At its barrel-scraping worst, NME has had a detrimental effect on music today and the way we consume it. It has regrettably engendered a culture of slavish devotion to the past, as seen by its hysterical insistence on depicting the last twenty years in indie music as nothing more than a series of epochs: Britpop in the nineties; its American arch-nemesis grunge in the same decade; the noughties new rock revolution spearheaded by the Strokes and so forth. It has also contributed to a culture in which new acts aren’t so much promoted as they are rammed down your throat until you gag. The Guardian’s New Band of the Day and the BBC’s Sound of… are direct descendants of NME’s unquenchable thirst for newness.
This has terrible outcomes for British music. On the one hand, new bands are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the plethora of other new bands being publicised: victims of the NME hype machine Black Kids have yet to release their second album. On the other hand, indie music is reduced to an anodyne narrative—fringe bands and music scenes are ignored, and genres and sub-genres become mere adjectives. So what can be done? In its current incarnation, NME has been shamelessly subsidised by advertisements and no longer serves as a guide to new music. Simply, we should boycott it and avoid it at all costs. It no longer stands for new music; it is a lifestyle magazine.
Instead, let’s use the opportunity to discover new music for ourselves. There are other, more thorough music magazines out there—ones that don’t resort to hectoring which “essential” bands you need to hear. The internet also democratises the process of discovering music without the indie tribalism and anti-pop snobbery that NME’s studied faux-gonzo journalism had dished out in the past. When you discover a new act you like, stick with them and support them—don’t fall prey to the NME tradition of disposing one thing after another and simply skimming through the lot. We should digest new acts and digest the present rather than eulogising the past through rose-tinted glasses, endlessly devouring then abandoning an assembly line of the next big things. Hopefully, in time, the criminally overlooked (like Fiction, Kwes and Anna Calvi) will triumph over populist and hyped-up post-landfill indie (The 1975, I’m looking at you).
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