Submitted by: Shareena Patel 16/06/2016
Jamie Cullum doesn't really need an introduction as the English jazz-pop singer songwriter is know across the world. He also launched the Eighty-Eight magazine for the adventurous thinker.
“If you focus on making something beautiful, original, interesting and lasting, brands will want to buy into that”
When I first had the idea of producing my own magazine, The Eighty-Eight, I just thought it would be a nice piece of merchandising to sell at my gigs. I wanted to give my fans something that I would want as a fan, and I’ve always had a real passion for magazines, from when I collected fanzines when I was a teenager to collecting comics to seeking out the most beautiful, interesting examples of the magazine art form today. For me, a beautifully produced magazine is something to treasure – not this temporary, throwaway thing it’s sometimes regarded as.
So The Eighty-Eight became a labour of love for me. I wanted to produce a beautiful object that you’ll want to hold and keep, from the paper stock to the typefaces to the content. I realised I would probably make a loss on it, but that wasn’t a major concern – the most successful products start out as somebody’s passion and that’s what people buy into, not some cold business plan. That’s how I started my music career – just playing for fun – but now I’m starting on a second issue of The Eighty Eight, I really want it to fund itself as a commercial product. There’s a real renaissance now in independent print magazines. Because the mass market has declined, it’s opened up the market for creativity and independent, entrepreneurial spirits. I want The Eighty-Eight to be part of that. A lot of these magazines are design-led, and that’s important because you can really make the most of print’s tactile visuals that way. But it’s also really important to me that the writing’s good.
In terms of the content, I had plenty of ideas from the outset. I knew I wanted to write something about my obsession with shoes; I knew I wanted something on how famous jazz musicians affected fashion; and to provide something you can’t get elsewhere, in the form of unreleased sheet music. And my wife [model turned author Sophie Dahl] is a great writer and she did a great piece on the nature of the artistic muse – and of course I don’t have to pay her! However, the second issue won’t be so based around friends’ contributions – I’ll be aiming to commission people I admire to make the content as strong as possible. It’ll also be available digitally, but I really think it’s at its best in print. Oddly enough, we launched a digital version of the mag in June [as a smartphone and tablet app] and it led to a spike in sales of the physical version. Obviously people thought, ‘I like this so I’d like to get hold of the real thing.’ Digital is fine as a way of promoting the brand, but print’s where magazines really belong, and I think readers feel that way too.
I’m looking to get more advertising on board for the second issue. As well as the obvious financial benefit, I think advertising actually makes it feel more magazine-y and allows you to ally yourself with brands that have a similar aesthetic and values. But one thing the Eighty-Eight doesn’t do is exist for advertising. That comes back to my central point: if you focus on making something beautiful, original, interesting and lasting, brands will want to buy into that, and so will readers.