The Decline Of The UK Music Press


January 1926 saw the launch of the monthly magazine Melody Maker, which as you might suspect from its title, was aimed at musicians and those interested in music. On its front page it informed its readers “In this, our first issue, we are indebted to the famous British composer, Mr. Horatio Nicholls, for allowing us the privilege of publishing his photograph”.

That was indeed a privilege, because on page 3 was an advertisement for ARABY by the same gentleman, “THE WORLD’S GREATEST POPULAR COMPOSER”, this was described as “THE MOST HAUNTING REFRAIN EVER WRITTEN”.

If you are wondering why this newspaper spoke so highly of Horatio Nicholls it is because it was founded by Lawrence Wright. Also known as Horatio Nicholls.

Horatio Nicholls

Horatio Nicholls

Mr Wright was a tireless self-publicist, but he did pen one truly great song, Among My Souvenirs (with his American collaborator, lyricist Edgar Leslie). Alas, when he died in 1964, he was long forgotten by the monthly magazine he had founded – which was by then a weekly newspaper – no obituary for the great man appeared therein.

Melody Maker is now long gone too; its final issue was published 15 years ago. Also long gone is Sounds, which began publishing only in 1970 but was while it lasted an influential and at times entertaining publication. It was wound up in 1991.

Then there was New Musical Express (later NME); founded in 1952, this was the paper that carried the first official UK singles chart, and for the record, the first official number 1 was Here In My Heart by Al Martino, which was also number 1 in America.

When Melody Maker ceased publication it was technically absorbed by NME. There were and are other music publications, but it would be fair to say that NME is the last of its kind, catering largely to a younger readership from heavy metal and punk to music that is easier on the ear.

An on-line version of NME was launched way back in 1996, but the paper itself has seen a steady decline in its readership. How can that be so if music is more popular than it has ever been? The simple answer is another question, why should anyone buy a newspaper when he can get all his news – including music news, reviews, classified ads, etc – free on-line?

No, NME is not going to fold, it has taken what has been called “the last throw of the dice” by changing from a paid newspaper with a circulation of around 15,000 to a freesheet with a print run of 300,000. Like the London Evening Standard, Metro and similar publications it is hoped it will survive off the advertising revenue. A large number of local newspapers have folded in the past few years for the same reason, falling circulation. This has led to calls for them to be subsidised; this is not the answer, but whether or not the new look NME succeeds, we should look to other ways of funding newspapers, be they local, regional or national.


About the author

Alexander Baron

  • David Brown

    the article itself says why – the dame reason that all the teen pop mags such as 17 and Smash Hits are no more. All the stuff and more is free online. Magazines all have dying readerships. WHSMITH will go the way of HMV and Virgin