Approaching its 40th anniversary, Kerrang! reaches 45m people a month

In the ever-changing world of music journalism, Kerrang! Magazine has been one of the few constants for rock and metal fans around the world.

Since its UK launch in 1981, the magazine has become one of the most successful music-based weeklies in the world, reaching around 45m people a month across all channels.

Nathan Warby spoke to editor Sam Coare about his route into music journalism, the 24/7 role of the editor, and being inspired by Axl Rose.

What drew you into magazine journalism?

I love the medium. I love working in teams of people who create on a daily basis.

Why music journalism specifically? Do you play?

I’ve never actually been that musically inclined, though I’ve had many a failed attempt to learn guitar in my years, so I thought the next best way to engage my passion for rock music was to write about it.

So who’s your favourite band?

Guns n’ Roses and they have a song called Get in the Ring in which lead singer Axl Rose takes shots at the journalists he thinks have done him wrong. Imagine hearing that as a 14-year-old rock music obsessive.

What was your route into the industry?

I was an avid reader of other magazines when I was younger which I think sparked the passion in me. I studied journalism at Cardiff University and got heavily involved in student media. I went to Q magazine for work experience, which led to some shifts on the subs desk there, then started working for Shortlist. I spent a few years kicking around various magazines and writing for them and eventually, there was an opening at Kerrang! that I went for. It was always the end goal.

What’s the best thing about your job as editor?

I see incredible shows and go to amazing places with people I admire, I ask them the questions that I’ve wanted to ask since I was a kid – l get to live that dream.

And the worst?

As much as I love it, it is a lifestyle, not just a job. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week – you can’t just turn off from it. There are days where I’d love to turn my phone off and go home at 5 o’clock to hang out with my wife and my cat.

Lots of my friendships were formed from seeing people at school reading Kerrang!. a magazine still offers that sense of identity

How do you continue to grow Kerrang!?

A few years ago, we fell way behind in the digital world because we were part of Bauer publishing who were then very print-focused, so the investment on the digital side wasn’t always available. But, in moving over to [publishers] Wasted Talent we were able to view Kerrang! as a huge brand rather than just a magazine. This enables us to give the audience what they want when they want it, wherever they are and in whatever medium they want. We know the magazine is something that people want to spend time with for the amazing photography and in-depth writing. The YouTube channel is there to excite and engage the fierce passion that people have for live music. And the socials are about delivering music news to a global audience on a minute-by-minute basis.

Other music-based publications have switched to online-only. Why has your print magazine endured?

We’ve always treated the magazine as the heart of the brand; it sets the tone for everything we do. It’s the physical embodiment of what we’re passionate about and what we stand for. It’s the magazine we use to bring artists we like through. We hold it up as our banner and say, “This is who we are, this is what Kerrang! represents”. It endures because the brand would be much weaker without it at the spine. It’s about knowing what print can offer people that they can’t get anywhere else.

Such as?

It’s something you can hold, that you feel represents you – it’s like wearing your favourite band T-shirt. It tells the world who you are and helps you discover people that feel the same as you. Lots of my friendships were formed from seeing people at school reading Kerrang! and I think a magazine still offers that sense of identity.

Finally, do Kerrang! in three chords

It’s about creating a world that every rock music fan, wherever you are and whatever you particularly enjoy about rock music, can enter. This is where you can get the very best content, the very best journalism, the very best audio, the very best video, whatever you want, wherever you want it, wherever you are. This is the place to do it.