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Influential British music magazine NME is to become a free title from September, publisher Time Inc. has confirmed. In its 1970s heyday, the weekly...

Influential British music magazine NME is to become a free title from September, publisher Time Inc has confirmed.

In its '70s heyday, the weekly magazine sold in excess of 300,000 copies, but over the past decade sales have steadily slipped to currently stand at just over 15,000 across combined print and digital editions.

Seeking to arrest the decline, Time Inc. is to axe the £2.50 ($4.00) cover price and distribute an increased print run of 300,000 copies outside train and London Underground stations, student unions and at selected retail partners across the United Kingdom. Going forward, the magazine will also feature increased coverage of film, fashion, television, politics, gaming and technology, although music will remain "firmly at the heart of the brand," according to a statement from the publisher.

To coincide with the move to a free title, the magazine’s website NME.com will also be relaunched to include a greater range of new and original "content output and range" as the brand repositions into "an audience-first global media business."  

"This famous 63-year-old brand was an early leader in digital and has been growing its global audience successfully for the best part of 20 years. It has been able to do so because music is such an important passion and now is the right time to invest in bringing NME to an even bigger community for our commercial partners," said Marcus Rich, chief executive of Time Inc U.K," in a statement.

First launched in 1952, NME, or New Musical Express, has long been a staple of the British magazine and music industry with its ability to make and destroy bands -- often both within the space of just a few weeks -- passing into legend. In 1996 NME.com was launched, since becoming one of the most popular music websites. The brand has also successfully branched into live and award events via the annual NME Awards show and its portfolio of NME live events and tours, which are attended by over 200,000 music fans annually, according to Time Inc. Its forays into TV and radio were, however, less successful: digital station NME TV ran for four years from 2007 to 2012, while NME radio was launched in 2008 and shuttered in early 2013. According to Time Inc. UK, NME’s current weekly brand reach across print, online, social media and live events totals 3.9 million.

"NME is already a major player and massive influencer in the music space, but with this transformation we’ll be bigger, stronger and more influential than ever before," commented NME editor Mike Williams on the publication’s latest overhaul.

"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," Williams went on to say.

The first free issue of NME will be published in the U.K. September 18, although overseas customers and subscribers will still have to pay a cover price.

King’s X singer-bassist Dug Pinnick, who has been juggling a slate of side projects since King’s X has been on a recording hiatus, hopes to release a Jimi Hendrix tribute album on Rat Pak Records this summer. When he spoke with Billboard, he noted that he would be returning to Los Angeles to finish mixing it.

“I wanted to get people that really played like Hendrix and had that whole vibe, because I wanted to make a record that sounded truly what it might have sounded like back in the day if Jimi Hendrix was my age now,” says Pinnick. “He was seven years older than me, so if he was alive now, what would he do if he wanted to go back and just rerecord the songs? I don’t know what Jimi would do, but I just wanted to get that spirit in the recording of it. We broke it down and basically just discovered a lot of the nuances and the little things that Jimi did that made him a genius.”

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Pinnick says the lineup consists of himself playing bass and guitar and singing, with Tommy Baldwin and Tracey Singleton also on guitar and Mike Hansen on drums. “I sing a lot like Jimi Hendrix, so that’s gonna be kind of weird,” he warns. “Sometimes I listen to mixes and I go, ‘Oh, wow. I can imitate him.’ Our voices are similar, I think. We’re a similar nature: Same kind of color, same stature. I used to tell people back in the ’70s he was my big brother.” Pinnick recalls with a laugh. He stayed mum though about which songs would appear on the album, noting that the Hendrix estate prefers keeping such discussions quiet until a project has been fully approved. “Put it this way: It’ll be a lot of obscure songs you wouldn’t normally hear on a tribute record.”

As far as reuniting with his King’s X bandmates in the studio, Pinnick doesn’t know when that will happen: It’s been almost eight years since the band’s last official album, 2008’s XV. “I think Ty and Jerry needed some time away. We’ve been together for over 30 years, and sometimes you just need that space. There was no fighting or problems,” he says. Billboard witnessed some band camaraderie when King’s X’s Jerry Gaskill came to see Pinnick perform on May 7 at the Cutting Room in New York on a double bill with Corey Glover, and eventually jumped onstage to join Pinnick on drums. Pinnick also played “Ain’t That the Truth,” a song he wrote in tribute to Gaskill when the drummer suffered a heart attack in 2012. (He also had one in 2014 and underwent heart surgery.)

King’s X currently has live dates on the books for July and September, and Pinnick anticipates it will also play in Europe. In the interim, Metal Blade is reissuing all of King’s X’s material -- from its stints on both that label and Atlantic -- on staggered release dates. So far the first reissue, Faith Hope Love, arrived on May 5 as a double vinyl album and on CD. A representative for Metal Blade says that Ear Candy, Dogman, Out of the Silent Planet and King’s X will be released later in 2015. The band crowd-sourced for items like ticket stubs and photos from the 1988-1996 period of its career for the reissue packaging. “It’s really good stuff. We really wanted to dress it up and give people something special,” says Pinnick.

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Regarding other irons he has in the fire, the commemorative Tech 21 dUg Pinnick Signature Ultra Bass 1000 Amp, produced by Tech 21, should also reach stores this summer. Pinnick anticipates getting a new album with KXM -- his side band with guitarist George Lynch and Korn drummer Ray Luzier -- started in September and hopes the group will tour as well. He also says he’ll do a new record with Grinder Blues, a blues band with brothers Scot Little Bihlman and Jabo Bihlman, at some point. Despite the multitasking involved in recording with various artists and going on the road, he says it’s “real easy” to juggle the constant stream of projects he works on.

“I don’t have anything else to do with my life but sleep and eat, so every waking second I can I make music or think about music,” says Pinnick. “I’ve got a really great life. I do what I want when I want to, and I make a living doing what I love to do. I don’t make a great living at it, but my bills get paid every month, so I can’t complain. [Making music is] a good thing for me. I’ve always been that way. I’m useless at anything else.”


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