15 years ago, a double-page ad appeared in NME, trumpeting an exciting new “internet site” called NME.COM. This bold digital extension of the magazine was to feature music news, reviews, interviews, and (wow!) “revolutionary same day reporting”.
If you were lucky enough to have had internet access back then, and patient enough to wait while your dial-up modem wheezed and spluttered into life, you’d have been confronted by… well, a bit of a dog’s dinner, basically. A pink and black colour scheme, an awful lot of shouty capital letters, and the legend “Welcome to the World Wide Web site of NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS”, followed by essentially a list of what was in the mag that week.
Glance through the archive now on Way Back Machine and it becomes clear that our “same-day reporting” boast was a little hollow. In the early days, the site updated once a week, just like the mag. If you’d visited NME.COM in the run-up to Christmas 1996, hoping for some festive music news, you were bang out of luck. A note on the homepage read: ‘Next update will be on January 4’.
Still, it’s easy to be a smartarse when looking back at the early days of the web. The truth is, NME.COM was pretty head of its time, and by all accounts launching it was a colossal ball-ache for everyone concerned, not least because barely anyone back then really knew how to build a website. It was all very Wild West, and everyone was learning things for the first time.
Brendan Fitzgerald, NME.COM’s launch Editor, tells me: “Consider that in 1996, DVDs had only just gone on sale in Japan, the first Java programme had recently appeared, Internet Explorer 3.0 was still hotly anticipated and the buzz search engine was Ask Jeeves – Google wouldn’t even launch for another two-and-a-half years.”
Well, it all worked out OK in the end. Fifteen years later, NME.COM is still going strong, and has a loyal audience of five million monthly users, only a small proportion of whom repeatedly call us wankers in the comments section.
In that time, we’ve published (my estimate) a quarter of a million news stories, interviewed the world’s biggest bands (see a pre-fame Coldplay below), and rarely passed up an opportunity to give Lady Gaga a kicking.
We thought it was a good time to look back and reflect on the first decade-and-a-half of the site’s existence. Anniversaries are typically the cue for loads of smug, woo-aren’t-we-great navel-gazing. We’re not going to do that. Instead, over the next few weeks we’re just going to look at the music of the past 15 years, in a variety of different ways.
Starting, today, with our countdown of the 150 best tracks of NME.COM’s lifetime.
We don’t often get the chance to say this, so here comes the cheesy bit. Genuinely, thanks so much to anyone who uses NME.COM. It means a lot to us that so many of you come back every day, when let’s face it there’s no shortage of other places to dick around online. Here’s to the next 15 years.