Enemies of the NME unite!
Come titter at the fallen goliath! Hark at its sub-25k magazine readership! Sneer as you recall the shinning it gave that not-that- great-actually-on-reflection Manics album!
After each and every disheartening ABC update, we witness the depressing relish with which certain music types gobble up news of circulation drop-offs at music’s ex-king of the newsstand.
I’m still not quite sure why they revel so gladly in its decline. Maybe Viva Brother’s influence permeated beyond any social perimeter we could have foreseen. Maybe, as a bold, barefaced cultural icon, NME will forever remain a target. Maybe Morrissey has been busy ensuring [REDACTED].
The corporate PR tikes at IPC and Bauer – the latter’s Q gets the blackest mark in the latest Jan-Jun results – pollinated inboxes with their stock ABC responses last week: highlighting their non- magazine plus points, and politely questioning ABC’s own relevance in the age of ‘trans-media’. (Future Publishing weren’t even that brave: they just sat in silence and hoped the whole sorry affair would be kind enough to go away.)
So here’s the dirty secret IPC didn’t bellow: NME’s got really quite good. No longer confining itself to covering post-Strokes hipsters, Gallagher-wannabe bigmouths or shambling Libertines copycats, and with clear investment in ‘proper’, in-depth writing, it’s a title once again worthy of its hallowed moniker.
Crushingly, quality alone isn’t enough to survive. Just ask The Word, whose excellent Andrew Harrison jumped ship before it’s resigned extinction, only to face the monumental task of revitalising a Q magazine in G-Force free-fall.
As for the NME, should it go gratis? It’s the question every bit as predictable as an Essex numbskull jettisoning a bottle full of his deficient DNA at V Festival; one IPC dismisses with muscular talk of NME.com’s multi-million reader base and its venue- packing live business.
Either way, grappling for resilience as a consumer music magazine in 2012 is a gigantic ask. The circulation-munching locust of the internet and YouTube/Spotify’s decimation of reviewer power are invulnerable, mammoth ailments.
Perhaps the one razor-toothed threat these titles can successfully tackle is their own identity. For a consumer magazine to have any hope of eking those precious recession pennies from its audience’s pockets, it not only has to connect with their interests, but with a communal sense of belonging - maybe even emotion. It must become a membership card; a fanclub of the beguiled hivemind. Just ask Kerrang!
How can Q and NME demonstrate this kind of pinpoint audience empathy when sub-culture ‘movements’ are more blurred, shattered and instantly modified than ever before? God knows.
But in an age when it takes fewer than 10,000 sales to hit No.1 in the Official Albums Chart, the music industry can ill afford to stand by and gawp at their decay – let alone point fingers and laugh.