Women Writing Rights

The discrimination of female music journalists

Breakthrough

The Takeover of the Female ‘eNMEy’

A copy of Melody Maker triggered it all at the age of twelve. A magazine that had been NME's arch-rival for several decades. In what follows, ponies were abandoned, a guitar unpacked, PJ Harvey posters hung up and the pencil sharpened. Fifteen years later Krissi Murison became the first female editor of NME in its 60 year history. A milestone, not just for herself, but for lots of aspiring female music journalists in the country. After a rise in female writers in the noughties, this conveyed the message women were waiting for: “We can do this! We can make it to the ranks of editors!” '80s NME writer Lucy O'Brien even compared it to "the Anglican Church letting in women priests."

 

Former NME journalist Lucy O'Brien on Krissi Murison getting the editorship of NME

 

At the time, Murison was in New York where she had taken on the job as music director at the culture magazine Nylon. She had applied for the editorship to get closure, having worked for NME in various positions for seven years before. She says: “I thought at least I go for it and I'll give it to someone else and then I can get on with my life in New York (laughs).” When she got the ‘yes’, she was terrified.

 

Krissi Murison talks about her return to NME as the editor

 

Krissi Murison
Photo by Paul Stuart
As its 11th editor Murison transformed NME into the kind of music magazine she wanted to pick up, read and be seen with. She made the features longer and more in-depth and worked hard on getting the writing to its highest standard possible. She says: “Then we did the creative redesign six months later and completely changed the look and feel of it. We made it look a bit more grown-up, a bit more mature, a bit more aspirational and I think, fundamentally, a bit cooler.”

The feedback she got from the readers and the industry was overwhelmingly positive. Malik Meer who is now the features editor of G2, The Guardian's daily supplement, told The Guardian in 2010: "She has brilliant instincts and the magazine does feel fresher and more exciting as a product. It is a difficult job, no other magazine is held up to such scrutiny. You are expected to be underground yet still sell copies.” The same year, Murison won the BSME Award (British Society of Magazine Editors) for New Editor of the Year.

 

Martin James, Professor of the Music Industries,
on Krissi Murison becoming the first female editor of NME

 

For most of the time previous to her editorship, Murison was the only woman on the editorial writing team – apart from the editor's PA. You would think that she must have experienced at least a bit of casual indifference or hostility. She says: “It never felt like I was in a minority or I was different or it was somehow harder. I noticed that there were less women, but hand on heart, I never felt discriminated once. It was never something I had to think about, which is exactly how it should be.”

 

"I noticed that there were less women, but hand on heart, I never felt discriminated once”Krissi Murison,
first female NME editor

 

It's nice to have found a woman in music journalism for whom the terms ‘glass ceiling’ and inequality are alien concepts. A living proof that misogynistic attitudes towards females in this part of the music industry must have progressed in the noughties.

 

Krissi Murison at the NME Awards 2009

Photo by Richard Johnson

 

So how did Murison, describing herself as a bit more reserved than her colleagues, make it to the top in this office full of incredibly opinionated, passionate and competitive egos? She didn't mind doing work experience and “donkey work” at the beginning of her career to get a foot in the door. She learnt how to network, winning over NME's live reviews editor Kitty Empire during her first work placement. She was lucky that the magazine was looking for some “hip young gunslingers”. After that, Murison worked very hard on her writing, created her own opportunities and just refused to ever leave.

Despite all her efforts Murison couldn't prevent NME's weekly sales to plummet under 24,000 during her editorship. She says: “If you're the editor of something and you know that not only are you putting all the blood, sweat and tears into it, but you're asking your entire team to do the same, you can't help but feel dismayed and upset when the figures aren't what you want them to be.” NME, like his IPC stable mates, has been suffering from a cultural shift in music fans' consumption patterns.

 

Krissi Murison talks about how she coped with declining sales

 

Murison knew she didn't want to do the job as editor for longer than three years from the very beginning. To her it was the greatest job in the world. Well, it hadn't just been a job, it had been everything, her entire life she says. Her departure was announced in April 2012. Murison says: “My entire ten years at NME was one big social whirl. I was caught in that bubble for so long where nothing existed outside the Barfly.”

 

Krissi Murison talks about her proudest moments with NME

 

Being the Associate Editor at The Sunday Times Magazine now, she works harder and longer hours than ever before. It's less gigs these days. The 31-year-old enjoys the occasional glass of wine, reads books and has a slight obsession with the series Orange is the New Black. She just “catches up on what people in the real world do.” She talks excitedly about her revived dream of being a jockey. How her recent charity amateur race was the most amazing, exhilarating high she has ever had. It looks like it's all about the horses again. The girl has grown up you'd think? “Now I think I want to be a Formula 1 driver,” she says laughing.