The immoderate rise and expeditious fall of a global digital rock empire
In 2013, Future Publishing sold three magazine titles, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Prog, to multi-media content creation and distribution start-up TeamRock for £10.2million. Just 3 years and 8 months later, TeamRock went into administration and Future Publishing bought back the titles for £800,000. We sat down with three core members of the Metal Hammer staff to find out what went wrong.
Monday 19th December 2016 was a day just like any other day for the guys and gals who worked on Metal Hammer, the prestigious, 30 year global institution that proudly styled itself ‘the heavy metal bible’. There was a sense that despite the long, illustrious history, a fresh core team of individuals were starting to bring the magazine kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Merlin Alderslade had steadily worked his way up the ranks over 5 years to become Editor and alongside Features Editor Eleanor Goodman, Online Editor Luke Morton, the rest of the core editorial team and a global roster of writers, photographers, artists and freelancers, they were beginning to take Metal Hammer into a glorious new future.
On that day, Alderslade recalls making plans with his team about The Golden Gods, the magazines’ prestigious annual awards ceremony, and discussions were made for features set to appear as late as September 2017. The atmosphere in the office was jovial, with an end-of-term vibe permeating the air. It was the most thrilling part of the holiday season, where anticipatory pre-Christmas jubilation had yet to be shattered by tipsy relatives and crap television. Work was just beginning to wind down and there was a palpable sense of excitement as to what 2017 had in store, not just for the magazine, but for metal as a genre.
Just before 5 o’clock, a man and a woman walked into the office, neither of whom the staff recognised, and called everybody into the middle of the room. They were wearing suits, and as such, immediately stood out in an environment where standard uniform is ripped jeans and Megadeth T-Shirts. The two interlopers had with them a thick stack of envelopes; they were letters explaining that TeamRock had gone into administration and that 73 jobs were to be terminated, effective immediately. There was no money available for redundancy pay-outs and to add insult to injury, the staff would not be paid their December wage. ‘As soon as we got called into the middle of the room,’ recalls Alderslade ‘I thought ‘we’re f**ked!’’
Throughout its history, Metal Hammer made every effort to be a conduit that unites metal fans from around the world; during its peak, the magazine was being published in 11 languages in countries as far-flung as Israel, Serbia, Japan, Hungary and Poland. Unlike a wealth of other music weeklies and monthlies that would seem to snidely patronise the reader, Metal Hammer was never condescending. Instead, it presented itself as the warm, friendly fount of metal know-how, desperate to tell you all the secrets about the mystical, mythical legend that was ‘heavy metal’.
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