Free Musical Express 2: Still Loving the NME

Serena Bhardwaj looks at the ways in which the NME have replaced killer content with filler.

22nd October 2015

I should start by putting it out there that I’ve always had a sort of love-hate relationship with NME Magazine. Nevertheless, let’s begin at the beginning. In 1952, the New Musical Express was born; generally focusing on the alternative and rock music scene. To put it briefly, it followed the start of psychedelia, the rise of grunge and punk, the growth of Madchester, the Britpop war and all indie that followed.

In 2014, the sale of NME hit an all-time low, but this wasn't the first time that the magazine’s success had been threatened. It’s been rivalled by Melody Maker and Q Magazine causing a constant shift in popularity; some dissatisfaction came in the early 70s, mid 80s, and increasing apathy has been noted in recent years. Something had to change. Something had to happen to bring a bit of excitement back to the glossy pages of musical chat. So, on September 18th 2015, NME rebranded.

"Nice easy reading but the substance is lacking... it's harsh but I don't really care for the 10 Best One-Episode Simpson's Characters"

I enjoy reading NME but let’s be honest; the writers know what they like, and they like what they know. Basically, they have their favourites - the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons etc. So, with the relaunch this was their opportunity to branch out. Did they do it? Well…sort of. NME now focuses not only on music, but also film and style with a dash of news and comment. The magazine is highly influential in the media industry and I suppose it always will be. So, what I do like is that they’re slowly talking more about politics; such as the Corbyn feature in the 2nd release. We’re currently in an exciting political era and as students are the main target audience for NME, it’s good that they’re using their platform to discuss something important. But four weeks in and we’ve seen Rihanna, Robert Pattinson, Chris Moyles and Taylor Swift plastered on the front. I’m underwhelmed to say the least.

NME is now completely free which on one hand is brilliant; the slightly steep price tag was the main reason I didn’t buy every copy. However, it seems to be at the expense of selling out and becoming more commercialised. It’s a shame that the magazine is moving away from the alternative scene and into pop culture. I’ve got nothing against pop music; it has a place in society, but I don't think it has a place it NME because they’ve never stood for that, so why have they changed now? If they’ve done it to please a broader audience then I think they’ve gone about it in completely the wrong way. In terms of the actual content, NME is now filled with an excessive number of advertisements and articles that resemble Buzzfeed pieces instead of top notch music journalism.

If I were to describe the new magazine in one word it would probably be lists. They seem to love a good list now.  For example, the List for Life series that they’ve started is some nice easy reading, but the substance is lacking. It’s harsh but I don’t really care for the ’10 Best one-episode Simpsons characters’ - I picked up the magazine for music not filler articles. I’ll still grudgingly get NME every week, after all it is free, but it seems to have lost its touch unfortunately.

Serena Bardhwaj

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