It's 66 and out for the New Musical Express, which is ceasing its free-title, ad-funded weekly version as of this Friday (March 9th) to go online only.
It’s a sad day for British pop culture, as the NME has announced that it is ceasing its weekly print edition after 66 years.
A once mighty publication that was a critical part of British music fans’ lives, the New Musical Express is now another of the famous publishing brands that now only exists online.
NME.com will continue in its online format, altering its ‘cover star’ format into a new digital franchise, titled The Big Read. There will also be a sporadic print presence in the shape of its paid-for series NME Gold and other special issues.
However, the much-treasured weekly music paper format will die for good this week, with Friday’s edition (March 9th) being the last ever printed issue. It means that its the last of the weekly music papers to die, unless you count the metal specialist publication Kerrang!.
Just under three years ago, the NME moved to a free, ad-funded format that was distributed at travel hubs like train and tube stations and in record stores like HMV. It made the decision to re-launch after decades of declining sales had seen its circulation fall to just 15,000.
Carl Barat, of The Libertines, was one of the many musicians to enjoy the patronage of the NME
Time Inc UK, which publishes the NME, is consulting with its 23 editorial and commercial staff about possible redundancies. The decision comes just a week after Time itself was sold to private equity group Epiris in a £130 million deal.
“Our move to free print has helped propel the brand to its biggest ever audience on NME.com,” said Time’s Paul Cheal, the company’s music MD, on Wednesday (March 7th).
“We have also faced increasing production costs and a very tough print advertising market. It is in the digital space where effort and investment will focus to secure a strong future for this famous brand. NME will also be exploring other opportunities to bring its best-in-class music journalism to market in print.”
First appearing in 1952, the NME’s sales hit an all-time high of almost 307,000 every week in 1964, when the magazine had the inside track when it came to keeping up with the latest exploits of the Beatles, the Stones and other Sixties luminaries.
The NME then hit what is widely regarded as its golden age in the late ‘70s, becoming a champion for punk and then the post-punk, new-wave and indie acts that flourished in the aftermath. It was also a big favourite in the ‘90s, when it came to chronicling Britpop, and also touched on political and social issues like the rise of the far-right, and of teen suicide.
However, it started to falter in the mid-Noughties, with the threat of the internet, downloading and Spotify making print publications in music increasingly redundant. The magazine also faced criticism over the nature of their coverage during this time, moving to a glossy format and an increasingly gossip-style tone, although it did help to stoke the fortunes of British guitar bands like The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian during that time.