NME criticised over unapproved Stormzy cover to promote feature on depression
By Chris Cooke | Published on Friday 17 March 2017
NME came in for some criticism yesterday after Stormzy hit out at the music magazine’s decision to use his photo on the cover of its latest edition alongside the headline “Depression: It’s time to talk”. The grime star hadn’t approved the use of his photo, and hadn’t specifically spoken to the publication for its feature on mental health.
The article explores how, in the last couple of years, more artists have been speaking publicly and frankly about mental health issues. That includes Stormzy, who recently spoke to ‘Channel 4 News’ about depression. However, there are no new quotes from him in the article, which is why many have criticised the magazine for using his photo on the cover, especially without his permission.
Expressing his outrage on Twitter, Stormzy wrote: “You lot know I don’t rant or open my mouth up for no reason but serious NME magazine are the biggest bunch of sly, foul PAIGONS”. Noting that he had put a lot of thought into how he conducted his mental health conversation in the media, he subsequently added: “I KNOW [the NME feature] will help others but just imagine a personal battle of yours being published on the front of a magazine without your permission”.
The journalist behind the piece, Andrew Trendell, distanced himself from the cover. Writing on Twitter yesterday, he said: “With regards to this week’s NME feature about mental health, it was only ever my intention to raise awareness about something very important. I had absolutely no part in the cover itself, the photos used, nor the cover lines. That is not my responsibility and was done by other people entirely”.
Meanwhile the NME itself apologised to Stormzy, while insisting that it had only good motives. Over a series of tweets, Editor Mike Williams wrote: “I’m sorry that you didn’t know your image would be our cover. Our intentions were only positive”.
He went on: “We were inspired by your words and wanted to use them as a springboard to talk about depression and how it shouldn’t be taboo. We spoke to CALM and YoungMinds in order to make sure the advice we were giving people was on message with how they advise. And we spoke to other people with a profile to gather their stories and advice too”.
He concluded: “We used your image as we felt it would resonate most with our readers, and I can only apologise again that you didn’t know. Our only intention was to raise awareness of an issue that we’ve been inspired to talk about following your comments. I’m really sorry this has happened. We’re a free magazine and were not trying to shift copies, just talk about something important”.
Though Stormzy wasn’t entirely convinced by that latter point in particular, tweeting back “You’re NOT a non-profit organisation. The more copies you dish out the more you charge for advertising. You will make money from this”.
Despite the dispute remaining unresolved, Trendell said that he hoped the controversy around the cover wouldn’t “distract from the message of the piece itself”. He went on: “Having lost loved ones to depression, dealt with it first-hand and seen the stigma that surrounds it with countless others, I have spent months speaking to artists and specialists to plan a string of features and a campaign around a conversation that needs to happen. Depression, anxiety and issues around mental health will impact on all of us at some point on our lives – if not you then someone you love”.
He concluded: “I have nothing but respect for Stormzy and the many other artists and figures who have bravely spoken out to shine a light on a subject that should in no way be taboo, to give others the courage to seek help”.
If you are experiencing depression, or other issues affecting your mental wellbeing, you can contact music industry focussed helpline Music Support on 0800 030 6789 or musicsupport.org. You can also find support and information on Mind’s website.