Thursday, April 12, 2012
Krissi Murison, editor of NME since 2009, is stepping down.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
After The Observer's rather generous 60th birthday coverage, the Guardian is a little more cool towards the NME. (Bless, it's like the NME and Melody Maker taking different tacks on a band, isn't it?)
Krissi Murison gets to deny a few high-profile rumours - she says it's "categorically untrue" that there was an issue before Christmas which only scraped 12,000 sales; denies they're dumping guitar bands (unless Noel goes ragga, it would seem unlikely) and rules out the title going free.
She also points to the seven million unique visitors to nme.com as evidence of the title being in rude health. Except that figure is boosted by the addition of a lot of film and TV content which isn't really what people think of as being the NME; and it's questionable how many of those seven million even know there's a magazine, and a heritage, behind the site.
And the fixation on the past that is currently choking the life out the magazine? It's brilliant, apparently:
She talks enthusiastically of the magazine's embrace of the past over the last year, when it ran a number of retrospective cover stories.The very mention of focus groups suggests part of the problem, doesn't it? Sit a bunch of kids around, give them biscuits and ask them what they think of the idea of putting John Lennon on the front page, and you'll get lots of applause. But are they going to go out and buy the magazine?
"Young fans really love these covers," she says. "Our focus groups get really excited when it's the Smiths or John Lennon. You used to be really limited in what you could listen to, but now you have access to everything – young readers don't think chronologically about music."
(Consults ABC figures.)
No. No, they're not.
I know we're living in different days now, but the idea of NME covers being dictated by focus group feedback seems to miss the point of what it should be doing. What you'd hope it should be doing.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
There's a nice piece in The Observer today looking at the sixty years history of the now-defunct NME through editor's favourite covers.
I say sixty years; there isn't anything from before 1979. And, somewhat oddly, there's no contribution from Conor McNicholas. They don't quite have the current editor, either:
It was certainly a provocative choice for an NME front, but to be honest, what else would she have gone with? The last couple of years of fronts of the NME have felt like a constant rotation of Noel Gallagher/long dead pop star/list issue/Liam Gallagher.
In fact, just how out of sorts the NME front page has become is shown by the choices of the other editors of what was 'of their time'. All the previous decade's choices have featured in the last quarter of the magazine as well.
So, Alan Lewis picks The Stone Roses cover from November 1989; They got two front pages in October 2011 (and, I suspect, will be on there again before the year is out.)
Steve Sutherland picks the Blur v Oasis battle, a clash that still rumbles on with Noel having last shown up on the front page last week and Blur, erm, this.
Neil Spencer has picked a punk cover; next week, unbelievably, the NME is putting the Sex Pistols on the cover. (Spencer's choice, incidentally, is the Slits nude-mud cover, which was genuinely challenging and part of a debate, rather than Lydon banging on like a pantomime dame again.)
Murison, whose editorship started well and has spiralled down noticeably over the last year or so, ending up with a Beatles front page at the turn of the year, attempts to sum up the current editorial stance of the paper but unfortunately ends up sounding like a letter to Smash Hits, circa 1986:
I started just as dubstep had gone from underground to overground and artists in whatever genre were generally being more experimental. People always say to me that such-and-such is an NME band but that doesn't mean much to me. There are two types of music, good and bad, and genre doesn't come into that.Looking at the list of acts who have appeared on the front pages, or in the lists of best albums, that starts to ring a bit hollow. A magazine that genuinely believed that would be something to behold - jazz rubbing against interesting noise against folk.
But that's not what the NME is - in fact, what seems to be the definition of an NME band in 2012 is 'was it an NME band in the last century'?
Friday, April 08, 2011
I'm wondering if NME ought to try taking a leaf out of Whizzer And Chips, and turning itself into two magazines in one. That way, you could have one bit with the stuff that it churns out which we could generously call 'rock heritage' (or 'shouldn't this be in Uncut?' bits), and another which has the generous coverage of artists from whom we haven't yet heard enough.
This week's cover goes to the Arctic Monkeys, and probably should. It's just in the middle of a run which goes Beady Eye - Arctic Monkeys - Foo Fighters; so an editorial decision which makes sense based on the article being promoted ends up looking like just another churn-through of the same old faces.
The interview is billed as "the exclusive album interview", but at the end there's a trail for another interview in two weeks where Alex Turner will talk about the songs on the album. So, erm, presumably that's the other exclusive album interview, then.
What we seem to have is a band who have reached something of the bottom of the ideas bucket. Krissi Murison - yes, the editor's out getting her fingers inky - observes that some of the songs on the new album are a bit opaque. Alex nods:
"Something I've discovered as I've gone on is that it's cool to let the words sometimes take more of a back seat. I think there's two types of songs, where some of the I want people to, like, understand where it is ... Then there's other things ... where it's much more vague, and I kind of want to keep it that way. I always think of some Bowie tunes that do that, things like Five Years, you're right there with him, and other things like that tune Lady Grinning Soul, it's sort of describing this woman, obviously, but you don't know where you are with it."
I know, I know. You're thinking that that is quite a statement - the claim that Lady Grinning Soul is somehow 'vague' is fascinating and so obviously wrong that it calls out for further exploration. But there's also the comparison of what seems like some 'will-this-do' half-formed lyrics to Bowie's use of sideways language to conjure an image - there's a burning 'really, Alex? You think that's the same thing?' hanging there. Or maybe we just want to hear Turner being pushed a little further, to try and explore how the lyrics on the new album live up to his claims, to see if he's not just trying to reverse-out an excuse for not really having had much to say this time round. Earlier in the interview, the band were discussing how they've grown and changed their sound, so perhaps there's a question about if Turner is really able to write words that fit with a band heading in a different musical direction.
Which of these follow-ups does Krissi go with?
None. She just moves on to the next question.
Also in the Uncut part of the magazine this week, there's a big splash on The Ramones. But - good news - the NME have got interview time with Debbie Harry. Excellent, a chance for someone with intimate knowledge of the Ramones to share her insights, right?
Uh... no. Harry is crammed away on the back pages (being charming and funny, admittedly) and so the Ramones are strained through the opinions of The Strokes. Because if you don't have a band from a decade ago acting as sponsors, why else would you write about a band from four decades back, eh?
In the Chips style 'good bits' pull out, there's Anna Calvi, where she's actually able to talk about her lyrics (and, funnily enough, about David Bowie) in a way that doesn't sound stilted and a nice bit with Katy B, who still likes travelling on night buses.
Over in the reviews section, there's signs of worrying grade inflation. Nearly everything gets seven or higher; only the Pigeon Detectives pick up six and just one album, out of all this week's releases, gets less than five. That's Beardyman, and even though the review screams "two at best", there's still a large four at the foot of the piece.
Next week, it's the Foo Fighters. It could be any next week from the last hundred years, couldn't it?
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
A lovely big, positive piece on the NME and new editor Krissi Murison was the highlight of yesterday's MediaGuardian - the newspaper's enthusiasm for the magazine in no way influenced, of course, by the magazine's sponsorship of the newspaper's student media awards.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the article was this:
Now it is tempting to think of the magazine as a 58-year-old who, having given birth to numerous offspring, nme.com, NME Radio, NME TV, NME Awards tour and Club NME, is being eclipsed by them. [Paul Cheal, the publishing director of NME and Uncut], who masterminded this brand diaspora, begs to differ: "The magazine is the cultural heartbeat of the brand and a lot of our journalistic integrity resides in the magazine and then spreads out." But he admits the mass of readers has "shifted online", with nme.com enjoying 4.5 million unique users a month. Cheal maintains the magazine is profitable and attracts a healthy number of music and lifestyle advertisers.
It's not entirely unlikely that the magazine makes a profit - there is a fair degree of advertising and fluffy advertorial set against editorial which doesn't suggest too much in the way of Time Warner resources being burned through to create it - and if Cheal is being straight, a couple of thousand extra readers might be all anyone needs at the weekly to sleep well at night. For the next couple of years, anyway.
Mind you, if the title is in rude health, it makes you wonder why there's the need for a wholesale revamp. Perhaps it was part of the deal to bring Krissi Murison in.
And - from the first glimpses on MediaGuardian today - the overhaul doesn't seem too bad.
Sure, it's disappointing that the logo has been reduced to a single block of colour - but on the other hand, the words "New Musical Express" have been restored to the masthead.
Yes, the idea of ten different covers has been done to death, and doing a multicover for no reason other than your own redesign suggests there's not much else to shout about. But, the other hand shows, the design of all ten covers looks bloody great - even the Kasabian one would be lovely, if it didn't have Kasabian on it. These are acts of love.
The choice of the ten cover stars is quite the Curate's egg, too: a handful of irk-the-purists choices (Rhianna, albeit with a sweary word), a few of the sort of interesting and intriguing new acts you never saw on the front page during the McNicholas years, and some thudding, dull, safe choices (the aforementioned Kasabian, and Jack White.)
It's intriguing - from this distance, it's hard to tell if the aim is a steady-as-she-goes don't-scare-the-horses attempt to change the ship's direction, or merely adding some shading to try and give the impression of depth to a 2D publication. Murison's issues so far have been mixed - generally with one cracker followed by three ho-hum editions - but now, surely, this is going to have to be a new era?
Friday, November 27, 2009
Last night, the Record Of The Day Awards brought together those who work round the back of the music business to honour them with awards. These were the winners, with what you can either call nominees or losers in brackets:
No Pain In Pop
(The Von Pip Musical Express)
Best PR Campaign for a Breakthrough non-UK Act
Lady Gaga - Polydor
(Passion Pit – Columbia)
Live Reviews: Writer of the Year
John Doran, The Quietus, NME and others
(Alexis Petridis, The Guardian)
Free Music Magazine of the Year
The Stool Pigeon
Best PR Campaign for a Breakthrough UK Act
Florence and the Machine - Toast
(Tinchy Stryder - Stoked PR)
Best Music Coverage in the Popular Press
Sun - Something For The Weekend
Best PR Campaign for an Established UK Act
Dizzee Rascal - XL - Michael Cleary (formerly at XL, now at Columbia)
(Arctic Monkeys - Bad Moon)
Record Reviews: Writer of the Year
Alexis Petridis - The Guardian
(Luke Turner, The Quietus)
Best Music Coverage in a National Newspaper
(The Guardian Guide)
Best PR Campaign for an Established non-UK Act
Jay-Z - Atlantic
(Phoenix - V2/Cooperative Music)
Digital Publication of the Year
(The Line of Best Fit)
Best In-House PR Person
Adrian Read – Polydor
(Janet Choudry – Parlophone)
Best In-House PR Department
Breaking Music: Writer of the Year
Peter Robinson – Popjustice
(Paul Lester – The Guardian)
Feature of the Year
Warp Records' 20th Anniversary Feature - Clash Magazine
(Thom Yorke’s autobiography by Steven Wells)
PR Reputation Management
Michael Cleary formerly at XL - Dizzee Rascal
(Supersonic PR – Cheryl Cole)
Best Independent PR Person
Beth Brookfield – Purple PR
(Briana Doughety – Darling Dept.)
Best Independent PR Company
Editor of the Year
Mike Williams – Kruger
(Krissi Murison – NME)
Magazine of the Year
Observer Music Monthly
Outstanding Contribution to Music PR
Outstanding Contribution to Music Photography
Outstanding Contribution to Music Journalism
Bit of a shame that the Observer Music Monthly team will be having to sell their prize to eat from next month.
The most curious of this list is not the winners, but the nomination of Krissi Murison at NME. She's not really had much time to put her stamp onto the title yet - and there's been a run of awful, pointless, list-based issues (the most dead pop stars or whatever it was? Really?); the suspicion must be that this was a nomination based on 'not being Conor McNicholas'.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
MediaGuardian have just tweeted that Krissi Murison is the new editor of NME. Which is nice to see that they're promoting from within, and also ignoring the 'GURLS KEEP OUT' which had been scrawled on the editors desk since the start of time.