I’m very sorry to write that one of the industry’s most influential and important titles is no more. It’s a sad day indeed when an industry journal as respected as Pro Sound News Europe has closed down.
PSNE, as the magazine was commonly known, was always an exercise in celebrating an industry that works hard, plays hard, wakes up with a hangover the size of Frankfurt yet still makes it into the nearest trade show to gratefully accept a 10am bucks fizz.
At its heart, the European business in particular comprises a community of deeply talented, wonderfully cynical individuals who really like cargo shorts but will reluctantly adhere to a dress-code best described as “tour-bus”. In more recent years, things have become a little more corporate, a little less wild. But it remains a fearsome challenge to bring all of those voices together and represent the industry as one cohesive, coherent trade. Yet for decades and under successive editors, Pro Sound News Europe achieved exactly that.
At its best, it did so by staying one step ahead of the industry it served. When I first started out, the editor of PSNE was Phil Ward – a brilliant writer equipped with the wit of Wilde, the dress sense of Columbo and a keen belief in the power of a pint. Phil’s great gift was and still is the ability to bring the big, bold personalities that dominate the business straight to the page without ever (accidentally) veering into caricature. He set the tone that the rest of us followed for the next decade or more.
Phil was replaced by the quiet and unassuming electronic music aficionado David Robinson. I write that description purely in the hope that he’ll read this. A force of nature from the strength of his conviction to the speed with which he delivers it, Robbo, as everyone knows him, shaped PSNE into a magazine that was just as comfortable documenting the industry’s more extreme moments as persistently asking the awkward questions when no one else dared. For a sector that was experiencing the growing pains of increased maturity, the magazine became exactly the melting pot of differing opinions and debate that was needed. It also raised an eyebrow every month with the notorious column Hither & Dither – a record of industry goings on in which I once proudly featured for suffering an overwhelming amount of cheese.
More recently, the editor’s mantle was passed to Dan Gumble, who completely reinvented the title again, this time as a driver of much needed change. Under Dan’s stewardship, PSNE proudly championed up-and-coming sound engineers and gave a voice to communities within the audio world who had previously been overlooked. Pro audio has long been male dominated and largely white – an uncomfortable problem that Dan confronted head on. Under his watch, PSNE was a magazine for the business as it is now, not as it once was.
What went wrong? Of course, Covid-19 hangs over 2020 like a shroud. The audio world is on the frontline in this particular battle and we’re all suffering the consequences. I can only imagine what it must be like at the moment for publishers who are facing an entire summer or more of little to no advertising revenue. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, that revenue was already dwindling – a process accelerated by Coronavirus, but certainly not created by it.
All of which means we should consider this moment carefully. It’s for advertisers to remember the importance of the industry media or risk losing it entirely. It’s for publishers to find new sources of revenue within a media landscape that no longer values print advertising.
Most of all, I deeply hope that the demise of Pro Sound News Europe is a painful but isolated incident rather than a sign of what is to come, and that the legacy of a truly iconic magazine is remembered and built upon in the years to follow.