Dear Tape Op Reader,

We wanted to let you, the folks we make this magazine for, aware of a fundamental change in our business. 

Short version: We are cutting our ad rates nearly in half.

Why?

Here's the long version: Tape Op is an advertiser-supported publication. This means the money we make from the advertisers in the magazine covers the cost of us making the magazine, printing it and mailing it to our readers at no cost to you. This is a different business model from a publication that covers production costs primarily through subscriptions and newsstand sales. Early on we made the decision to not focus on newsstand sales for two reasons. One, Tape Op is a niche publication, meaning most magazine outlets, like supermarkets for instance, wouldn't carry Tape Op. Secondly, newsstand distribution is very inefficient. The term "Sell Through Rate" means how many copies of the magazine put into newsstand distribution actually get sold. The remainder are discarded and (hopefully) recycled. A sell through rate of 25-50% is considered quite good. In other words, at least 50% of the copies printed are thrown away. This expense is factored into the business model, and somebody (advertisers or subscribers) pays for that. It is also a real waste of resources (paper and shipping) which is certainly not very "green."

So, we made the decision to become an advertiser-supported publication that mails directly to our readers. We are proud of the fact that we can account for nearly 95% of the magazines we print, and we have very few copies discarded. 

But, it's no secret that a lot of things have changed since we started publishing Tape Op in 1996. The economy is not as strong, the publishing industry is in decline, and online options abound. We feel it's time to make a change. If you've been reading Tape Op (and other audio and music magazines) for any length of time, then I'm sure you've noticed that we, along with all the other magazines, are printing fewer pages than we did 4 or 5 years ago. We used to print issues that were around 100 pages, give or take a few 8 page forms. Many of the more established audio magazines printed 200+ pages. Currently Tape Op and most of the other magazines are printing 68 page magazines. (Tech note: That's two 32 page forms plus a four page cover form, a very efficient page count in the printing industry). The reason for this is that we, and everybody else, are selling far fewer ads. The basic formula for magazines is that each page of ads pays for a page of editorial. This is called the ad to edit ratio. It will vary between 60/40 and 50/50 in one direction or the other, but in an advertiser-supported publication it will never deviate very far from that number and keep a publication in business if the business needs to actually sustain itself. 

So now that you know all there is to know about magazine publishing, let's discuss selling ads. Back in the days of Mad Men and even as recently as the year the iPod was released, print ads were big business for big magazines. They supported not only the magazines themselves, but additional businesses like ad agencies, graphic design firms, etc. Part of the ad agency's job was to beat up the magazine's ad sales staff on the rates so they could tell their clients what a great job they were doing for them by getting them such good rates. For some companies this made a lot of sense in both directions, as an ad agency might buy quite a few pages in lots of different publications for their various clients. The ad sales staff knew how this system worked, so they made sure their rates were much higher than they really expected to get in order to have bargaining room. Typically they might take anywhere from 10-40% off the ad buy, depending on the size of the buy. Discounts would be based on the size of the ad (smaller ads cost more per square inch than bigger ads) and how many issues the advertiser commits to advertising in (a long term commitment makes it easier for a magazine to plan out issues and predict their overhead). 

Fast forward to 2012. The economy is down, music sales are down, studios are going out of business, gear manufacturers are going out of business, hardware sales are down, software sales (and piracy) are up, print publications are going out of business, ad agency reps want to do online and viral advertising and think outside of the box, Avid wants you to live in the box, print is dead, the Internet is the future, paper costs have gone up, postage has gone up, and printed ad rates for advertising have gone up. The industry is at a point where it's not really working within the reality of the current economy or the supply and demand of the marketplace. The old way of doing business (having a higher rate than you expect to get) is still in place, but the discounts over that "fake" rate are now as deep as 90% off the rate card. How can a business survive if they're only able to get 10% of their asking rate? Well, some advertisers don't know how "the game" works so they don't know to ask for a discount, so a magazine might still occasionally sell some ads at 80% (or even 100%) of the rate card pricing, so things tend to average out. Maybe you're averaging around 50% of rate card, and if you keep raising your rates each year, hopefully you can sustain that number. 

There's a problem with that from our point of view however. The bigger companies - larger companies owned by venture capital firms and stockholders - are the ones who should be able to afford to pay something closer to rate card. These companies however are the ones who know how the game works, and they expect the deepest discounts. If you want their ads (and the income it brings in) you have to negotiate their discounts. The smaller companies - the ones run by one or two people with a good idea and a great product - don't know how the game works. They take one look at the rate card and come to the conclusion that they just can't afford to advertise their product or service. Without getting into a big discussion of whether or not advertising works (I think it does, but if you spend too much on advertising, the cost will outweigh the benefits), I think it's fairly safe to say that if nobody knows about your product or service, it will be hard for you to sell it. I feel strongly that Tape Op is an excellent way to get people to know about products or services in the music recording realm, and I'll tell you why when I conclude this long winded rant. 

Here at Tape Op, we feel that smaller companies with great ideas or products are essential to the industry and are often what drives innovation and change in a positive direction. But the current ad sales climate is stacked against these smaller, newer companies. I've had many conversations with our advertisers in which, as I get a sense of the fact that they are a smaller, startup company, I explain "the game" to them and offer them a discounted ad rate, even though they were ready to pay a higher rate. To me, this makes sense because if I give them a fair, reasonable rate, with a little bit of luck, their business will do well and they will be advertisers in Tape Op for a long time. If I just gouge them for the highest amount of money I can get out of them, they may not do as well, and the money they spent on ads might be part of the reason they are not successful. I don't want to do business that way. I want Tape Op's relationship with our advertisers to be mutually beneficial. Please don't read into this that I, or Tape Op, think this means bigger companies are bad, because that's not what we are saying. There are a lot of really great, well-run, large companies in the audio industry that make great gear at all price points. A well-run, large company at its core likely makes great products and treats it's employees fairly, and that's why they're still in business. And the truth is even large companies have smaller budgets to work with. Hopefully our new lower rates will allow them to buy more ads in Tape Op which means you the reader, get more editorial pages.

When I'm able to actually talk on the phone with some of the smaller companies, things work out fine. I really enjoy talking to most of our advertisers and I want to help them make good decisions on their marketing. But I am always busy, and not always easy to reach. Our editor, Larry Crane, and I do not work on Tape Op full time. No one does. Besides working on Tape Op, we both run studios and engineer sessions, so it can be hard to reach us at times. When people look at our rate card online, they are seeing the "fake" rate. I'm tired of that. It doesn't make any sense in our current economy or with the current state of the music, audio and recording businesses. After a decade of doing this, I am really tired of playing "The Rate Card Game" and I don't want to play it anymore. Going forward, advertising in Tape Op will be more transparent and simple. 

1. The full page rate for a one year commitment is $2500. Single issues are an extra 15%. 

2. Fractional ads are based on the above rate. In other words, a half page ad is $1250. The old way of selling ads charges more per square inch for the smaller ads, which makes it less affordable for newer, smaller companies to do marketing. 

3. There is no overly inflated charge for color ads over black and white ads. Most magazines print color throughout and the only extra charge on a color ad on an otherwise black and white page is the plating charge which is about $50. Our color ads are $50 more than black and white ads regardless of size. 

4. Big or small, everyone pays the same rate. No more games. And we will be dropping the rate of any current advertisers who are paying more than our new rates effective immediately. 

That's it, simple and transparent. You can download the new rate card, which is effective immediately, at:

tapeop.com/mediakit/

We really do hope that if you or someone you know has a product or service you'd like to advertise, you'll consider Tape Op. We currently have the highest print circulation of any recording magazine in the world. You can also see some competitive rate comparisons at the above link. 

Two other statistics we are very proud of is that 79% of our readers keep each issue indefinitely and 46% of our readers don't read any other recording magazines. 

And finally in one last piece of news, Tape Op is now available on the iPad (including all ads) and will soon be available on the Kindle Fire, iPhone and Android tablets. 

So, please spread the word about Tape Op's new advertising rates. We're gambling that this industry is actually fairly healthy, but only if we all work together. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for reading and supporting Tape Op Magazine

John Baccigaluppi
Publisher 

 

Tape Op is a free magazine exclusively devoted to
the art of record making.

 
Tue, Oct 21, 2014 - 11:46PM
Add your two cents to the discussion below:
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Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - 6:46PM
Shawn Simmons said about this:

You should really consider charging for subscriptions to the magazine. I, for one, would have no problem paying to keep a quality publication such as yours from going under. Keep up the good work!!

cheers,
shawn

 
Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - 7:07PM
Danny said about this:

John, Larry, and everyone else: Thank you. This magazine has replaced, for me, every other music-oriented publication I used to get. It has heart, I trust what I read and see, and I commit to you that the majority of my musical gear purchases will be from advertisers in TapeOp.
Please never stop publishing this way, and thanks for giving a damn and having a soul.

Cheers,
-Danny

 
Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - 8:29PM
Scott said about this:

Thanks for the information, and all the work you guys have done. Maybe you should throw a fund raising party once a year, as a good excuse for everyone to get together, drink beer and talk about gear!

SH

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 11:06AM
greg said about this:

Thanks for the column.

Very interesting, and well written piece.

I'm not opposed to a fundraiser....let's hope it's in chicago :-)

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 12:06PM
Robbie said about this:

I love how you guys think and care about what you. Your magazine means a great deal to me and has helped me to be better at what I do. I just wish I had something I could advertise in your excellent magazine.

On another note, really looking forward to having a copy on my iPhone, though the hard copy is what makes me smile every other month - just kick back on the Aeron, feet on the desk and get excited.

Thanks for everything you do.

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 12:09PM
oliver said about this:

loved your review of the ear trumpet labs microphones. I love great tools made by passionate craftsman. look forward to purchasing some of their mics thanks to your review

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 12:20PM
John Wesley-Barker said about this:

I have no hesitation in recommending TapeOp to my colleagues, students and companies with whom I deal on a daily basis. It is simply the most interesting magazine about music recording bar none.

Just wanna say 'thanks'.

John

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 12:21PM
Tazu Marshall said about this:

I'm impressed!

I almost stood up and started a slow-clapped applause!

I know that reads as sarcastic, but I actually mean it.

-Tazu

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 12:25PM
Tim Smith said about this:

Tape Op magazine is my absolute favorite magazine (period). Thank you so much for doing everything that you do, I personally appreciate it. You can't even imagine how much I look forward to the next issue. I even try to buy back issues as often as I can: One to support Tape Op, and Two because I just can't get enough of this great publication. Thanks

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 12:52PM
Jonathan Saxon said about this:

Great business model! It's innovators like Tape Op that are paving the way for the future. Well done John & Larry. Well done.

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 1:13PM
Anthony said about this:

I would consider paying for my subscription to TapeOp. I know you guys have resisted charging in the past, but as you say the whole business model is changing. TapeOp is by far my favorite music industry magazine, paid or otherwise. Whatever the outcoe of your decision, I look forward to the results! Just keep the magazine going!

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 1:19PM
Tom Vivian said about this:

John, Larry,

Thanks for cutting through the BS once again. I remain a dedicated reader and tireless advocate of TapeOp

Tom.

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 1:24PM
Rev. Eric Johnson said about this:

iPad app? Fantastic! I am certainly going to download it and buy an in-app subscription as soon as possible.

Like all of us here who have commented, I really love Tape Op and appreciate all of the hard work that you put into it. Thank you!

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 2:07PM
joe said about this:

Hi guys,
Thank you for the great letter. I've been a big fan of the magazine for a long time. It's great to know the latest news on what is going on.
Joe

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 3:10PM
Pablo Uroz said about this:

It's just beautiful that people in the recording industry can be this transparent. You guys just keep bringing the faith back :_)
Best luck with it!

AND +1 to Tazu Marshall's comment. You guys deserve no less than a standing ovation. Even if it's only from my living room!

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 7:23PM
Francis Blacklin said about this:

Can't even begin to explain how important your mag has been to me over the years and I'm still amazed that IT'S FREE! Charge us mooching fools! I would gladly pay top dollar for this publication. Perhaps it's time.

 
Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 8:11PM
Jason D. said about this:

All killer, no filler. Thanks Tape Op for the straight shootin' about what you think of us. I think I can safely say we think the same of you.

 
Sat, Oct 27, 2012 - 12:15PM
Timothy Lee Russell said about this:

You've created an amazing community.

Garrett Haines of Treelady Studios is mastering my next Throbbing Mattress Kitten album right now. Ultimately the Kevin Bacon who reduced the number of connections between he and I was Tape Op magazine and through my friends in Mission Spotlight who Larry Crane recorded. I read three magazines. Wired, Make and Tape Op. I'd say that puts the mag in pretty lofty company. Keep up the good work.

You raised the question of whether advertising works and speaking just as an individual I can say that Tape Op as a whole has played a significant role in many of my home studio purchases. These decisions were influenced by articles, reviews, forum comments and yes, the ads.

I am one of the statistic mentioned. I only read one recording magazine - so advertisers should take note that Tape Op is their primary conduit to reach me.

This should be of interest to them since, much to the consternation of my lovely wife, I spend a lot of dough on recording ecosystem purchases.

Cheers,
Timothy Lee Russell
Snoffleware Studios LLC

 
Sun, Oct 28, 2012 - 9:10AM
Erez Yaary said about this:

Being a long time major music publications reader (25 years...) I find your magazine and approach very refreshing. In the spirit of being 'green' and in support of new business models, I have decided to buy the iPad version as soon as it comes out.

Keep up the great editorial and maintain transparency. This high integrity levels is what draws me to your mag (plus the great articles of course).

All the best,
Erez Yaary

 
Tue, Oct 30, 2012 - 8:47AM
claytron said about this:

Incredible insight on the process, well written. TapeOp has always been one of my favorite magazines, the ads are part of the reason why, so much gear porn in them :)

You might also consider adding yourselves to the micro funding site, git tip.

https://www.gittip.com/on/twitter/tapeopmag/

 
Tue, Oct 30, 2012 - 8:38PM
Leilani Jones said about this:

I sure wish you folks would allow a real estate ad when, like our place, it includes home, studio, filming stage for live music performance, right along the river.
You should allow a real estate for sale section as I know it is hard to try and sell a home / business like ours and we make good money but are old and want to retire. Consider this at least. A magazine read my folks who record is who we are trying to target.

 
Thu, Nov 1, 2012 - 2:18AM
Larry Crane said about this:

Please don't assume we are financially strapped or going under from John's announcement. If you wish to pay for a sub you can. And if you are curious about running any sort of ad in Tape Op drop John a line.

 
Thu, Nov 1, 2012 - 6:15PM
James Lesure said about this:

Keep up the good work guys.

 
Thu, Nov 29, 2012 - 10:19AM
eric gentry said about this:

Please also make a Windows app for Surface. I love the magazine and want to enjoy it on all my gear.

 
Thu, Nov 29, 2012 - 6:44PM
Jordan said about this:

I'd pay $50 a year for Tapeop. No problem.

 
Wed, Dec 19, 2012 - 9:07AM
Kristian Bauck-Nordeide said about this:

I currently pay $50 a year for Tapeop. I'd gladly pay $100. To bad the subscription ends without notice each year. I wish you would send out reminders or invoices by mail. I'm sure at least 50% or more of your readers would be willing to pay for a subscription. Just ask them!

 
Fri, Jan 4, 2013 - 3:23AM
Bill Ambrose said about this:

I would happily pay at least £50 for an android version. I cannot live without Tape Op

 
Fri, Jan 4, 2013 - 4:07AM
Fabrice said about this:

I have a simple good solution to your problem of shipping Tape OP in Europe : Print in Europe !

 
Fri, Jan 4, 2013 - 11:16PM
Ron Ajemian said about this:

Thanks for the sincere reason for TapeOp
going more digital. I do hope you also come out with a pdf version for download.
Great Audio magazine as always.

Best wishes,

Ron Ajemian
Instructor of Audio Technology
Institute of Audio Research, NYC

 
Sat, Jan 5, 2013 - 6:40AM
nick buxton said about this:

hello tape OP: is there any way for a me, a Paris France based sound engineer, to get a copy of Tape OP mailed from the US? I don't have a iphone; tape Op is by far the best magazine for me; it is technical yet easy to understand; it is written by people like me, working in small studios but creating big music. all very best; I can pay in euros! Nick Buxton

 
Tue, Jan 15, 2013 - 10:20AM
Edoardo said about this:

I would pay more for TapeOp but, if not possible, I would pay for an Android version.

Anyway, thank you for your work.

Edo, from Italy

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