a lot - let's keep them coming..... Again many thanks...

Bernhard
Echo that :) Great to hear behind the scenes stuff!
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Old 11-04-2014, 04:23 PM
Derek Derek is offline
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

Same here. Really enjoying your input Scott.
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Old 11-04-2014, 05:42 PM
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

Thanks.

I used to read a lot of controversy over who got the cover in MD in the 80's, and thought it was pretty silly.

Although in the last few years, it seems the criteria for cover has gone out the window. I have to say, I've started to lose interest in a magazine I used to obsess about.
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Old 11-04-2014, 06:09 PM
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BillRayDrums BillRayDrums is offline
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

I always thought if the person had the latest tats, a bone through their nose and those big ear stretchers that would get them to the cover much faster.

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Old 11-05-2014, 01:07 AM
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Alain Rieder Alain Rieder is offline
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

Very much interesting, Scott.

I have not welcomed you here yet, and I also appreciate your input, as much as I liked your MD interviews at the time.

The first time I heard about MD was after it had existed for one year, in 1977 I think. I was a 22 y/o drummer from Switzerland, and I immediately subscribed to the magazine.

My mother tongue being French, I started reading the issues with a dictionary at hand. I learned a lot about drumming, as well as the English language, and I can tell you that your interviews have had a real impact on me for these reasons.
Also I always felt that you were giving us an intimate view of these drummers, and I liked your own articles tremendously.

I still have all the issues from that time and never stopped my subscription!

Thank you Scott!
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Old 11-05-2014, 11:57 AM
mikel mikel is offline
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

I do find that insight very surprising, I could understand it from guitarists (only joking) but to have fellow drummers spitting there dummy out cos they wont be on the cover? Just shameful, I thought we were better than that.
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Old 11-06-2014, 01:09 PM
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Scott K Fish Scott K Fish is offline
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

Former MD Features Editor Rick Mattingly posted this insight on my Facebook page:

Another interesting fact about cover stories: the drummer's popularity don't always match the band's popularity. We did a cover story on Carl Palmer when he was in Asia. The issue did well, because Carl was a legend among drummers, but Asia got terrible reviews and cut their U.S. tour short. A few months later we did a cover on Roger Taylor of Duran Duran. That issue did not do well, because although Duran Duran was at the height of their popularity, drummers were not particularly interested in Taylor.

Thank you, Rick!

skf
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Old 11-06-2014, 05:13 PM
mikel mikel is offline
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Default Re: Modern Drummer Cover Story: Who Decides?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott K Fish View Post
Former MD Features Editor Rick Mattingly posted this insight on my Facebook page:

Another interesting fact about cover stories: the drummer's popularity don't always match the band's popularity. We did a cover story on Carl Palmer when he was in Asia. The issue did well, because Carl was a legend among drummers, but Asia got terrible reviews and cut their U.S. tour short. A few months later we did a cover on Roger Taylor of Duran Duran. That issue did not do well, because although Duran Duran was at the height of their popularity, drummers were not particularly interested in Taylor.

Thank you, Rick!

skf
Just goes to show that I must buy drummer mags for different reasons to most. The cover artist is of little appeal to me as a selling tool. I will read any drum mag from cover to cover, regardless. My first look, to see if I want to buy, is the review section, If there is stuff in there I want to read about I will buy the mag.
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