Coincidentally, on the same week that the annual NME awards show took place, the magazine announced its first circulation figures since it made the drastic change to become a free publication back in September 2015. The iconic publication made the decision to start distributing for free after their circulation figures dropped to a low of only 15,384. The figures just released have shown a jump to the highest ever recorded in NME’s 64 year history - 307,217. This is great news for all involved; it appears that Britain’s most famous music paper has been saved.
The New Musical Express is a publication that I hold very close to my heart, having been a subscriber for 6 years prior to September’s switch. I was always proud to be a reader, and covered the walls of my bedroom, both at home and at university, in posters and cuttings from the magazine. I completely ignored one of my favourite artists, Scroobius Pip, who rapped “thou shalt not read NME” as one of his commandments on his most famous track with Dan Le Sac, “Thou Shalt Always Kill”.
It saddens me to say however, that I now completely agree with Pip. Do not read NME. This is not because of the highly publicised decisions to put Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift on the cover since going free. I agree with the editor in chief Mike WIlliams when he says “The NME cover should absolutely spark debate.” This is the only topic on which I agree with him though. The new, free NME is no longer the New Musical Express. It has manifested itself into a popular culture paper that covers films, television, fashion and games, along with music.
In order to make the magazine a better fit for a mass audience, which can be reached through its distribution at tube stops, venues, universities and an ever-increasing number of shops, they have diluted the content. They are trying to cover all bases. To again quote Mike Williams: “I’m perfectly comfortable with a 12 year old reading NME or a 60 year old reading NME.”
This is a wonderful idea, but every media outlet needs a target audience – just look at the way the BBC splits the target audience of its radio stations. NME is a publication that should provide the youth of this country with the best, new music. It should not feel the need to cover all the other forms of entertainment. It may as well be the “Going Out” section of the Evening Standard. The NME is the most iconic magazine in musical history. It may well have been saved, but its reputation has been ruined.
Despite this, the NME awards still went ahead on February 17th. The ceremony is famed for the debauchery that is likely to occur when you fill a room with rock stars and give them an open bar. This year, though, it felt a little bit forced. You may have heard that Bring Me The Horizon’s frontman, Oli Sykes, “trashed” Coldplay’s table. In the middle of a performance of “Happy Song”, Sykes wandered into the crowd, climbed onto Coldplay’s table and started destroying it. It sounds pretty rowdy, but reeks of a pre-planned stunt for the press. ( http://www.nme.com/news/bring-me-the-horizon/91597 )
You should also take a look at this performance from Rat Boy, an artist I championed at the start of the year. He’s performing his new song “Move” (which is a genuine belter) to a crowd of motionless people. Not particularly raucous ...
I could lament to you all day about the decline of NME, as it is a topic that genuinely hurts me. I loved the magazine. It’s horrible to see it destroy its own soul.
The good news to come out of all this though, is that the awards are still voted for by the public and a number of outstanding bands got the recognition they deserved in the form of an iconic middle finger trophy:
NME Innovation Award: Bring Me The Horizon
Best British Band: The Maccabees
Best International Band: Run The Jewels
Best British Solo Artist: Charli XCX
Best Live Band: Wolf Alice
Best Album: Foals - What Went Down
Music Moment Of The Year: The Libertines - Secret Glastonbury Set
Best Track: Wolf Alice - Giant Peach
Best new Artist: Rat Boy
Best Music Video: Slaves - Cheer Up London
(All quotes from Mike WIlliams taken from an Interview with Music Week (01/02/2016))
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