Friday, March 14, 2008

Andrew Collins on the NME

We wish we could pretend that we've taken a week to get round to mentioning Andrew Collins full length reaction to Stephen Dalton's piece on the NME from The Times as some sort of cosmic joke on his contention that the internet means you don't have to wait a week to hear about things any more, but actually we've taken a week to hear about it.

Andrew Collins still buys the NME, but:

I continue to read the NME because of its heritage, and for old times' sake, and because I'm actually too old to go to smelly pub gigs and sniff out the latest thing, and I'm certainly not going to loiter around MySpace at my age, so it offers me a shortcut to new stuff. But I am categorically not the NME's target audience, and I'm not going to keep it afloat on my own.

You wonder, actually, if the few thousand who do buy the NME now might not actually be significantly comprised of people like Mr Collins who buy it for old times sake.

Maybe that's where the future of the magazine could be: tempting back the audience who once bought the paper but don't feel it's what it was. Perhaps rather than worrying about pretending Joe Lean and The Bing Bang Bong are worth writing about, the magazine should swallow the commercial logic and carry rather more on Steve Earle and The Breeders - music that's still contemporary, but not so focused on the perpretual chimera of newness.

AC also misses one key point:
Paul Morley once told me that his job at the NME of the late 70s was to provide a narrative. This narrative now comes from other media - especially the internet. If you want to know what a new single sounds like, you can go and download it, you don't need someone learned and wise like Morley to describe it for you. What was once his role is now redundant. NME writers now are just music fans with moderately better access to Bloc Party than you.

But the thing is nowadays everyone can be published like Paul Morley. But not everyone can write like Paul Morley.


6 comments:

Olive said...

and carry rather more on Steve Earle and The Breeders - music that's still contemporary, but not so focused on the perpretual chimera of newness

You seem to be advocating a weekly version of Q...

Robin Carmody said...

At least a weekly version of Q would interest people who still get a lot of their information from print. A youth-orientated publication is increasingly unlikely to do that. As it stands, NME's activities in other media are clearly far more important to those behind it than is the print publication, which is entirely logical and natural for a youth-orientated publication in 2008.

Andrew Collins himself has certainly never been able to write like Paul Morley (or like his own contemporaries one floor higher in King's Reach Tower). To be fair to him, that's probably precisely why Alan "lured back from a country pub" Lewis recruited him (actually, it was probably more *specifically* the fact that Collins wasn't concerned only with Red Wedge and Trouble Funk, which is at least more understandable).

Olive said...

Forgive me for being a little facetious- I've certainly read more interesting articles in Q over the past, say, 5 years than I have in the NME.
By the way, what's so great about Paul Morley's writing? That's a genuine question- I can't think of a single subject that I'd rather read him over Andrew Collins.

simon h b said...

@Olive
Not a weekly version of Q - I was imagining something more akin to a newspaper that was a bit more like a paper version of the Peel programme...

I think the thing with Morley is that, whether you like his style (and it really is an acquired taste) you have to respect the precision with which he builds his pieces...

Andrew Collins said...

In reference to this - "Andrew Collins himself has certainly never been able to write like Paul Morley (or like his own contemporaries one floor higher in King's Reach Tower). To be fair to him, that's probably precisely why Alan "lured back from a country pub" Lewis recruited him (actually, it was probably more *specifically* the fact that Collins wasn't concerned only with Red Wedge and Trouble Funk, which is at least more understandable)." - I have never suggested that I am as good a writer as Paul Morley. In fact, I have always been at pains to point out that I do not consider myself a great writer, merely a punctual and friendly one. And Alan Lewis didn't "recruit" me. James Brown liked my fanzine and asked me to come into the office for a chat. While there, I was introduced to the Art Editor, Justin Langlands, who needed a two-days-a-week design assistant. Fresh out of art school, I landed this job. So I was never taken on as a writer - I was the boy in the layout room who kept badgering the section editors for scraps of writing work, probably a metaphor for my entire subsequent career.

I know it's better when everything fits neatly together, but it rarely does.

anonymous #1 said...

The thing is that the big ad money is in the kiddie demographic - fresh meat for mobiles and the rest. Older people already have all their direct debits well in place and are a much tougher sales proposition to most businesses (apart from the luxury goods and travel sectors). So NME kind of has to go with the yoof market esp. as IPC already has Uncut for the middle-aged. I think the problem is more a matter of dated tastes in both cases. Although Sex Pistols hanger-around Alan Jones runs Uncut, it is a lot more Old Grey Whistle Test than Sniffin Glue with a huge emphasis on MOR Americana. NME meanwhile, is locked into a conservative white middle-class britpop death spiral as they to recall what the management doubtless see as the glory days. A part of their problem is that they have to cater to a young and very conservative readership but I suspect there is little recognition that this a problem they have created themselves through dull and oafish editorial policy - they only just seem to have given up on oasis and the kaisers for example (with yawn inducers Manic Street Preachers still being worshipped). Anyone trying to turn that mess around is going to have to piss off a lot of the current readership in the process and I don't imagine the current incumbents having the will, guts or imagination. They seem to be more interested in hanging on by their fingernails.

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