Saturday, 22 August 2009

The New Editor Of The NME - Time For Change ?

The appointment of Krissi Murison as the new editor of NME has created significant discussion over the last few weeks. Much of this discussion has revolved around the fact that she is a woman. The Guardian ran this interesting piece here. More importantly than the sex of the editor though is can she deliver a publication that is culturally relevant and of such worth that people want to read it ?

Here at Breaking More Waves we are going to reserve judgement on this matter. We prefer to wait to see how things unfold. However here’s a clue. Young Krissi recently wrote in the Times about her recent musical experiences of being in America and why she was looking forward to coming home. “I miss crowd-surfing at shows. I miss drunk people at shows. I miss drunk, underage people crowd-surfing at shows. I miss 18 year olds forming ludicrously experimental bands for a laugh, then splitting up on stage six weeks later. I miss it when one of those bands forgets to split up and inadvertently goes on to change the course of British pop music. I miss bands without facial hair. I miss bands with feathercuts. Mostly, though, I miss the constant drive to discover something new that means there’s never a dull day.”

“The constant drive to discover something new.” That’s the bit that interests us the most. Because the drive to discover something new may be there in its new soon-to-be editor, (who by all accounts is a very nice person and has pretty good musical taste ) but arguably that drive doesn’t sell copies any more. Mind you, it seems that the last few years attempts at constantly putting Oasis / The Libertines / Coldplay on the cover hasn’t worked either - sales of the NME are down to just below 50,000 now with a 24% year on year drop. Also although there may be the drive to find the new, when it occurs the magazine format of the NME fails - discovery to publication can take months, by which time the artist is almost second hand. Quite simply the NME can never respond as quickly as the internet (and particularly the blogosphere) can. A blogger can go and watch a band play their first gig tonight and write about them straight away then publish to the world with no editor to satisfy, no bureaucracy, no publication deadlines and dates. We wrote about this recently here. The NME simply can’t respond that quickly. So by the time the NME writes about something ‘new’ it no longer is. For example, this week in the NME the main Radar article, which is supposed to reveal new artists, featured Ellie Goulding. Even this blog, which is certainly not the hippest or most progressive wrote about Ellie last February and so have many others. Not only that but the departing editor Conor McNicholas must be staring out of the window eyeing up sports cars in preparation for his move to Top Gear magazine, because the feature describes Golding as “rousing folk rock for over-emotional drunks for fans of The Pogues, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash.” This is a terrible editorial error. If you have listened to Goulding you’ll know she sounds nothing like that.

So besides encouraging accurate and well written journalism one of the main challenges for Murison must be to develop a vision for the publication that works. If the NME is to stick to being called the NME rather than just the ME it needs to deal with how it is going to be leading rather than following in discovery of new music and somehow balance that against the commercial realities of the world, where its sales are dropping. Let’s put this in perspective; Metal Hammer now sells more copies than NME.

We wouldn’t fancy Murisons job, but wish her the best of luck and hope that she at least brings back some credibility to the NME.

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