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NME Denies Album Of The Year Vote Rigging


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Interesting article originally posted here - http://www.londonist.com/archives/2005/11/scoop_nme_album.php - in regards to alledged changes to the NME's Top 50 albums of the year.

Basically, they are accusing the NME of changing an earlier version of the list to favour artists that are owned by the same multinational as them (Times Warner). The article seemed to provoke a bit of debate with Conor McNicolas (NME Editor) even joining the debate to heatedly deny the charges. However, strangly, the article seems to have gone now after threats of action by the NME lawyers! Here's The Guardian's take on things in Friday's issue -

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,,1656637,00.html

NME defends album of year poll

Andrew Dickson

Friday December 2, 2005

The NME, one of the UK's most popular music magazines, tonight denied allegations that its top 50 albums of 2005 poll, published in tomorrow's edition, had been tampered with for commercial reasons.

The allegations, first published by the blog Londonist.com on Wednesday, suggested that an early version of the poll, which is compiled each year by the magazine's editors and writers, had been radically overhauled prior to publication. It was alleged that artists including Beck and Patrick Wolf had disappeared from the top 50 entirely, while others, among them high-profile names such as Babyshambles, Oasis and Kate Bush, had seen their ratings significantly boosted.

Another band, Arcade Fire - relative outsiders whose album Funeral was one of 2005's surprise critical successes - had, it was further alleged, been knocked off the coveted Best Album spot by Bloc Party's Silent Alarm, who were originally at number two in the poll.

Londonist claimed to have access to an early version of the poll that collated writers' responses before the editorial team intervened. This spreadsheet, which has been seen by Guardian Unlimited, appears to record numbers of votes, and includes a running order significantly different from the published version.

Connor McNicholas, NME's editor, firmly rejected accusations made by the blog that the magazine had caved in to commercial considerations when editing the list. "I strongly resent the insinuation that there is any kind of commercial pressure," he said. "These people are on a different planet."

Called upon to explain how the poll was compiled, however, Mr McNicholas said: "The mechanics are a reflection of NME editorial policy. It's a very fuzzy process. We take a vote in the office; it's quite informal."

A spokesman for the magazine later clarified the situation, saying: "All the writers are asked for their top 50 albums of the year, which is then collated and passed to the editors.

"This is probably an early working document, nothing more. There's nothing suspicious going on."

Following contact with NME's lawyers, Londonist has since taken down the story. Speaking soon afterwards, its editor, Rob Hinchcliffe, said: "We got this list in good faith and we think it raises some interesting questions. We've got no vendetta against the NME. This list matters to a lot of people, and that's the only reason we've questioned it."

"If the NME is saying what we've claimed isn't true, all we ask is that they're transparent about the process."

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to be honest does it make any difference to the world?

does anyone take notice of a top 50 album poll?

i'm not going to go out and buy a cd cos its on a list and nme says its better than another one!

No, it shouldn't really matter. However, the bands, the readers do take it seriosuly - otherwise, why print it - so it's a bit of a slp in the face if it's done in a less than democratic way.

If you're happy for a magazine, whether it be NME, Q, Uncut, Smash Hits, The Wire, Kerrang!, whatever to simply invent a Top 50 for commercial reasons then fair enough. Personally, I think it calls into question the journalistic integrity of all involved.

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more to the story & some comments here - http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/culturevulture/archives/2005/12/02/out_of_order.html#more

And the original article (and the NME Editor's posts) here -

http://216.239.59.104/search?q=cache:7SzIFihul80J:www.londonist.com/archives/2005/11/scoop_nme_album.php+nme+poll&hl=en

NME Album Of The Year

Editor's note: this post is going to stick at the top of the page for the rest of today as we feel it raises some important issues about the mainstream media, blogs and of course the music industry. Londonist will update as usual underneath this post.

Today, NME publishes its annual Album Of The Year poll. For the benefit of our overseas readers, that's the New Musical Express, the UK's longest-running weekly music journal. The NME being the tastemakers that they are, this is a well-respected poll, with a coveted #1 spot. Well-respected, that is, until now...

It has come to our attention that this year, NME may have chosen to publish a doctored version of the aforementioned poll. According to our source, the list of albums printed in this week's publication does not reflect the opinions of its writers, as you might expect. Instead, we're told you'll find a heavily edited version which, we have on good faith, takes some commercial and political factors into consideration.

In the document we saw were the actual results of the poll, according to the votes of the NME staff, which we can now compare with the version that appears in today's NME.

We notice, for example, that Babyshambles appear at #9 in the published poll, despite fairing particularly badly in the 'genuine' poll. Dare we speculate that Mr. Doherty shifts too many papers for him to be outside the top 10? At least we can glean what NME's reviewers really think of Babyshambles album...

Another band who seem to have shot up the rankings according to the list in today's paper is Oasis, who appear at number 24. This hefty leap is nearly matched by Elbow, who have also made the move from near the foot of the chart to a quite respectable number 35.

There are four other artists whose positions in the published chart are nothing short of miraculous when compared to the original: Madonna, Kate Bush, the Brakes, and Test Icicles.

These entries might be excused on the basis that they are relatively recent albums that might have been released after the votes were counted. But hang on, the Brakes album came out back in July, did it not? So why do the Brakes now find themselves at #40? And how come their sibling band British Sea Power drop down several places from their initial standing?

Others disappear completely, having featured in the writers' votes. Whither have New Order, Patrick Wolf, Beck, Wrens, Cut Copy and the Tears fled?

Lastly - and this is probably the most contentious discrepancy of all - the order of the top four or five results (including the number one spot, which is taken by Bloc Party in the published list) appear to have been shifted around slightly to reflect what is presumably editorial bias. If we were Arcade Fire, we'd be feeling pretty cheated right about now.

As any music lover will know, end-of-year polls are important, as are lists in general (see High Fidelity). Hence, it would be extremely disappointing if the Album Of The Year list we spend hours discussing in the pub is almost completely arbitrary. They might as well have plucked the results out of a hat, for God's sake...

Care to explain what external factors could possibly have influenced the poll to this extent, NME?

Editor's note: Regarding the issues which have been raised in the comments section - we will not be publishing the list we referred to and we won't be revealing how we came about that information either. This is simply because we were asked not to. This site does not have a history of printing lies in order to pursue personal vendettas and we're not about to start. There's no reason for us to attack the NME specifically (in fact, if you scroll down you'll see we plugged their tour yesterday), we're just stating what we've seen and posting our thoughts on it. If you don't want to believe it then that's fine.

Also, if that is the editor of the NME posting comments here (we're aware other commenters are posting under the same name and have deleted those comments) then he needs to email Londonist directly to prove it and address his concerns over what we've published directly with us.

Posted by Ricky in Music

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Comments

Publish both lists side by side, and let's see what that reveals, preferably with their record labels in brackets.

Posted by: ian at November 30, 2005 02:06 PM

As Ian said - publish the lists. The article could be quite interesting with that information, as it stands it's pointless.

Posted by: Tim at November 30, 2005 03:46 PM

As Ian said - publish the lists. The article could be quite interesting with that information, as it stands it's pointless.

Posted by: Tim at November 30, 2005 03:47 PM

How can you accuse us of unethical journalism when you make these completely unsubstantiated claims? Reveal your sources or shut your yap.

Conor

Posted by: Conor McNicholas at November 30, 2005 04:29 PM

"Reveal your sources"

Eh ? How about 'an unnamed source at Kings Reach Tower'.. that do you ?

Posted by: notswells at November 30, 2005 04:33 PM

No.

As long as you keep hiding your evidence, then I don't see why this should be treated as anything other than yet another bitter snob taking cheap swipes at Britain's biggest selling music magazine.

Conor

Posted by: Conor McNicholas at November 30, 2005 04:37 PM

Isn't a journalist's right to protect their sources an established principle?

I would have thought that Conor McNicholas (if indeed you are him) would have known and defended that?

And if you are Conor Mcnicholas, are you claiming that commercial interests have never ever influenced content at the NME?

Posted by: ian at November 30, 2005 04:40 PM

I find it interesting that Conor is asking us to reveal our sources rather than flat out denying it.

Posted by: Mike at November 30, 2005 04:47 PM

"Britain's biggest selling music magazine"? Ha! Reveal your sources. Not the ABC for sure... unless 160,310 (Q) is now less than 73,640 (NME).

My source : www.abc.org.uk

Posted by: ian at November 30, 2005 04:47 PM

Commercial interests influence NME editorial policy? Next thing you'll be telling us Kate Moss takes drugs and the Royal Marines have bizarre naked initiation rituals.

Posted by: Dennis at November 30, 2005 04:50 PM

It may be common knowledge, but that doesn't make it any more ethical.

Posted by: Ricky at November 30, 2005 04:53 PM

While it is sometimes crucial that sources be protected, the concept only truly works when applied by journalists and publications with trustworthy reputations.

I'm afraid this blog is not held in such high esteem. Clearly, in this situation the onus is on you to prove you are not manufacturing this list, working for your own anti-NME agenda, and cowardly hiding behind an established code of journalistic conduct -which, as highly subjective bloggers, you have no real claim to in the first place.

Conor

Posted by: Conor McNicholas at November 30, 2005 04:53 PM

I hear Kate Moss has a bizarre naked initiation ritual, but I can't say anymore for fear of being thumped by Johnny Depp.

Posted by: Mike at November 30, 2005 04:54 PM

"journalists and publications with trustworthy reputations... I'm afraid this blog is not held in such high esteem... an established code of journalistic conduct -which, as highly subjective bloggers, you have no real claim to"

Now who's the snob?

Posted by: Dennis at November 30, 2005 04:57 PM

Wait Wait Wait, that last comment would have been better if it was switched around a little.

Posted by: Greg at November 30, 2005 04:58 PM

If this is just a blog not held in high esteem, then why are you getting so worked up about it.

To be honest, at first I thought, "hmmm, yeah, really?", but all this protest seems to reinforce it... what's that line from hamlet again?

Posted by: ian at November 30, 2005 05:07 PM

Methinks the editor of the NME doth protest too much...

Posted by: Ricky at November 30, 2005 05:09 PM

I notice that Conor is ignoring my question about his completely unsubstantiated claim that the NME is "Britain's biggest selling music magazine"

Posted by: ian at November 30, 2005 05:17 PM

Speaking personally, I hold this blog in much higher regard than the NME. I tend to find that when Londonist recommends music, for instance, that generally it's worth listening to and is not just the flavour of the month.

Plus, there are less exclamation points here. Which is always good.

Posted by: Luke at November 30, 2005 05:25 PM

I love the fact that you lot revel in your own cynicism regarding the NME, and when someone pops up going 'Hello! I am the editor of the NME!' you just go, 'Ooh - he must be the editor of the NME!'.

Posted by: SSS at November 30, 2005 06:00 PM

I'll tell you why NME is crap now; they don't have the bumper Xmas issue which featured all the charts etc. and loads of other bollocks.

The day that was ditched, the NME died.

Posted by: Doozer at November 30, 2005 06:52 PM

So conor are these alllegations true or not?

Why aren't you denying it?

Posted by: Randolph Scott at November 30, 2005 07:19 PM

I've never read NME; I have only minimal interest in popular music (Fold rock is rather more my style) but I followed this link from a mate's blog mainly out of curiosity, and I'd just like to say that demanding people reveal their source is entirely unjustified, and claiming that stories without named sources have no weight is stupid.

The biggest-established example I can think of off the top of my head (and, yes, it is a cliche, for which I'm sorry) is the Watergate story, as reported by the Washington Post.

There was huge pressure from the Nixon administration to get the Post to reveal its sources, and they never did, and they never *had* to in order to make their coverage true. There was a dirty tricks campaign, Nixon knew about it, and he resigned. But the Post never had to publish the names of their sources in order to prove it.

And, for the record, I never lived through Watergate; I'm only twenty. But I know damn well it's stupid to demand the naming of sources; it suggests someone's sufficiently scared to start looking for the source of the story so they can sack the poor bugger.

Felt it needed to be said.

Posted by: JTA at November 30, 2005 08:27 PM

It makes little sense to do a post like this without showing the list you proport to have unless you

A: just want more readers on your site or

B: are in cahoots with NME.

We don't want your sources named. We would, however, like to see the list. Showing the list would in no way undermine [or reveal] your source because you have already told us

A: you have a source and

B: you have the list.

You have most likely already pissed off NME. So why not go all the way?

Posted by: Matt at November 30, 2005 08:43 PM

Matt, we have our reasons for not publishing the list, and they're not the ones you've just put forward. You'll have to trust us on that I'm afraid (needless to say, if we could have we'd have published the list to begin with).

Posted by: Rob at November 30, 2005 08:48 PM

I appreciate your need for lightness of touch with this, Rob, but surely you have to see that without any evidence your story could have been totally fabricated.

Fair enough, these rumours circulate every year, but they only ever stay as rumours, because nobody ever supplies any evidence. All you've done here is be the first person to start this year's rumour.

I'm not saying I don't trust you and I'm not saying I do trust NME, by the way, and I'm sure you wouldn't risk any legal action from IPC and must therefore be certain that your accusations are true, but do you see my point?

Posted by: SSS at November 30, 2005 09:02 PM

Just print the list ladies! We all know Godsmack will be number one...

Posted by: Doozer at November 30, 2005 09:13 PM

SSS - I understand your point absolutely. But I'm afraid it's not going to happen.

And let me just say if we did print a list who's to say we didn't make THAT up too?

For that and many other reasons we won't be publishing the list.

Posted by: Rob at November 30, 2005 09:15 PM

Same as it ever was, to be honest. But well done for making the point.

The corporate music biz knobbers only talk the language of back scratching and horse trading.

I had a great story on a Grade A EMI artist once. My Editor at the time stitched me up by trading the scoop for an interview instead.

And EMI didn't keep to their side of the bargain either.

Knobbers.

As for the NME...

Are we really concerned?

Do we really give a toss?

Is it still 'respectable?'

No on all three counts. It's became the Heat magazine for the kids in the suburbs over the past five years. Nice pics, shit content.

And cheers Conor for raising the Blogger / real journo debate. That's SO Guardian 2003 by the way. Mainstream knobber media whores just don't get it. Most bloggers blog 'cos they can't trust journos whose copy is written with the profits of shareholders in mind.

To accuse bloggers of having little editorial judgment is almost as pathetic as the NME has become itself of late. It’s no secret that having rapidly retreated in the online world and making nme.com nothing but a re-print online of the ‘paper,’ NME Towers has been running scared of online music sites for sometime. Just ask the guys and gals at Drowned in Sound regarding some of the dirty tricks.

And yes - I DID break a story that The Guardian ripped off this week (and they still managed to fuck up the facts as well.)

Posted by: onionbagblogger at November 30, 2005 09:24 PM

Conor appears to be somewhat confused - possibly because he works for a title with the street cred of Just Seventeen. First he accuses Londonist of unethical journalism; then in the same breath he demands we name a source, a gross breach of journalistic ethics as a "magazine" editor should know, and then he says we're not actually doing journalism at all, but mere subjective blogging. Well, he's right on the third count, but that makes the first two remarks look rather silly, doesn't it?

Presumably Conor's notion that sources' names are public property is why the NME never has any scoops or news of note.

Posted by: Will at November 30, 2005 09:45 PM

I started buying the NME in 1991. At that point, it was a music paper for a music fan. Every week you got to see various charts (hardcore etc) as well as proper reviews, great coverage and interesting interviews. Now, I've read so many letters saying 'i've been reading NME for years and it's shite now blah blah blah', but I'm not in my late thirties, I'm 26, and the NME has become smash hits for indie kids. I know for a FACT (read: FACT) that the freelance journalists have to include certain things when talking about say Bloc Party, and they have to be positive about certain bands, and are told to be so. If you don't want people knowing this, don't get in freelance, because they don't give a toss about your reputation particularly.

It's a manipulated pile of dung. The interviews with bands I've known personally have always been twisted by the time they've gone to print. It's not as if we've got Lime Lizard or Select any more to read. I don't think I know anyone on the scene that doesn't despise the NME and everything it stands for....unless they're getting exposure for their band, which means they'll put up with it because we're all slaves to promotion...sadly.

Posted by: Lydia at November 30, 2005 10:03 PM

The sad truth is I think these things are always rigged.

There were unsubstantiated rumours back in the late nineties that Mojo's best single of all time poll was rigged, purely because they couldn't get the rights to the track that finished top for their cover-mounted CD. I've also followed links from other forums on this topic, and through doing so was reminded about Danny Baker talking about this issue during the late seventies as well. He claimed the actual reader's poll performances of Queen and Emerson Lake and Palmer would be artificially reduced in favour of punk acts at that time.

It is farcical, and it is unacceptable, but then then music magazine editors are a notoriously rum bunch of self-serving rascals.

Incidentally, if Conor (if indeed that is him above) had one scrap of the attitude about him that the old editors of the NME had, he would have come on here and at the very least dismissed this whole issue pithily. Sadly, he never can quite drop the bad second-hand car salesmen act, even for five minutes. "Snobbery against The Best Selling Music Magazine!" indeed.

Posted by: Dave at November 30, 2005 10:28 PM

Actually, the NME was essential reading for most of the 1970s; it had proper writers and everything (ifm you ignored Burchill and Parsons). Since then it's gone down and down until it resembles something that The Sun might give away to those of its readers who can actually operate a CD player (or even read).

Posted by: Keith at November 30, 2005 10:58 PM

Oh I agree utterly, the NME definitely was a good magazine once. It's always, always had slightly dodgy, unethical editorial politics going on in the background, though. Sadly, these days that seems to include the kind of well-known antics that Lydia outlined, which have left the thing looking like some giant, shabbily written press release. No amount of exclamation marks crowbarred into reviews can replace genuine enthusiasm and open critical debate.

Posted by: Dave at November 30, 2005 11:09 PM

It does raise alot of questions, like why they edited it in the first place. Is this a story that has been addressed by other news sources?

Posted by: Arch Noble at November 30, 2005 11:32 PM

Conor seems to be oblivious to the fact that the NME is now the Heat magazine of the Virgin Megastore and he himself cut his teeth on Mixmag covering the likes of Pete Tong rather than Pete Doherty.

Posted by: Marconie's Lovechild at December 1, 2005 12:05 AM

I wouldn't mind the skulduggery quite so much if the NME weren't so badly written.

Posted by: Kenton Hall at December 1, 2005 12:26 AM

Thing is, that 70 odd thousand people who do buy the NME is mostly made up of people who hate the magazine. Fifty percent probably.

Posted by: Simon at December 1, 2005 01:02 AM

I stopped stealing the NME about 10 years ago because it was so shite. My favourite bit of this debate has been people referring to writers for the NME as journalists. Don't make me fucking laugh. Most of them couldn't write a shopping list.

Posted by: fridgemonkey at December 1, 2005 01:26 AM

publish the fucking list. new yorkers want to know.

Posted by: sven at December 1, 2005 01:37 AM

so do chicagoans

Posted by: kristin at December 1, 2005 02:47 AM

seriously, you have the chance to blow nme out of the water once and for all. and after that, maybe gothamist can take down the rolling stone, the other pole holding up the tent that houses the washed-up shills who keep such acts as madonna from going gently into that good night. do it for the kids.

Posted by: sven at December 1, 2005 03:21 AM

If you guys aren't prepared to publish the list then the least you could do is add the changes to the existing story - like for instance by how many places did Oasis get bumped up the poll?

As it stands at the moment there are no facts here over the published poll aside from the suggestion that Arcade Fire were originally number one.

Posted by: Wrighty at December 1, 2005 09:55 AM

Oh, and another thing. Club NME. Thats evidence in itself that the NME is more about making money than anything else. Wow, the biggest selling music magazine? Big deal! Heat sells shitloads, and it's basically a pamphlet of pictures of people looking far or thin.

Conor basically gave the game away during an interview at the mercury music prize, when questioned whether he was going to put Anthony and the Johnsons on the cover, and he said something along the lines of 'no, it's a bit leftfield for our readers'. Yes it probably is now, because there's no room left in the increasingly small amount of pages because it's full of pictures of that twat Peanut from the Kaiser Chiefs!

Posted by: Lydia at December 1, 2005 10:55 AM

Why were you asked not to publish the lists? It's not as if the lists themselves would give away your source.

Or would they?

Posted by: palmer_eldritch at December 1, 2005 10:57 AM

The NME is utterly bound by the need to be part of the music establishment, making sure they keep certain people happy. The journalism is shoddy in the extreme and has sunk to a Smash Hits type mag. I used to love the paper but the stories are barely over a couple of hundred words with about as much depth as Paris Hilton.

I'm not suprised the placings have been changed though I'm sure this will reflect sales and possibly their letter bag.

So poor is the paper that there was no mention of Arctic Monkeys, despite the amount of coverage and hype ther has been, untill they were practically number one and now they've jumped on the bandwagon to stop themselves looking stupid, though now they've gone the opposite way by making the lead singer the coolest man in 2005 (did they know he even existed six months ago?) and lauding them as rock saviours. Really, very, very poor.

Posted by: Matt at December 1, 2005 12:04 PM

Never been here before, but glad I clicked the link.

Lydia's story echoes mine, to be honest - I was suckered by the music press at a very early age. Like the writers of those days or not (and some of them , in retrospect, were shite), they were writing articles that at least in part came from passion and opinion. The current NME absolutely does not do that. The anecdote about Antony and the Johnsons made me laugh out loud. Kaiser Chiefs, let's not forget, actually protested about the Mercury Prize being awarded to them! In 1990, my musical year dot, they'd have been torn to pieces for such antics. Go figure.

Posted by: beamish at December 1, 2005 12:09 PM

C'mon, lets burn the NME in the streets

Posted by: Hitler at December 1, 2005 12:26 PM

Arcade Fire should feel cheated? I'd be pretty satisfied if my 2004 album turned up in a best of 2005-poll.

Posted by: hasund at December 1, 2005 12:53 PM

Funeral came out in Feb 2005 in the UK.

Posted by: Ricky at December 1, 2005 12:55 PM

The NME has been over rated tittletattle for years now.. Probably a victim of its own success and lack of another competitive weekly music paper (Melody Maker, until it went rubbishy & magazine like, which is what the NME is doing now).

I recommend plan B, Q or even Mojo (your dad's music mag) over the new music excrement.

I did have a sub for the NME for about 5 years, but I left in 2002 because it got too rubbish.

Posted by: matt at December 1, 2005 01:39 PM

Much as I love londonist, without any corroborating evidence, this story is just popbitch-level rumour-mongering. Boo!

Posted by: rjp at December 1, 2005 01:44 PM

Conor is a jumped up prick who's ego is draining the last drop of credibility from the NME. All he's interested in is making sure his name is known.

Posted by: Mark at December 1, 2005 01:59 PM

"As long as you keep hiding your evidence, then I don't see why this should be treated as anything other than yet another bitter snob taking cheap swipes at Britain's biggest selling music magazine."

Christ, if it is him he evens posts like he's swallowed a book on marketing speak.

Posted by: Mr A. at December 1, 2005 02:00 PM

who gives a f*ck....all the end of year polls are manipulated to a greater or lesser degree (I say that as a freelancer), you'd have to be naive in the extreme to think otherwise.....and when was the NME ever a top mag? I read it for a while in the early 90's and thought it was broadly shite then so so what if it's even shiter now.....it's the 'boohoo, it was great in my day merchants' that are funniest things about this thread

Posted by: R at December 1, 2005 02:05 PM

NME are owned by IPC, who are owned by Time Warner, who own many a record company with acts championed by the NME, which explains some of the shit they peddle weekly as "the greatest band in the country/world/ever!", and that's before you get onto the ratio between advertising spend and editorial coverage... nearly every mag does it, they certainly do. it's NME's holier-than-thou attitude which fucks everyone off yet also makes them laugh when ex PR/mixmag lad Conor gives it the large about some band nobody gives a fuck about. The Darkness' attitude towards them has been funny too, I've seen staff literally beg for an interview (backstage at a festival) and been told to fuck off by the balding warbler.

Posted by: Elvis at December 1, 2005 02:20 PM

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