Music Australia News

Limelight Magazine Saved As Two New Owners Step In

Bruce Watson, Jo Litson, Andrew Batt-Rawden and Robert Veel. Image Credit: Limelight
Graham Strahle
| March 14, 2018

A last minute deal has been struck to keep the 42 year-old classical music monthly, Limelight Magazine, in business. The two new Sydney-based owners, Robert Veel and Bruce Watson, come from outside the publishing sector and have backgrounds in actuarial and insurance consultancy and cultural travel respectively. Both, however, have been in the music and arts scene for many years: Veel as a patron of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Watson as a singer with Bel a Cappella and Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers.

The two businessmen bought the magazine from Andrew Batt-Rawden, who had been its owner since 2013. Cash-flow difficulties led to him announcing in February that Limelight was cancelling its March edition and going into liquidation.

Limelight’s announcement of the new purchase is here.

Veel explained to Music Australia that the magazine had been facing a “near death experience” and that negotiations went as speedily as possible in order to protect the March edition. “We entered into an agreement straight away,” he says. “Otherwise there would have been angry subscribers and loss of confidence.”

The deal came about when Batt-Rawden contacted Veel’s company Academy Travel as one of Limelight’s regular advertisers, soliciting interest in acquiring the magazine. Veel says he was immediately interested and that the discussions leading up to purchase were “extremely friendly”. All it needed was small capital injection was needed to keep operations afloat.

So the good news is that it is business as usual at Limelight. The March edition is out, and the new owners say there will be no staff or editorial changes. The now Manhattan-based Clive Paget stays on as editor-at-large, Jo Litson as editor, Angus McPherson as deputy editor, and Justine Nguyen as the magazine’s youngest staff writer.

“We will not be involved in a day-to-day basis in the magazine’s running but will provide strategic input,” Veel says. “We are not so stupid as to march in to know all the answers. Our intention is to ensure not just that Limelight survives but that it prospers, and to ensure the quality will always be preserved as an important part of Australian society and culture.”

An immediate need that the new owners identify is lifting subscriptions. Says Veel: “We believe there is a very small difference between viability and non-viability, and that a small lift in subscriptions will make all the difference”.

They both praise Batt-Rawden for having built up the title so strongly in four years. “Andrew took it on at age 28, and the quality he’s achieved is incredible”, adds Veel. Watson agrees: “Limelight is unique, and its high quality is held in high esteem not just by arts participants but by arts companies as well.”

Subscription for online access to Limelight costs $6 per month, and readers receive a 50 per cent discount on a selection of ABC Classics releases: find all the details here.

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