But, still, it’s a bit of a risk to put Brad Paisley on the cover of Guitar Player.
For one thing, our bi-annual survey of subscribers doesn’t chart country music as one of the higher-percentage genres “listened to and/or played” by GP’s reader community. Then there’s the circulation data that shows GP covers bearing men in cowboy hats often tank on the newsstand. (According to the research, green logos are newsstand poison, as well. Go figure.)
But when you have a 40-year legacy of being the guitar magazine with the world’s most diverse stylistic coverage, you sometimes have to damn the data torpedoes and walk it like you talk it. In this arena, GP certainly has more responsibility than some of the other fine guitar publications to reach back into its illustrious past and devote occasional covers to classical maestros, prog-rock icons, the new metal kidz, world-beat artists, and, yes, country pickers.
Having said this, I must acknowledge forum posts that complain all U.S. guitar mags tend to stick with the same old faces on their covers. The easy answer is that those faces sell magazines. The trickier—and more long-term—ramification is whether the planet’s guitar magazines are adequately addressing the interests of all players (and emerging guitarists) by mining the publishing mother lode of “what always works.” After all, anyone who gets too data obsessed may be in danger of missing clues to the future. I believe it’s wise to live in paranoid fear of hard-line truisms and research-based analytics—such as the “guitar groups are out” assumptions that famously prompted some smart businessmen to pass on signing the Beatles. Certainly, guts have to enter the equation somewhere.
Now that we can all review the past year, I think the GP staff has done a good job delivering cover stories that appeal to our broader reader community, as well as to new and fringe readers who typically wouldn’t buy GP. There have been two anniversary celebrations for gear lovers (January’s cover on Fender’s 60th and October’s on Vox’s 50th), five “big number” or collector’s issues (February’s “101 Forgotten Greats,” March’s “Supercharge Your Chops,” April’s “Great Guitar Albums of 1967,” May’s “35 Solidbodies Under $500,” and November’s “Play Like Your Heroes”), three “icon” covers (Andy Summers, Joe Satriani, and Alex Lifeson), and two potential risks (John Petrucci and Brad Paisley).
So, as we move into 2008, let me query your gut feelings, and ask what you think our “cover rating” for 2007 should be? Were we risky enough? Did we nail the subjects you want to read about? Did we rely too heavily on legends and sure things, and not enough on cover stories that would expose you to new artists and new techniques?
As always, you can be just as responsible for what’s in GP as its editorial staff. But you have to make your views known. Please consider emailing your thoughts to me directly at email@example.com, or posting a thread on our forum at guitarplayer.com. I’ll ensure your comments are shared at our 2008 strategy meetings.