The circulation jump could see Kerrang! -- which recorded an ABC of 52,283 in the January to June 2001 ABC reporting period -- rack up sales of more than 75,000. This would edge it past NME, which had an ABC of 70,142 last time and has been losing circulation for some time.
The move will mark the first time in the NME's 50-year history that it has been dislodged from its seat at the front of the weekly music press.
Kerrang!'s success has largely been attributed to its ability to tap into the popular nu-metal college-kid scene, covering bands such as Limp Bizkit, Sum 41 and Slipknot. This editorial policy has been boosted by the launch of a digital TV channel Kerrang! TV, alongside a host of other Emap brands such as Smash Hits TV and Q Television.
IPC, on the other hand, has failed to recover from the demise of Britpop, when bands such as Pulp, Blur and Oasis were topping the charts, during a time when the music fan's former must-read title outlived rivals such as Sounds, and former stablemate Melody Maker, which was folded into NME by publisher IPC in 2000.
NME has also failed to cash in on the fragmentation of the music industry, which has seen more specialist titles such as MixMag, Ministry and Kerrang! flourish.
Tim Schoonmaker, Emap Peformance chief executive, told the Sunday Express: "If we get ahead of the NME, well, that's shaping pop culture. It means the world of music magazines will have changed forever. The old guard will be on the way out."
The latest ABCs for the July-to-December reporting period due out on Friday are, however, expected to see a drop in the once profitable men's magazine sector, with Emap's FHM expected to fall 7% and Dennis Publishing's Maxim could fare worse.
The consumer magazine sector as a whole is expected to see a large drop in sales.
Meanwhile, Emap is believed to be planning to further exploit the success of its celebrity ratings juggernaut Heat with the launch of a teenage version, with the working title "project monkey", later this year.
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