Jamming with Icons of Rock in the Present, DEADicated to the Past

Founded as a tape-trading newsletter for fans of the Grateful Dead in 1974 and “Dedicated to the World’s Sneakiest Tape Collector – Tricky Dicky,” Relix has been circulating for more than 30 years.

Relix is one of the only music magazines that caters to musicians and fans of live music in the independent and jam categories. It maintains its roots as a small tape trading magazine and forum for music fans, while creating and emphasizing a progressive counter-culture music scene. The September/October 2007 issue features rocker Ben Harper on the cover and proves that Relix is a credible magazine that can gain intimate access to artists and deliver the information that fans want to know.

Relix, which calls itself “The Magazine for Music,” has gained a successful readership for remembering its past with continuing coverage on the members of the Grateful Dead, while also moving into the future and expanding to include a variety of musical genres such as jam, rock, reggae, funk, jazz, blues, electronic, and world beat. Readership ranges from teens to the old washed-up hippie who followed the Dead on tour in his VW bus.

The magazine has evolved from a few pages of stapled paper with hand-drawn black and white graphics handed out around the San Francisco Bay Area, to a nationally circulating full-color magazine that comes out eight times per year.

Independent publisher Steve Bernstein purchased Relix in 2000. The magazine underwent a major overhaul and was redesigned in 2001 under the direction of Editor-In-Chief (since 2000) Aeve Baldwin.

The format is clear and easy to read, with standard layouts and simple graphics. The book consistently delivers its regular columns from issue to issue such as “My Page,” written by well-known artists in the industry about an important issue; “Global Beat,” which spotlights an international act readers may not have heard of, and “The Beat,” a recap of recent tour and festival highlights. The topics keep loyal readers coming back for more, time and again.

The most attractive feature of the magazine is the free CD inside each issue to give readers a chance to sample the artists they have just read about (Paste has also been doing this since its launch in June 2002).

Last November, Relix became available online in the form of a free digital subscription in an effort to increase circulation and environmental awareness. And April marked the launch of Relix mobile, a service for subscribers to receive artist news, tour updates, and contest offers through cell phone text messages.

This month’s issue features rocker Ben Harper on the cover. This is a timely choice, as Harper released his eighth studio album, “Lifeline,” in September. In this 10-page spread, contributing writer Jaan Uhelszki gets deep with the musician and leaves no topic uncovered.

The article features detailed multiple exposure photographs of the artist playing slide guitar, and a pictorial time line of famous musicians Harper has played with, such as Eddie Vedder, Ziggy Marley, and the Dave Matthews Band. There is also a special sidebar dedicated only to the types of instruments Harper plays, like his rare Weissenborn lap steel guitar from the 1920s.

Rolling Stone also covers Ben Harper’s new album as its feature review in the September 6 issue and includes a two-page article on Harper. But, Blender; which claims to be “The Ultimate Guide to Music and More,” chose not to cover the rock star this month. Though all of these magazines cater to the music world and its fans, they all vary in scope, genre, and target audience. Blender caters to readers of Maxim and covers the popular industry as well as film, gadgets, and gossip. And Rolling Stone takes a more typical and formulaic approach to this article. Since Relix strictly deals with this type of music, it covers feature stories like Harper more thoroughly than other magazines.

Relix provides the dirt and specific details that music fans really want to know, such as the fact that Harper’s mom used to date Hendrix’s tour manager, that Harper wears a George Bush Countdown watch on his wrist, or that Barack Obama personally called Harper to ask if he could use the song “Better Way,” from his new album for his presidential campaign.

The honest and fair writing style and credibility helps Relix gain the trust of artists like Harper, who is known to be a very private person and has rarely discussed his personal life or the meanings of his songs in past interviews. Other magazines seem to scratch at the surface by obtaining general information and reviewing albums, but Relix provides new, insightful information on Harper in this exclusive interview.

This is a magazine for true of fans of music who are looking for the news on their favorite artists, rumors in the music industry, coverage of important concerts and festivals, information about upcoming tours, likeminded people to connect with, and most importantly the news on hot new acts.

– Amy D. Jacques

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