SEATTLE – The Rocket music magazine, a local institution that helped launch the careers of “grunge rock” superstars, is closing its doors after 21 years.
“I wanted to save it. But it got overwhelming in a hurry,” said David Roberts, owner of The Illinois Entertainer magazine, who purchased The Rocket from Bay Area Music Media two months ago.
Readership of the free bi-monthly remained strong, but advertising had fallen over the past year, Roberts said.
“Sales had fallen off a little bit with advertisers,” he said. “Had management at that time brought costs down in line with those sales, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
The magazine’s 18-member staff learned Wednesday of the closure.
“Everyone was just stunned,” said staffer Dave Liljengren.
BAM Media had been trying to sell The Rocket since January, Roberts said. He said he’d developed a plan to get the magazine on track, but The Rocket could not survive some unexpected bills over the past two weeks.
“I kind of saw it coming,” said Jason Hughes, a local disc jockey and co-owner of Sonic Boom, an independent record store in the Fremont neighborhood in north Seattle.
“A few years ago it was a pretty healthy publication. Lately it’s been kind of thinner and meager,” he said.
The Rocket began in 1979 as a music supplement to the now-defunct newspaper The Seattle Sun. The magazine started as a monthly, but began bi-monthly publication seven years ago.
“I don’t think they really had the content to do that,” said Tim Keck, publisher of competing weekly The Stranger.
Former publisher Charles Cross, who sold The Rocket to BAM Media about five years ago and remained on staff as a contributing writer, contended it was mismanagement that drove the magazine down.
“This was not about The Rocket not being read or respected or advertised in,” Cross said. “It’s just been poorly run the last few years and hasn’t had hands-on local management.”
He said the publication had a circulation of 55,000 in Seattle and 35,000 in Portland, Ore.
Cross noted the role The Rocket played in bringing attention to such Seattle “grunge” bands as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains in the early 1990s.
“To Kurt Cobain, being on the cover of The Rocket mattered as much as anything that happened in his career,” Cross said. “I can’t tell you how many bands have come up to me over the years and said they first got attention from stories in The Rocket.”
Roberts said he holds out hope that the magazine can be restarted if funding is secured.
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