Harmony Central, the highest-traffic music tech site online, announced yesterday it had been acquired by music catalog outlet Musician’s Friend. For their part, Harmony Central’s founders remain onboard and claim the site will remain an “independent publisher and forum.”

But wait a minute: while it’s great to hear the most-read site on the Web for music is getting some new resources, a major challenge for online publishing, let’s think about this: the most-read site is now owned entirely by the number one catalog reseller (as trumpeted by the press release heralding the deal.) That doesn’t sound terribly independent to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I have great respect for the team that runs Harmony Central and has given that site such longevity, and I expect we’ll continue to see great things. As they say in their PR, this could be a great opportunity for the site to grow. (Lack of resources may be the reason, for instance, their “editorial” section hasn’t been updated since around 2000.) And KVR Audio, now owned by hardware manufacturer Muse Research certainly maintained its unique flavor under new ownership — and gave Harmony Central a run for its money in software coverage — so I’m not maintaining ownership is a bad thing. (Disclosure: virtually all the money I make from tech writing right now, for all the outlets I write for, is dependent on ad dollars from manufacturers and developers. So I’m basically in the same boat.)

Let’s face it, music publishing in general remains under real pressure to stay independent. What do you think: got any tips for how publications can bring in revenue without relying on manufacturers? And have we all gotten overly dependent on gear? Is good news, bad news, or non-news? Ultimately, you’re the folks who matter: the readers.

  • giant25

    I have a lot of confidence in the HC Staff making the right decisions for the site – until now it's been a fantastic, high quality, independent resource for everyone from non-players to professionals . It's been well-run for ages, and I sincerely hope it'll stay that way.

    Sadly, I have absolutely no confidence that MF has HC's best interests at heart – I've never been a satisfied MF customer (and have found Zzounds to be a far better customer experience). MF is closely associated with Guitar Center (one owns the other, I think) and it's always been my experience that MF/GC has focused largely on quantity and not quality…

    Keeping my fingers crossed that MF's influence on HC is minor at best.

  • reflex

    I suspect that HC will remain relatively independent, but Musician's Friend will be the only retailer tied into their web site. Very subtle (and discomforting) marketing. I run a music technology company, and I try to talk to independents (like Peter) first. I'd prefer unbiased and honest coverage, and I suspect that many readers can sniff press/marketing tie-ins a mile off.

  • admin

    I'm just not yet sure what — if anything — this will mean for HC and their ad and content policies.

    Speaking of tie-ins, weirdly, this week I got emailed 'infomercials' by both Craig Anderon and Jim Aikin. (The latter was sent out by Electronic Musician) But at least they were identified as such. Craig and Jim are such talented writers that I trust their infomercials more than some people's writing, so those are marketing tie-ins I can live with!


  • underbiteman

    I don't think it's a big deal. Most of the items they have are press releases directly from the company anyway. Only thing that might concern me are the negative product reviews posted by the users, but I doubt they would touch that: they wouldn't have any more postings.

  • reflex

    It was very strange for me, back in what must have been the late 1980s, to read an E-Mu manual (I think it was for the Emulator III) written by Craig. After suffering through countless Roland manuals, it was such a huge breath of fresh air. But it was odd to see one of my favourite journalists doing such commercial stuff.

  • gman

    I am not really sure what to think of this. Isn't it kind of strange to have MF own a site that other major online stores pay to advertise on? What will happen to them in the long run? Will thier ads start to disappear, or will they be moved to obscure positions on pages? Will they move on to other online music resources like GuitarGearHeads.com ? This could be very interesting to watch.