Relix Returns from the Dead
Investment group, former employees acquire music magazine on brink of folding.
Relix magazine was launched in 1974 as a handmade fanzine for Deadheads.
Now, itâs returning from the dead.
Three months after its publisher, Zenbu Media, put Relixâas well as a pair of metal magazines, Metal Edge and Metal Maniacsâon temporary hiatus, a group of investors led by Peter Shapiroâa former New York nightclub owner and concert producer well-known in the so-called jam band sceneâand a core group of the magazineâs employees have acquired Relix and a pair of related Web sites from Zenbu founder Steve Bernstein.
âI thought there was a good chance we were done,â Josh Baron, Relixâs editor, told FOLIO:.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. (Zenbu is said to be in discussions to sell its metal magazines; the planned launch of a new country music magazine appears to have been scrapped.)
âWeâre not going to miss an issue,â said senior vice president Rachel Seiden, Baronâs fiancĂ©e and a former CondĂ© Nast executive who migrated to Zenbu two years ago. âI couldnât fathom Relix going anywhere. Itâs like the New Yorkerâthese are institutions.â
For the magazineâs fans, the relaunch comes at a heady time. The 92-page June issue, redesigned by Andy Turnbull, features the rock band Phishâreturning from its own hiatusâon the cover. And ad pages, at least for this particular issue, are actually up over last year.
âThis is a scene thatâs healthy,â said Shapiro, who owned a minority stake in Zenbu before he bought Relix and remains Bernsteinâs business partner on a number of other projects, including the Green Apple Music Festival.Â âLive music isnât going anywhere. And with record stores closing, more and more musicians are selling music directly to their fansâthe magazine is a mechanism to reach them.â
Such ads âlend themselves to Relix more than Rolling Stone,â Shapiro said, adding: âWe donât have six ads from Detroit in every issue.â
The economy has not been kind to general interest music magazinesâor niche ones, for that matter. Blender, No Depression, Harp, Resonance, CCM, Mass Appeal and King have all folded their print titles within the past two yearsâwhile others appear to be on life support.
âMore Rolling Stone than Rolling Stoneâ
Shapiroâwho once owned Wetlands, a famed New York rock club and produced the Jammy Awards, the jam-band equivalent of the Grammysâsays he wants to create the âvibe of Rolling Stone in 1974ââboth in terms of editorial coverage and, perhaps more importantly, âcorporateâ culture. (He pointed out that his first day in the office included a live performance by the Dears.)
Relix will remain in Zenbuâs Manhattan offices, subsidizing it by renting the space vacated by Metal Edge and Metal Maniacs to small, like-minded entertainment companies, including Bob Weirâs manager.
Shapiro will serve as publisher of the newly-formed Relix Media Group, Seiden as associate publisher. Baron will remain in the top editor slot.
The rest of the executive team will include Dean Budnick, senior vice president of digital; Mike Greenhaus, vice president and executive editor; chief financial officer Dale Hirschman; and sales and marketing VP Cole Boyle.
All are veterans of the magazineâand all are taking salary cuts, roughly 15 percent, to relaunch Relix.
âIf we didnât see a real business value, we wouldâve walked away,â said Baron. âThis isnât a case of putting a Band-Aid on a magazine. We think we can increase ad revenue, circulation, marketshare. What we had been doing for the last eight yearsâwe werenât done yet.â
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