My latest column for Pitchfork looks at tastemaking and consensus in British music. It’s an ambitious column- almost certainly too ambitious, so I’ll use this post to briefly talk about some of the stuff that didn’t get in it and also reply to the criticisms I was making myself in my head while I wrote it.

But Radio 1 doesn’t just play rock and indie! Indeed it doesn’t – and there are a whole nest of other tastemakers it draws on – but what I’m suggesting is that it’s the rock and indie stuff, sourced by the NME down the previous step of the diffusion curve, that tends to be most successful in reaching the late-majority audience. (There do seem to be cycles in terms of which genres the mass market picks up on most, though, and the piece isn’t taking those into account.)

Aren’t the monopoly position of NME and the cred-ification of Radio 1 both basically late 90s phenoms? Why write about it now? Because stuff like the “God Save The Queen” fiasco and the Established 1967 CD were making me think on a macro level about how the UK scene was working. And I guess it takes a while for pieces to fall into place. (The big hole in my argument may well be the early 00s pop boom, when NME bands couldn’t get arrested, so I guess I’d have to give credit to Conor McNicholas for actually doing a pretty amazing job of focusing and promoting the NME brand – I didn’t realise before I started thinking about this piece how good he is at his job (which is TRAMPLING MUCH I HOLD DEAR so this is a grudging admission)).

What about TEH INTERNETS – aren’t they Changing Everything? Yes and no (also see the next para). The roil of activity on the web has definitely affected the diffusion curve but at the level before the NME – the Innovators rather than the Early Adopters. But actually the UK is a bit of a strange case – it doesn’t have much of an MP3 blogosphere to speak of, for instance – I’m not totally sure why this is.

But only 50,000 people read the NME any more! Well, more read the website by all accounts, but yeah – this is kind of why I referenced Fukuyama right at the end: his “end of history” wasn’t one, and nor is this – the NME’s position on the diffusion curve is INCREDIBLY vulnerable – it only has any credibility as a guardian of “youth culture” because i. people higher up the curve still want there to be a youth culture and for it to look quite similar to how it did when they were kids and ii. there’s nobody else. The locking-in of Radio 1 to the curve is probably irreversible, though.

Also – HI DERE Warren Ellis, thanks for the link!