Thursday, 1 August 2013

Rolling Stone, NME, Q... What Became of the Music Magazine?

 

After Rolling Stone published their July edition with the Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the front cover, it made me realise how the face of our once beloved music magazines are changing. The days of NME's battle with Melody Maker are long gone, and wanting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone these days is just about as meaningful as making it through to the second round of XFactor. Q, the rock magazine, has turned into a laughing stock with its appraisal to a select few artists and leaving the rest to depend on modern age journalism, the Internet. 

So why did Rolling Stone publish Tsarnaev on its front cover? Well, the writing staff are political analysts and culture columnists. It's not surprising to find a court case or democratic argument in Rolling Stone. On occasions where I've been in possession of a Rolling Stone magazine, I notice a severe lack of music coverage. There will be one, maybe two album reviews for a fortnightly magazine. The rest is filled with advertisement garbage and political writings. Rolling Stone's biggest criticism in this case comes from their direct audience, it's the front cover. This isn't a broadsheet newspaper where Tsarnaev's photograph would be relevant, this is Rolling Stone magazine. The front cover has traditionally been kept clear for leading stories on top artists. Popularised in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, the front cover of Rolling Stone appears as an iconic moment for iconic figures. Having Tsarnaev's place instead of a Gallagher or Morrissey is plain ridiculous. It's a shock factor that has propelled Rolling Stone's sales, but has reversed their image as a music magazine. They are essentially a washed up magazine playing second fiddle to Time magazine. Although with a declining publishing industry, can we really blame Rolling Stone for altering its target audience? I don't think so.


NME is an 8/10 magazine that pushes music journalism so far up everyone’s arse, that we're forced to digest every single word of advice on how to be cool.  It sucks the life out of criticism and relies on a circle of bands to keep its sales going because no one is willing to buy into their old format of new music coverage. The popular British magazine has seen its sales slump behind Kerrang in recent years, but it's not all bad for NME. Its website has become a hub of music news, and not just indie rock either. Their magazine does have more album reviews than Rolling Stone, but they never go in to depth like an online source would do because of the publishing cost, and a lack of space thanks to advertisements. They cover everything moderately interesting, though too many stories involve a Mancunian. 

Oasis
Oasis
Oasis
Oasis
Oasis
Oasis
Oasis
Oasis
Oasis
Oasis

 

Q hasn’t changed too drastically since the dawn of the blog. Its continued Europa League success is down to coverage of Coldplay, Muse, and Kings of Leon. Other than the unnatural and old breed of general rock music, Q never goes out of their way to promote or encourage the next generation of rock musicians. This being said, the next generation of rock musicians are less inclined to sound like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. They want to sound like Simon & Garfunkel playing poppy folky prog rock in the style of Wishbone Ash. The magazine would happily list Florence & The Machine above PJ Harvey in every category...


If the music magazine wants to ensure continued success, then they need to work out how to be profitable, and keep their mission statement close to music. After all, these are supposed to be music magazines, and when NME is the most popular music magazine on the shelves with declining sales, then you know something isn't quite right with the small time magazines like The Fly and MOJO. Big features and the music core of The Fly may possibly perform miracles in the future, whereas the music focus of NME and Q, may possibly end in tears. Better yet, they could re-brand themselves like the financially viable Rolling Stone Magazine in the states, and cover politics, popular culture to an extreme, and big names.
~Eddie

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