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Trying a hand a gig photography

I am not a natural photographer in the slightest. But photographing live music is challenging to the highest end of the photography scale. The low lighting, the fast movement, not wanting to distract the performers all culminates in a seemingly impossible project. I have seen many incredible gig photographs, but this quality comes with practice that I just don’t have. So when my friend asked me to be photographer at the gig she was hosting, I felt the pressure.

Looking through the photographs I did manage to take, I feel quite proud. Despite forgetting all I had learnt on my camera about aptitude, shutter speed and ISO, I think I did an ok job.

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Free New Musical Express

I used to think that NME would be a cool magazine to be subscribed to. Getting one delivered every week and getting excited about an insight into new music they help readers discover. I even ordered one online once as a one off to test the waters. It was always the price that put me off, as the magazine comes in at a, what I consider whopping, £2.50 per issue.

So when waiting at the NME tent at Leeds Festival 2015 for the next act to grace our presence, our eyes mindlessly gazed upon the screens either side of the stage as they flickered with different messages about where to dispose of rubbish, how to keep possessions safe and other general unengaging chat. Until one message appeared on the screen that made me do a double take. Free NME magazine coming soon. I was shocked. I vigorously poked my friend to get his attention on what I was witnessing. We both were doubtful for a good few seconds. But we were standing under the cover of the NME tent itself, and August bank holiday is far from April Fools. The idea which seemed quite a preposterous business decision at the time, had to be true.

Of course my mind went into a train of thought almost immediately as to why the successful company had chosen to follow this bold, and potentially extremely damaging venture. Of course it is common knowledge really, that we can witness in day to day life that the age of print media is entering its demise. Less newspapers and magazines are seen in the household, as more and more regularly, media is transmitted to us via the Internet. The ultimate extinction of print media has already been predicted in the next 10 to 15 years, but given the pace at which the Internet takes over, it could potentially be even sooner.

The conclusion I therefore reached regarding the matter was that less and less readers were choosing to purchase the physical NME magazine, as they could access most of the content they wanted online, on nme.com, which is popular and reaches an extremely large number. Thus NME decided to quit while they were ahead, and print cheaper quality magazines on a larger scale, to be given out at outlets around the country, following successful similar distribution strategies from Shortlist, Sport and Time Out. This would enable them to reach a larger audience to gain maximum interest, while keeping their brand respectable because they have not yet died out. NME seemed to be adapting to a new media age, where print is less relevant, and if NME magazine is free, much more people, especially young people, are likely to choose to pick it up.

NME actually went through a major brand transformation as well as transitioning to a free magazine, including a revamp of nme.com in the hope that this could be the new gold mine for the brand. The new free mag would be redesigned to include more content on film, games and fashion as well as music. Editor Mike Williams discussed this transformation, calling it the new phase of the magazine. “We’ve been working in secret here at NME on the next phase of our evolution. The goal, throughout all of our research and development, has been to find new and inventive ways to connect with you, our audience, better than ever. In the 63 years since NME launched we have evolved and transformed plenty of times. The evolution of 2015 is our boldest ever move”.

As positive as this picture is painted by the editor, we would be naive to assume that a ‘new phase’ was not a hopeful and necessary strategy in a struggling situation. A Guardian article states that NME magaizine had been struggling for the past decade. Paid circulation has dropped to just 15,000 as weekly sales have fallen by 20% annually. Mike Williams believe this will make NME “bigger stronger and more influential than ever before”, and it is true that adaptation is necessary in the age of new media. But will the 64 year old print magazine fail in its new life, or will it stay as strong as a “major player and massive influencer in the music space”.

The free NME magazine is to be distributed weekly at train stations, on university campus’s by students and through retail partners HMV and Topman. Prominent music, fashion and commuting areas where a younger and larger audience can be in targeted to come into contact with the magazine, now available through 300,000 copies distributed across the UK.

NME has throughout its years brought new music to our awareness and helped smaller bands gain a wider following. However, the magazine has faced challenges through he technological age such as the ease of access to free music through streaming services such as Spotify, hindering the need for third party promotion from the critic, as listeners can make up their own minds. The changing themes in popular music also outdate the genre NME holds dear – Britpop and indie rock bands. These modern factors are clear obstacles to the potential sucess of print NME, and the goal to revert to the circulation success it achieved back in its golden years, the 60s and 70s, and to remain on the map of the digital music mass market. The Guardian identifies however, that aside from how challenged NME apparently is, the emtotion and strong response to the announcement of a free magazine shows that it is not yet dying, it still has a place in the hearts of the British public, and the choice to go free may have come at the perfect time for success.

“Through NME’s digital platforms, social media channels and weekly magazine the brand reaches 3.9 million people every week”. The hugely extended circulation through the removal of the off-putting price tag and availability in many common locations will hoepefully increase interest and widen reception into the near future, thus NME will become more attractive to advertisers and will reap more funds in these areas.

“Every media brand is on a journey into a digital future. That doesn’t mean leaving print behind, but it does mean that print has to change, so I’m incredibly excited by the role it will now play as part of the new NME.” – Mike Williams 

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Reviews

Wolf Alice

The first EP from Wolf Alice, called Creature Songs contains only 4 songs yet displays a wide variety of sound compared to other bands of a similar genre, alternative rock. They are yet to release their first official album but this does not detract from their sound being well established. EPs are a quick way to release songs to listeners while remaining current and relevant and for Wolf Alice is just the right sample size to showcase their sound and variety to new listeners.

Wolf Alice were one of the first acts announced for Reading and Leeds 2015 and being a now almost (having been twice consecutively) frequent attendee I couldn’t not investigate their sound. I have to say by listening to just one song, I was much more enticed than their fellow contemporary Years And Years on the line up.

The first song I listened to was ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’. I was surprised with the rocky edge it had to it as I was expecting more of an indie sound. This new wave of alternative rock bands is a phenomenon where rock which previously would only be appreciated by rock music types has been brought into the mainstream by becoming much more easily accessible. UK bands such as Royal Blood carry a rock sound and can be listened to by wide audiences as they are not as heavy or targeted at rock listeners as others, which means audiences can have an appreciating and insight into rock without being a huge fan of the genre. With an already clever song title this tune was ticking all the boxes and it went straight to my ‘available offline’ downloads in Spotify premium. Not quite an iTunes download but I’m sure they’ll get there soon.

The other songs on the EP are ‘Storms’, ‘Heavenly Creatures’ and ‘We’re Not The Same’. I choose to write about this EP not the bands music as a whole because I think this is a good place for new listeners to start with the band as it gives a good overview of the bands sound and vibe. ‘Storms’ and ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ are rock songs while ‘Heavenly Creatures’ is softer and more of a gentle alternative indie sound.

On the 24th of March I got to see Wolf Alice at Rescue Rooms. Their energy on stage was impressive and the crowd and atmosphere of the gig was lively as opposed to mellow which I imagined it could be during their slower songs which made the night extremely enjoyable. If I had more money I would have bought Creature Songs from the merch stand but unfortunately I spent it all on Red Stripe. To be honest, if I had the EP I’d be afraid I would over listen to it and I want to still be loving them come Leeds, so maybe it was good that I wasted that money on beer.

Seriously hoping for a full album soon, and if anyone is reading this check these guys out on Spotify or YouTube, they are definitely worth a listen!

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