What crisis? Why music journalism is actually healthier than ever

A steady decline in circulation of the music press, epitomised by the closure of NME this year, has created new opportunities for stalwarts and niche titles alike

The decline of the once mega-selling weekly music press started when Liam Gallagher got his hair cut in 1997, according to Uncut editor Michael Bonner. “Liam had his head shaved and made the front page of the Sun,” remembers Bonner, who worked at Melody Maker at the time. “Our news editor Carol Clerk was going: ‘We’re fucked. It’s over.’”

Until then, newspapers had hardly covered pop: notoriously, even Kurt Cobain’s death scarcely merited a mention. “But suddenly, the mainstream started engaging with pop in ways it never had, from broadsheet Friday music supplements to the Sun’s Something for the Weekend,” says Bonner. Melody Maker celebrated its 70th anniversary in 1996 but closed in 2000. The end of the iconic print NME in March – after a brief, unloved period as an advertorial-heavy freebie– was widely seen as the denouement of the music paper’s 20-year narrative of tumbling circulation, dwindling influence, ageing readership and seemingly terminal decline.

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