Saturday, 30 August 2014

Why After 20 Years Of Receiving The NME We're Cancelling Our Subscription

We've been subscribing to the NME for a long time now - ever since we realised that pop music was more than just entertainment and a way of life. Like any relationship, we've had our ups and downs, we've even flirted and had affairs with others, but we've always come back, embracing the changes, from its ink-on-the -hands newspaper form to the smaller glossy cover magazine of today. We even survived the Conor McNicholas as editor era when the cracks really started to appear and the magazine seemed to place big names and self-importance over quality journalism. (Connor went on to edit Top Gear afterwards - we think this says all you need to know).

But the time has come for a trial separation. It's a case of "it's me not you," but whatever way we look at it, we've sadly grown apart.

In Roddy Doyle's book The Commitments the opening pages describe the character Jimmy Rabbitte, a man who is always on the pulse with the latest new music. “Jimmy knew what was what. Jimmy knew what was new, what was new but wouldn’t be for long and what was going to be new. Jimmy had Relax before anyone had heard of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and he’d started slagging them months before anyone realised that they were no good. Jimmy knew his music.”

We've always considered ourselves a bit like Jimmy. We're constantly excited by the new, how music changes over time and are constantly thrilled by those changes, be they in indie, folk, electronic, rock n roll, dance, whatever. The NME used to be a part of that thrill and knowing what was what. But now when it pops through our letter box every Wednesday morning we flick quickly through it, shrug and put it to one side.

What's changed? What's gone wrong? Why has our long term love affair waned over the last few years and died? Here's why. The reasons aren’t particularly a revelation….

1. We can get the thrill of the new elsewhere instantly in more than just words.

Every week we scan through NME's Radar section (the new music part of the mag). What we see is a bunch of bands that in the main we've already come across on the blogs (or written about on our own blog) in the weeks, months or even years before. But unlike the blogs we can't press play and listen to them right there and then. In today's on-the-go society that's needed. Plus the short paragraphs of text describing the music the NME use really aren't anything different to a typical blog post, so in effect these pages are just a weaker cousin of what's already out there – except you have to pay for it.

There's a certain irony that when bands get featured in the NME's Radar section that people seem to celebrate it as being important and giving the band some sort of credibility. Yet really what does it achieve for the band? In our direct experience through the artists we have talked to, with only 15,000 purchasers / week less people will go and listen to the band’s music because of an NME Radar feature than if a typical small scale blog like Breaking More Waves features the act.
2. The constant search for the next big white male indie guitar band bores us

Come on guys. Superfood? Really? Have they offered sexual favours to the writers of NME or something? They seem to get an awful lot of coverage for a very average band. But then that's just our taste - and that's the problem - maybe our tastes aren't as in sync these days.

Sure, we get it that the NME is meant to be the place to go for new white indie guitar bands but once again we can find about all these acts from blogs and websites if we want to (for free) - and whilst we hate the 'guitar music is dead' mentality, (Honeyblood for example have made one of our favourite records of the year)  NME's over reliance on celebrating  so many very average indie bands in an environment where our personal tastes are much broader means that we've begun to question why we buy it.

3. The journalism should be the star as much as the music. It isn't now.

As the words brand has become as important to the NME as band its journalism has become more and more corporate in style. It's not that's its bad journalism, in fact we'd argue the last few years (from the point where Krissi Murison took over as editor) have seen an improvement in the quality of the writing with some excellent long-form articles, but there's very little character in the writing. Which brings us onto point 4…..

4. Opening up the NME just doesn't excite anymore.

The NME used to be our leader through the exciting and turbulent seas of new music and indie rock spelt out by attitude laden, exciting voices. Now the leader has been overthrown by the masses online. It's that online mass that we, like many others, now turn to.


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy these personal pieces about music.

Who wants to pay to read soundbite pieces on new bands when you can get that (and more) on line for free? Not me.

Chris said...

Nice piece, and, some excellent thoughts mirroring what I sure many others (myself included) feel.

I only very occasionally buy the NME these days, because, you're right, by the time it gets to the shops, I feel I've heard what I'm likely to find in there that would be of interest already, and, that's after wading through pages about the anniversary of Definitely Maybe or some such other "New Music" article!