News broke yesterday that NME's print title would cease circulation, in favour of a "digital first" strategy. So sad, so media-in-2018. And inevitable though this may have felt for a while now, the print title's folding feels like an important time to reflect on its impact on millennial readers and writers, and the British music press as a whole.
Like a lot of teenagers teenaging in the early-to-mid 2000s, from the ages of 12 to about 14, I bought the NME every single week. Reading it cover to cover in my bedroom was the highlight of my little existence, and I devoured every new band I found within its pages. I'm probably not the only person in their twenties with a similar story, because for us NME bridged a gap: we'd missed out on the heyday of music print journalism, and the internet wasn't quite fully fledged enough to shape our tastes yet, either – probably, like me, you had to settle for hearing whatever your LimeWire searches would throw up.
British music's print press once thrived, but as years went by and tastes swelled and changed, NME was the only truly major, youth-angled rock publication to survive (though of course heavy music titles like Kerrang! and Metal Hammer existed alongside it, allowing you to be an emo and an indie kid all at once if you wished), and its influence was, for a time, undeniably massive. Though millennials missed out on its 90's Britpop heyday, we did get to see its last great hurrahs: the indie scene of the early 2000s, and, later on, its day-glo problem child, New Rave. In introducing us to bands like The Strokes, The Libertines, and later, Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons, and The Gossip (though certainly, its coverage of woman musicians could have done with some work), NME singularly informed the tastes of a generation of young British rock fans. It's quite a legacy.
And speaking of legacy, the effect of NME in print on the style of the British music journalism that went after it is important to consider. Though, even at its peak, it was divisive, and many (not least the bands it laid into) saw its coverage as flawed, it had a unique voice in turn that helped to form the voices of many of the UK's current music writers and outlets. I remember reading it and adoring its irreverence (couldn't believe you could say "fuck" in a magazine tbh) and its conversational tone like nothing else I had ever read. Trawling through it felt like getting recommendations from an older, snarkier friend, and I hung on its every word.
Of course, as with all things, my adoration of the magazine passed, as the internet began to take real hold (though that's not to say print's dead: new music publications like Crack and So Young are now the indie tastemakers that NME is no longer). Three years ago, NME's print title became free, and its slant changed. It covered poppier artists like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber – both to appeal to its new, wider demographic of commuters, and because listening habits have changed and diversified due to streaming's ease – and many felt as though it had lost its edge. And realistically, that's probably true, but the effect it had at its peak will live on through its influence on all the British music press we have now, much of it online based, for better or worse.
RIP NME in print. Let's hope its spirit – at its best, raucous, clever, and pissing everyone off – lives on.
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