NME denies reports that it will go free after slump in sales

NME sold just 13,995 a week in the second half of 2014

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The Independent Culture

Venerable music magazine NME has denied reports that it is to become a free publication, after its sales crashed to a record low.

Vice.com reported earlier today that newspaper stockists had been told that next week’s edition would be the last to charge a £2.40 cover price.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the NME, founded as New Musical Express in March 1952, recorded an average weekly print circulation of 13,995 in the second half of 2014 - a 23 percent decrease in the figures for the same period in 2013.

The last of the weekly “inky” music magazines, NME sold 300,000 copies during its 70s peak. However a gradual decline in its readership has been accelerated by the digital age as readers migrated to rival web sources of music news and reviews.

A spokesman for Time Inc. UK, NME’s publisher, said Vice’s report, based on discussions with local shopkeepers, was “wrong", and that "it is untrue that next week’s edition is the last paid-for issue of NME”.

Asked whether NME could go free at a future date, the spokesman said that the company did not comment on speculation. Time argues that the publication enjoys a reach of nearly four million readers via its NME.com website and digital edition.

The spokesman said: “It’s not surprising there’s interest in NME the day before the NME awards, which is a great day in the calendar of a brand that reaches nearly four million music fans every week. It’s a demonstration of that passion for the NME that makes it subject to speculation and we don’t comment on speculation.”

The NME Awards, held at the O2 Brixton on Wednesday night, which will feature performances from Royal Blood and Suede. Guitar legend Jimmy Page will receive a special honour.

Print publications including Time Out and the Evening Standard have been revitalised after dropping their cover price. The Fly, a free “indie rock” music magazine, enjoyed success but closed after 15 years in 2014 after losing its HMV distribution platform.

Mouthy guitar bands, NME’s traditional lifeblood, from The Smiths to Oasis and Arctic Monkeys, have fallen out of favour in recent years, with music fans preferring the clean-cut charms of the likes of Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran.