Monday, 13 June 2011

sleeping with the NME

i finally take my seat in the NME offices and relax at the desk.

sadly, this is not the first day of a new job plying my wares for the UK's premier weekly music magazine.

instead, i have been summoned to their HQ in Southwark as part of a focus group.

much less rock n roll than i'd anticipated, it seems obtuse that these sterile offices were home to a music juggernaut that makes and break careers and has been key in hyping and tastemaking bands and scenes.

but it was early evening and perhaps every hint of excitement and joyous musical rebellion had clocked off at half 5 - regardless, the small group i was joining soon settled in the bland surroundings and were further relaxed by the offer of beers and pizza.

i for one had it clear in my mind as son as i'd had the call-up that i was keen to let NME know where they had been going wrong.

i admitted to have given up on NME many years ago, around the time Arctic Monkey's debut album was released and the front cover heralded another feature on them for the third time in a month, the bands assualt on the mainstream was well and truly underway and the over-saturation left me jaded.

they had once been the most exciting and heralded new band around, but as the magazine churned out another article i wondered if there was possibly anything more that i needed to know about Arctic Monkeys, and thus i turned my back on the gospel according to NME

finally given the appropriate platform to make my feeling known i did not shy away from voicing my dissenting opinion on a frustratingly overwhelming reliance on lists

on the occasions that an interesting cover feature has lured me back over the years, i've often found that good quality articles have now made way for a ridiculous array of lists on almost every conceivable nuance and sub-category of music.

i fully expect end of year polls and speculative new year/ new bands runthroughs, yet is seems all too often that so-called journalists have taken an easy option of compiling a handful of brief opinions and assigning each banal blurb a numerological value.

even of the 3 issues sent to each of us for research purposes, we were subjected to 3 lists.

top ten buzz bands of the great escape.

top 25 band logos.

and 16 pages of NME's top 70 cult heroes.

apart from my moan about this brazen lazy journalism,Other topics breached included our feelings towards a number of regular features and a discussion on whether Lady Gaga and other 'pop' acts deserve to be on the cover of NME, or deserve to be featured at all (I believe they do), a general consensus that the 'funny' cartoon is possibly the most hated part of the magazine and a lively debate for and against Popjustice's 'Peter Robinson Vs' interviews (for which i was firmly and vocally for).

As well as existing features, we were given a sneak peak at possible contributions, of which the most offensive was a sloppily thrown together piece on how to achieve Alex Turner's 'look', shouted down and derided by everyone in the room for turning what should be a respected music magazine into the indie Heat.

as a newspaper columnist perhaps i should not draw attention to the plight of print media, but it is obvious to all that the sheer quantity and variety of information, opinions and recomendations available online has seen publishers suffering, and those conducting the session were equally interested in how we recieve and percieve new music and recommendations in this modern world where the internet is usurping a former great's all-powerful hold.

Even though I hadn't been called upon to shape the future of NME with my own journalistic talents, it was still a unique opportunity to witness the market research and pitches that everyone involved hopes will keep NME vital and interesting in the 21st century.

Having read the magazine religiously for around 5 or so years from the age of 17, and having NME itself shape me in some of my formative years, it felt right that I could try to return the favour.

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