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Defunct music magazine Creem plans to rock again in the fall

By Jeff Karoub
Associated Press / July 13, 2011

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DETROIT - An iconic, sardonic rock ’n’ roll magazine with Detroit roots that ceased regular print publication more than 20 years ago is planning a comeback.

The publishing team behind Creem said it’s restarting the presses in mid-to-late September for the magazine that officially shut down operations in 1988 and has been online only since 2001. They envision the quarterly publication as part of a broader music network that includes mobile apps and streaming music videos - all with the aim of attracting old and new readers.

The magazine most associated with its editor, the late wild-haired, prolific critic Lester Bangs, has been down the revival road before.

It had a brief return in 1990, and talk of another surfaced in the early 2000s, after the release of Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical movie “Almost Famous’’ renewed interest in Bangs and Creem. Though better known for his Rolling Stone connection, Crowe wrote for Creem as a teenager, with Bangs as his editor.

That revival didn’t happen, but those involved with Creem now say the evolution of the Internet and a desire among music fans for “something real’’ make this reboot more realistic.

“We just feel the timing is now,’’ said Jason Turner, board chairman of Creem Enterprises Inc. “There’s so much amazing music happening today but there’s no filter, no curation happening. We think Creem is a great brand to do this under.’’

The magazine was launched in Detroit in March 1969 by the late Barry Kramer, a small-time retailer who owned a record shop. One of his clerks at the record store proposed they publish a local music magazine. Within two years, it went national.

Turner, who said he’s been working with Creem since 2001, said the mission is to blend new and old. Barry Kramer’s son, J.J., is a director in the venture, and Turner said readers can expect a return to Creem’s “long-form journalism’’ in the print publication.

Turner said the limited-edition print magazine - pegged at about 150,000 to 200,000 copies - will be targeted to Creem’s “built-in audience.’’ The online operation is intended “to bring that demographic down and bring it back to that music culture we feel is missing or diluted,’’ he said.

He declined to discuss financing until a full announcement comes in the weeks ahead.

Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, said reviving Creem is a great idea but one that will be “tougher than tough’’ to execute. He cites the failed revivals of Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post, and others, and the rare exception of Vanity Fair.

Trying to cater to diverse demographics in an age of fragmentation will be Creem’s biggest barrier to re-entry.

“Having it both ways is the imaginative business plan, the dream business plan for any entrepreneur,’’ Husni said. “Yet . in my career following this business for 30 years I’ve yet to see someone fulfill that dream.’’

For all of the changes in the publishing industry, Turner sees an online world of music journalism that’s scrappy, fanatical, and entrepreneurial - much like Creem was in its early days.

“Everyone asks us, ‘Who is your Lester Bangs?’ ’’ said Turner, who was born the year Creem was founded. “We have to write with personality, and we think some of the best ways to find up-and-coming writers is to open it up to users to contribute,’’ he said.

Creem is building up its editorial operation in Los Angeles, while the business group is in New York. As for Detroit, well, it’s got the Web development - but Turner would like to make it the site of Creem-sponsored shows and maybe a museum in the future.

“We’re going to continue to honor Creem’s lineage,’’ he said.