Guten Abend, meine Damen und Herren, here’s your favourite sunshine-and-roses blogger again, reporting from the world’s junkyard, where every crap-peddler pushing wares past their sell-by date shows up to have one last crack at relieving the millions of their money. First it was a washed-up Pink Floyd, then Metallica came over to grunt at the natives; now the New Musical Express, faced with shrinking sales for over a decade, have decided that the sub-continent is the one place on earth where their incredible, history-making – but now sadly fallen – brand name might get the tills ringing again.
And why not? The place has done well for itself lately, and there’s spare change to go around. The hep urban set are falling over themselves in their rush to join the party; they will happily shell out for all the trappings: when NME.in gets past its birth pangs and moves on to – presumably – glossy tabloid format, it’ll have been preceded by GQ and Grazia and all the other purveyors of the high-life who have set up shop here. For all its credentials, it’ll be aimed at the coffee-table crowd, with the mission of supplying them with packaged blandness dressed as cool. And no one will know better.
The NME India business model is sound: cash in on decades of goodwill, maintain a reasonable amount of commonality with the parent NME site, while paying special attention to whatever is going on in the country, bringing to the scene and all its inhabitants a seductive sense of importance a local small-time name never could. You can see why there might be excitement.
What’s more, the NME can certainly pull rank: they’ve been around for seventy years; as a music paper, they pushed the Beatles and the Stones way back when few did. Later, they would give the Sex Pistols their first serious plug. They have been home to music writer personalities of the calibre and presence of Julie Burchill, Nick Kent and Tony Parsons, successfully mashed hard-left fuck-Thatcher politics with John Peel punk, gifted the world the word “Britpop”, and generally ploughed on doggedly where rivals like Melody Maker have sunk.
These are the good bits, as the bean-counters who are now launching the magazine in India will be happy to tell you. What they won’t – if they even understand it themselves – is this: in the last decade, the NME, in the inevitable slide into irrelevance that dooms every great institution, has slowly gone from being a platform for aggressive forward-thinking to yet another supermarket music rag, just like Mojo, Q, and Rolling Stone: all those magazines which have traded opinion for harmless cliché, discovery for rehashes, and adventure for security.
NME.in is the worst music website I have ever seen. It takes its parent magazine’s now-permanent state of vapidity, and brings to it some of the most unimaginative, hubristic, lazy, superficial, trite, aimless, banal, and utterly content-free writing about the Indian scene as I’ve yet stumbled upon. They have entered the picture bursting with all the bumbling overconfidence of a global brand – and all the cluelessness of people who haven’t done a dog’s arse worth of homework (in their scene primer, they cover Indian Ocean, and recommend Kandisa – a track over ten years old) – and have demonstrated what so many people have suspected for so long: that the NME, today, is a magnificently ignorant Goliath of a magazine, too insular and too slow to do anything of any value except – as their features will tell you – always be too late.
Expect them to become a fixture. Expect NME tours, and NME awards, and NME centrespread interviews that groups will then scan and shove in their press-kits. Expect all manner of first-world swagger for the benefit of a gaping, worshipful third-world.
Just never expect them to be first for music news.