Well, this is it…
Work began on the magazine that would become Sideburn in the middle of 2007, the first issue being published in March 2008. There was no business plan. No online shop. No Kickstarter or crowdfunding of any type. It was a wild punt in the dark; a creative endeavour paid for up front by me, and backed by a few friendly advertisers that I knew from my role as a freelance journalist.
Now, 55 issues later, the printed magazine is skidding to a halt. While Sideburn will continue to make things, and share news and posts on social media, this is the final printed issue of the magazine for the foreseeable future. Never say never.
I came up with the notion of self-publishing a magazine that focused on dirt track and the culture surrounding it for a few reasons, even if, back then, it was almost exclusively a US sport, with the tiniest pockets of fans dotted around the globe. I was disillusioned by the cost-cutting of the motorcycle magazine publishers I was working for. The most obvious example was the paper and print quality diminishing, but more importantly, the publishers and editors were taking fewer risks. They didn’t want new ideas, just safe ones. As a result, the content was becoming repetitive. I had found early copies of Dice magazine (see p66) and was inspired by it to make my own glossy, small-format ’zine.
Even though by 2007 I knew magazines had started their steep decline, I went ahead anyway, because I wasn’t producing Sideburn to make money. I hadn’t even thought of making issue 2. Photographer Ben Part laid out the magazine, with next to no knowledge or use of the traditional magazine designs rules, and helped Sideburn establish a leftfield style. I wrote most of it (like I still do), paid the printer, and waited for it to be delivered on pallets to my home. Even then I had no real idea of how I was going to get them into people’s hands, except that specialist retailer, The Magazine Man, was going to buy some from us.
Sideburn was the epitome of kitchen-table publishing, and it has pretty much remained that way for all its 15 years, despite attracting support and advertising from some of the biggest names in motorcycling. It has also been granted the honour of calling itself the official magazine of the pro sport, American Flat Track. No one could have imagined that in 2008.
Sideburn is what it is, for good or ill, because of the person I am. It hasn’t grown as big as it might, because I lacked confidence to invest further, or the desire to employ more people, or try to attract outside investment along the journey. But it has survived 15 years of global financial meltdown, a pandemic and an unimaginable social media revolution, when countless other magazines – big, small, famous, or start-ups - closed around us, because I’m stubborn and willing to work long hours for something I believe in, even if there wasn’t much money in it.
Sideburn has enjoyed the support of freelancers and contributors, too many to list, who also believed in printed media, and have worked within our tiny budgets to allow the magazine to keep going, even when the figures really didn’t stack up. Most notably Debbie, Mick, and the three art eds the mag has had, Ben, Kar and currently, Andy.
But 15 years is a long time to do anything, and being a niche, independent magazine in 2023 is infinitely harder that it was in 2008. We could talk about straws breaking camels’ backs, or suffering the death of a thousand cuts, but put simply, it just doesn’t make sense to print the magazine any longer. And as stubborn and blinkered as I am, even I realise it.
So, thanks for buying the magazine. I’ve truly appreciated every single purchase.
Lincolnshire, UK, 2023