How Future music brand Louder is pushing into commerce

Future Publishing has consolidated its four music titles — Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and The Blues — under one umbrella brand, Louder. The consolidation comes with a shift in business models, with Louder squarely focusing on driving ticket sales to concerts and audio equipment rather than relying on display ad revenue alone.

Future’s most healthy e-commerce title is consumer electronics site TechRadar, which makes nearly half of its revenue from e-commerce, but Julian March, Future’s managing director for games, music and entertainment, doesn’t expect Louder to reach that level.

“[TechRadar] shows the art of the possible, but music listening is a different animal,” he said, pointing to factors that play a role in driving commerce, like search referral, commission rates and basket size. “[For Louder], e-commerce will be a material revenue diversification.”

Future has so far signed up one ticketing partner to the platform, which matches keywords in content to product recommendations, in this case gig listings on content about band tour dates and new releases.

Beyond that, Louder’s editorial team will work with TechRadar and T3 on creating buyer guides for audio equipment, like speakers or headphones. In the future, Louder’s editorial team will produce more utility content, like pieces on how to find a band manager or how to get a record released, which will draw on its existing partnerships with record companies.

Future faces a familiar challenge in managing the dual revenue streams of display advertising and e-commerce: For content that is focused heavily on e-commerce, like a buyer’s guide, for example, it might turn off the display ads, particularly during busy buying periods like Black Friday, to avoid cannibalizing revenue.

“Our biggest challenge is that our magazine brands are more famous than the platform,” said March. “If we can make Louder as famous as the magazine brands, then that means growth.” Grouping the titles under Louder allows the publisher to explore new music genres the magazine titles previously couldn’t individually. For instance, it will launch a new subchannel for alternative rock. “Louder will be famous for different things,” he said, “hence the broadening of the editorial scope to allow us to cover new genres that we couldn’t on the magazines.”

Five people work on Louder, with four additional people working on each magazine brand. Since mid-January, roughly half a dozen people have worked on the design of Louder and moving the brands to Future’s publishing platform. Future has a centralized team of about a dozen people working across its e-commerce partnerships and editorial products. According to the publisher’s internal Google Analytics figures, the four music titles have a combined audience of 1.8 million unique monthly users.

Future will apply this model of grouping titles under a digital brand to its gaming and music-playing titles. In the gaming vertical, Future has seven magazine brands. Online, its gaming title is GamesRadar, which will become the umbrella brand for the other magazine titles online.

Louder plans to encourage more community interaction on its own site through more regular interactive polls and encouraging more readers to submit gig reviews. A poll on its previous site asking about the best guitar riff of all time had thousands of responses.

“These are passionate communities. We want to channel that energy of our most engaged fans,” said March. “We’re looking at how we could systematize that. Do we need new tech solutions? We’re talking about how we can do this across our verticals in the future, effectively licensing our platforms to individuals.”

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