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'NME' celebrates its 60th birthday

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NME has this week celebrated 60 years as one of the world's leading music magazines, but the print title is also looking to an uncertain future in the digital age.

The New Musical Express was launched in 1952 when the Accordion Times merged with the Musical Express.

NME 60 years edition cover

© Andy Willsher/NME



The weekly title has been the most popular choice among music fans to read about their idols and discover new talent. It is also a household name overseas.

However, the UK market for print magazines remains increasingly challenging, as sales fall and people increasingly get their content for free from the internet.

Monthly magazine The Word closed down this year after almost a decade in circulation, and NME itself has also seen a big fall in sales.

At its peak in the 1960s, the magazine shifted 230,000 copies per week, but that has dropped to around 24,000.

Mike Williams, the NME editor who took over from Krissi Murison this year, said that NME has always "changed and evolved" over its 60-year history.

Mike Williams
"If the reasons for publishing a magazine are habitual or tokenistic, then you're in trouble," he told Metro in an interview earlier in the week.

"What magazines need to offer now is something clear, relevant, visually striking and significantly different from what is available for free on the internet.

"If all you're offering is an inflexible hard copy of something you can get for free online and attempting to charge someone a couple of quid for it, then it shouldn't come as a surprise if no one wants to buy it."

One area in which NME has always excelled is in its covers - from Kevin Cummins's paint-splattered The Stone Roses to the bittersweet Amy Winehouse tribute through to the celebration of a naked Beth Ditto.

Released yesterday with the cover price of £2.70, the latest NME is a souvenir issue that has several different covers featuring artists such as the Manic Street Preachers, Paul Weller, John Lydon, the Arctic Monkeys and Noel Gallagher.

NME is also celebrating the most famous covers from its 60-year history in the Behind NME Lines exhibition at the new riverside development NEO Bankside, located adjacent to Tate Modern.

NME 60 years of NME edition cover

© Pamela Littky/NME



In the words of NME, "these are the covers that have defined not only the artists, but 60 years of rock 'n' roll and NME itself".

In a statement, Williams added: "Every generation lays claim to the golden age of music and culture and every generation has its batch of legendary NME covers that defines the times.

"For me it was the beautifully sad Kurt Cobain obituary and the brilliantly cocky Liam versus Damon Britpop showdown. For others it's The Clash and The Sex Pistols, or The White Stripes and The Libertines.

"The NME cover can immortalise the times unlike any other magazine and Behind NME Lines is a celebration of this. Sixty years of iconic covers that say everything about rock 'n' roll as we know it."

The free Behind NME Lines exhibition is open to the public from September 20 until October 7, Wednesday to Sunday, 12 to 7pm. The NME Souvenir issue is available now.

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