NME territory: Why the biz still needs passionate music journalism

NME

I was lucky enough to serve my time at NME during what’s come to be seen as a golden age for the weekly music magazine, which sadly closed its printed edition last week.

The mid ’90s were a time of what seemed like endless commercial and creative possibility for both music and magazines.

It culminated in the Britpop era, when NME sold (and that’s sold – not gave away) well over 100,000 copies every week and could seemingly make or break a band with a single review, let alone a cover feature.

Times have changed – and reducing the power of media gatekeepers has been good for plenty of those in the business of music  but music fans still long for that connection with and, crucially, understanding of artists that NME, at its best, would deliver.

Nowadays, of course, artists can communicate directly with fans via social media, but the biz should be wary of thinking that’s enough to truly cement a bond that builds life-long careers.

An artist declaring themselves great is one thing. Having a trusted, independent source do so is something else, as everything from specialist radio to carefully curated Spotify playlists proves on a daily basis.

According to many of the top PRs that we spoke to for this week's edition of Music Week, the NME stopped moving the dial on sales long before it went free. But it – and all the other great print magazines still fighting the good fight – always contributed much more to the music ecosystem.

So if you’re wondering why fans aren’t as loyal to your artists as they once were, the lack of a third party interpreting their work and articulating their brilliance could be a factor.

The NME will live on digitally and it’s to be hoped the staff (editor Mike Williams left shortly before the closure) get the chance to reinvent their music journalism for the digital era. But there are also, still, plenty of other options out there.

And, if the biz wants to avoid being held hostage to big tech algorithms when it comes to people finding music, it should embrace them while it still can.

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