One era ends . . . a new one begins!

by Steve Vickers, Drum Corps World publisher

To receive Drum Corps World electronically, all you need to do is go to our special Web site —

enter your first and last name, e-mail address and the country where you live. We’ll send you the first and subsequent issues at the beginning of each month, starting May 2. You will also need to choose what device you want it sent to — your computer, your phone or your tablet.

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On the one hand, what I’m about to write is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in the nearly 37 years I’ve owned Sights & Sounds, Inc., the publishing company that has produced more than 725 tabloid newspapers containing over 15,000 pages of written material and likely upwards of 35,000 photographs and various types of artwork.

I’m sure each of you who have been with me through the years — or perhaps recently found out about Drum Corps World — can understand my pride in what we’ve been able to do through more than three and a half decades. I’ve worked seven days a week to produce a consistently on-time periodical that has been filled with news, regular columns, human-interest stories, lists, interviews, great photography, inventive ideas, topical cartoons and a myriad of other content that has kept readers informed about our beloved activity.

Needless to say, being in the print publishing business is no longer a viable way of getting details about drum and bugle corps into the hands of readers. The entire way of sharing information has shifted to electronic media . . . the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and even through Smart Phones and iPad-like devices.

But on the other hand, I’m equally excited to share with you my plans to continue the dissimination of material about the worldwide drum and bugle corps activity into the future.

Great memories

Sadly, this is the final printed newspaper. It’s been a wonderful and fulfilling time nurturing the paper, first as a writer from 1971 to 1973, then as editor starting in mid-1973 through the spring of 1974, and finally, as the publisher beginning on July 1, 1974 when I purchased it from Don Whiteley, Jim Jones and Richard Wentland.

Beginning six weeks after the mailing of this edition, Drum Corps World will introduce an electronic version that is being developed through a joint agreement between Sights & Sounds, Inc. and High Velocity Media owner Doug Smith.

This decision was finally made in late February after an extensive series of phone calls and e-mails between myself and Doug. Our first conversation took place as I sat in my car waiting for friends to join me at the La Crosse, WI, show last July 16. I returned a voicemail Doug left on my office phone earlier that day. We chatted for about 45 minutes and he told me about his interest in helping convert Drum Corps World from a printed publication to one that is available on the Internet.

Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptical during that first conversation. Afterall, I had been sort of putting off doing this for a full decade, since former editor Chris Hollenback began proposing the idea when he worked on the Madison office staff. At the time I resisted the idea because I wasn’t convinced fans would pay for an on-line magazine.

I remember asking Chris to investigate if there were, in fact, any companies that were successful in selling subscriptions to an on-line publication. I also knew that, in order to make something like that work, it would take a great deal of up-front money to have computer software developed that would keep track of subscribers and also control access. We did look at a number of scenarios and the conclusion, at least in my mind, was that it was extremely cost-prohibitive and I had no faith that making that type of major change was even remotely possible at the time.

I’ve never been in any position, financially, to afford a significant cash infusion that would accomplish a transition. I was fairly confident I would be unable to do what needed as the number of paid subscribers and supporting advertisers continued to decrease through the years.

At DCW’s peak in the late 1990s, the number of subscribers worldwide was slightly more than 5,000. I knew I could keep the paper going, but had to come up with alternative ways of generating income, since subscription revenue and advertising were no longer covering the increasing costs of printing and mailing. By early 2011 the circulation had dropped by 80%!

Successful and unsuccessful projects

I’ve tried many things through the years — the first cartoon book in 1974 (“Drum Corps Illustrated”), a “Trivial Pursuit”-type game in 1986, making historic CDs available from the Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska archives by working with Ken Mason and Frank Wateska since 2002 and, more recently, releasing restored video and film footage through a series of DVDs with the help of Scott Gordon who has a studio in his home capable of doing amazing things to very old material that, for the most part, wasn’t meant to last as long as it has. Scott has done an incredible job getting some rough material back into shape for fans (and there’s more to come).

I even tried twice to start a corps-style marching band magazine, first on my own and then in conjuction with the folks at Bands of America. Unfortunately, neither attempt was successful and I lost nearly $250,000 between the two tries in 1988 through 1992 and in 1998. The first was aimed at band directors, but I found they were so busy with their everyday responsibilities that they didn’t have time to promote it to their students. The second version was targeted to the band members, but again the director was the primary way to reach them and it failed, too.

I’ve managed to mostly recover financially from all projects that lost money, but while circulation and advertising decrease, expenses escalated (postal increase in May 2011, higher paper costs).

The projects that have kept the paper coming for the last nine years are the five books I’ve published, three through Sights & Sounds, Inc. and two for Drum Corps International and the CDs/DVDs. The 1,900 pages of information and graphics in the books have proven popular with drum corps fans and, quite honestly, are the primary reason Drum Corps World still exists today.

Now to the positive and more upbeat news!

Drum Corps World will begin issuing monthly magazine-format publications on the Internet, the first one of which will be sent on Monday, May 2. We will no longer be charging for a subscription!    The savings from not printing and mailing copies will allow the continuation of DCW. Of course, we are relying on continued advertising support and the sale of the books and historic recordings, as well as the reputation we have developed over the years.

To those subscribers who renewed recently (prior to March 1) — and new subscribers — your subscription revenue is being used to make this transition and continue the publication. Likewise, to subscribers who have issues coming, the remainder of your payment is also allowing this change to take place. There will be no further renewal notices . . . Drum Corps World is now FREE! Of course, we encourage everyone who receives the electronic version to support our advertisers and purchase history books, as well as the historic CDs and DVDs.

And to subscribers who do not have Internet access through a personal computer, please consider asking a friend to help you set up an e-mail address where the publication can be sent . . . at the friend’s house or through a public library. I know there are individuals who this is going to affect and I’m hopeful this alternative will allow you to continue receiving the publication as well.

The new magazine will be sent via e-mail and you will have a choice of receiving it via your computer, your iPhone, iPad or similar devices.

My most sincere thanks to every individual who has subscribed to Drum Corps World over the last 39 years and to all the companies and organizations that have supported the newspaper through advertising products, services or events. All together you and the staff of writers and photographers have allowed me the privilege of bringing you news about the drum and bugle corps activity worldwide through this publication and sharing my belief in what this movement has — and still is — doing for the youth of the world through music, pageantry, color, performance and spectacle.

To help spread the word and gain additional readers, please let all your friends know about this opportunity by posting the link above — — on your Facebook page, Twitter account or simply send everyone in your e-mail address book the announcement. Thanks.

And now, onward to a new era . . .