Sia Michel rises
to top pencil at Spin
First woman to edit a national rock music title
By Jeff Bercovici
Spin, the magazine for those who like their music journalism with a generous dose of snark, has a new frontman, or rather, frontwoman.
Sia Michel was named editor in chief yesterday, making her the first female to serve as top editor at a national rock music magazine.
Michel, previously executive editor, has been running Spin since former editor in chief Alan Light resigned early last month to launch a new music magazine in partnership with former Vibe/Spin group publisher John Rollins.
Michel takes over at what promises to be an interesting time for the music world and those covering it. Following half a decade of ascendancy, manufactured teen pop is finally believed to be in remission, and real artists are once again taking center stage, says Michel, who has been with Spin since 1996.
"After a few years of being on the decline, rock music is finally back on the charts again," she says, citing the rise of bands like System of a Down as evidence of a resurgence.
That's especially good news for Spin, which has been going through something of an existential crisis of late.
Traditionally, the magazine has been pickier about its likes and dislikes than the bigger and broader Rolling Stone, published by Wenner Media, or the newer Blender, published by Dennis Publishing.
But with few serious artists making much impact commercially amid the boy bands and navel-barers, Spin has, with visible squeamishness, widened its scope to take in top-40 acts like Matchbox 20, Sugar Ray and Creed, bands its writers might have ridiculed only a few years ago, and still do sometimes.
"We're definitely always going to be the magazine for serious music fans, for people who have strong opinions about music and want to read articles by writers who have strong opinions about music," says Michel. "I do think that is Spin's role."
Still, Michel says she has no problem giving face time to the Creeds of the world as long as that's what people are listening to.
"I don't think you can ignore a band like Creed," she says. "They’re the most popular rock band in America right now."
In addition to getting rid of some of Spin's critical ambivalence, Michel plans to give the magazine an updated design that she describes as "brighter, more colorful."
"We're definitely going to freshen up our look," she says. "We're a 17-year-old magazine, and you don't want to get stuck being identified with a specific style for a long time."
Spin was down 1.7 percent in ad pages in the first two months of the year, with 108.1, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Ad revenue was up 4.9 percent to $4.8 million in the first two months of the year.
Spin's total paid circulation was flat at 541,506 in the second half of 2001, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Newsstand sales were off 6.7 percent, averaging 83,645.
March 15, 2002 © 2002 Media Life
-Jeff Bercovici is a staff writer for Media Life.