The Best Magazines For Pop Music Fans

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Alternative Press

Alternative Press cover
Courtesy Alternative Press

Alternative Press is one of the deserved kings of niche music magazines. Since 1985 AP has championed underground alternative music.

A significant number of key bands such as Red Hot Chili PeppersFall Out Boy, and My Chemical Romance have received important early boosts in their careers from the pages of Alternative Press. The magazine introduced their own awards ceremony in 2014. It was an instant success with attendance in the range of 6,000.

Alternative Press began in June 1985 as a photocopied punk music 'zine that was distributed at concerts in Cleveland, Ohio. The publication's name was not a reference to alternative music. Instead, it referred to an alternative to the local press coverage of music.

The magazine struggled financially through its first decade, but it eventually it took hold and became a relevant power in the alternative music scene. Through the years, Alternative Press resisted many efforts by others to buy out the publication.

Official Site

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Billboard cover
Courtesy Billboard

If it's not on a Billboard chart, most of the music industry says it's not on a chart. The magazine's origins go clear back to 1894, but it is only since about the 1930s that Billboard has been a major player in the music industry.

You don't go to Billboard for criticism in reviews or for witty writing. However, the extensive chart data makes it the weekly magazine of record for popular music worldwide. In recent years, the magazine has reached out beyond the industry to pop music consumers more than ever in the past. Billboard host annual music awards as well as a wide range of other music industry events.

The flagship Billboard chart is the Hot 100 list of the most popular songs. It dates back to 1955. Billboard also publishes a weekly chart of the Top 200 most popular albums. Online archives of the magazine are maintained online dating back to 1940.

Official Site

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Entertainment Weekly

Entertainment Weekly cover
Courtesy Entertainment Weekly

Entertainment Weekly has only been in existence since 1990 and is therefore still a relative newcomer to the world of popular music reporting.

However, although its broad focus includes film, TV, books, and video as well as music, the access EW writers and reviewers receive (the magazine's parent company is entertainment behemoth Time Warner) makes their insight worth reading.

Also, outside of music industry bible BillboardEntertainment Weekly is the only mass market US publication bringing fans music news in paper form on a weekly basis. The magazine's website has been ranked as one of the top 10 most popular entertainment news destinations.

Unlike Billboard, the primary audience for Entertainment Weekly is entertainment consumers. A 2011 ranking listed Entertainment Weekly as the seventh most popular entertainment news property in the US. More than one million readers visit the magazine's website daily.

Official Site

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Hits cover
Courtesy Hits

Hits is a music trade publication that was initially launched in 1986. It was created by individuals who previously worked in music promotion. The magazine's website Hits Daily Double began in 2000.

It includes up to the minute rumors and news in the music industry. Hits presents stories with an irreverent and insider point of view. Hits republishes charts from a variety of sources including Vevo, Shazaam, and Mediabase. Insiders consider it one of the music industry's most reliable tip sheets.

Official Site

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Mojo cover. Courtesy Mojo

Mojo was launched in 1993 by the publishers who brought us Q. It is a British music magazine that focuses on past rock and pop artists. It is well known for publishing top 100 lists in a wide range of topics.

Mojo has also published a series of well-received special editions about topics ranging from Pink Floyd to punk music. Mojo isn't exclusively about classic rock. It has earned acclaim for an early focus on such relevant artists as the White Stripes.

Mojo helped inspire the creation of the magazines Blender and Uncut. Blender, in particular, focused on music lists and ceased publication in 2009. Such notable music critics as Greil Marcus and Jon Savage have written for Mojo.

Official Site

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Music Week

Music Week
Music Week Cover. Courtesy Music Week

Music Week is roughly the UK equivalent of Billboard. It is a trade magazine for the music industry in the UK. It began in 1959 as Record Retailer and was named Music Week beginning in 1972.

Through the years the publication has absorbed other competitors. The magazine publishes a variety of music charts based on those compiled by Official Charts. Music Week is published 51 weeks a year.

Music Week also compiles their own charts with data from DJs and predictors of the success of new talent. Music Week conducts its own yearly awards ceremony.

Official Site

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NME cover. Courtesy NME

NME, short for New Musical Express, is a venerable UK music weekly. Publishing weekly since 1952, the magazine is known for its sense of hype. Bands can be touted as the next big thing before they've even released a recording. 

NME is also known for a willingness to turn on a band just as they've begun to benefit from the magazine's previous support. In response to declines in paid subscriptions, NME became a free weekly publication beginning in September 2015.

The change in distribution focus has resulted in the largest audience in the magazine's history. As of early 2016, more than 300,000 copies of the magazine were distributed weekly. NME hosts an annual awards celebration.

NME took its cue from Billboard in creating the first UK singles chart in 1952. NME's main competitor through the 1960s and 1970s was Melody Maker, a big champion of glam rock in the early 1970s. Melody Maker eventually ceased publication in 2000 and some of its writers moved to NME.

Official Site

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Q Magazine
Q Cover. Courtesy Q Magazine

Q modestly calls itself "The World's Greatest Music Magazine," and it is difficult to argue. Although it is based in the UK, there is plenty of information in Q to keep an American pop fan coming back for more.

Each monthly issue is a mini-book stuffed with loads of reviews of albums and music-related movies, DVDs, and books as well as current download lists, great interviews, coverage of key events in pop music history and writing that revels in an edgy sense of humor.

Q was launched in 1986. Since 1990, the magazine has hosted the annual Q Awards. They present commendations for lifetime achievements as well as the current year's music.

At its first launch, Q was aimed at older music fans that the founders thought were being ignored by much of the music press. The magazine was originally to be named Cue, referring to cueing a record, but the letter Q was adopted to distinguish the name from billiards games.

For many years, Q included free CDs of music with each issue of the magazine. A 2008 rework of the style of Q included more focus on non-music subjects. Some critics complained that it was cheapening the magazine and going for a Rolling Stone style audience.

Official Site

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Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone cover. Courtesy Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone is the granddaddy of US rock music magazines. Amid declining readership, the magazine has become more aggressive in its coverage of major news events as well as the current music world. First launched in 1967, the magazine now makes its full archive available to readers online.

Rolling Stone became embroiled in a major journalism controversy in 2014 when the magazine ran a cover story about rape on college campuses that included many mistakes and facts that had not been checked thoroughly.

The publication became the target of multiple lawsuits. Despite the controversies, a 5-star review in Rolling Stone still carries much weight in the music world.

When it was launched in 1967, founder Jann Wenner explained that the name Rolling Stone was a reference to three different things. They included Muddy Waters' classic blues song "Rollin' Stone," the rock band the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan's landmark song "Like a Rolling Stone."

Jann Wenner has remained in charge of Rolling Stone from the beginning and currently owns 100% of the magazine. Recent reports indicate he may sell a 49% share in the magazine.

Official Site