I’ll confess. I am a bit of nerd when it comes to music. In particular I am a die hard fan of NME and I read it religiously. I do my best to grab an edition every time I see them being handed out on a Friday around campus. I often take two in case I lose one (and also because student distributors get paid for each edition they hand out, so you’re basically tipping them if you take two.) I enjoy flicking through its pages and laughing at who has tweeted what, finding new music to listen to, and seeing which music artist has had the best or worst week. For instance this week’s edition highlighted how lots of Stephen King’s manuscripts were destroyed by a burst pipe. There is no way I would have found that on Twitter on my own.
Since I am an Instagram and Soundcloud virgin and I am pretty much Twitter illiterate it is often where I get to see what is trending and who is now up and coming. I have even recently nerded out to the point where I am reading a book on the history of the NME. Reading stories of how Jimi Hendrix asked a journalist to set his typewriter on fire and how one cheeky journalist pissed in his ex-bosses tea following his sacking. Yet as I geek out and pick what bands to go and see in Leeds or London, there is one thing that has begun to increasingly grind my gears.
NME has lost its editorial integrity. Rather than give new artists a platform the magazine is now over half full of adverts. The front page and back page are regularly sold to companies trying to target a student audience. Topman models are more common on the front page than actual musicians. In addition, the most recent edition of NME has halved in size as a result of the film ‘Downsizing’ taking over the front, back and middle pages.
To change the size of your publication just for some advertising is a sign that you are a sellout. Furthermore the first five pages of the edition feature just two pages of content and three whole page adverts, making it very difficult to actually distinguish where the edition starts and where the promotion ends. Making the magazine pocket sized for just one edition also devalues the content inside. There are interviews with Eddie Redmayne, Ed Miliband and Craig David sitting inside, however the contents page does not even clearly highlight these (bar Mr David as he’s on the front page.)
I acknowledge that the paper is now distributed for free rather than being sold in order to stay accessible. I also acknowledge the continual struggle that print media in all their shapes and forms are facing. It is difficult to sustain and profit in this era of social media and competition is at a high. Many will even question NME’s relevance in being involved anymore.
In contrast, NME is just as big a part of the UK music scene and teenage life as David Bowie or The Beatles. John Lennon grew up reading the magazine and no publication had a chart before NME. It has been one of the most innovative publications the UK has ever seen – and it served as a catalyst for the music careers of pretty much every big name in music you can think of: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Blur, Oasis, The Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd to name just a few. For this publication and others like it to simply turn into teenage advertising magazines will suck. NME, stop selling out and keep the British love affair with music alive.