Music magazine NME will move to become a free publication as part of a plan to increase its circulation to around 300,000.

Sales of the magazine, which began in 1952, have fallen dramatically in recent years and currently average a weekly print of around 13,000 to 14,000. During its heyday, the magazine saw weekly sales of almost 300,000.

NME's publisher, Time Inc, has announced the magazine will become a free publication in September as a last-ditch attempt to increase readership.

The distribution will mean it will rival other free magazines such as Shortlist and Time Out, which are handed out for free at Tube and train stations (the former across major cities in the UK, the latter in London). Time Inc is hoping the move to offer the magazine for free to students at colleges and schools will help push its circulation.

Marcus Rich, chief executive of Time Inc UK, said: "This famous 63-year-old brand was an early leader in digital and has been growing its global audience successfully for the best part of 20 years.

"It has been able to do so because music is such an important passion and now is the right time to invest in bringing NME to an even bigger community for our commercial partners."

Mike Williams, editor of the magazine, added: "NME is already a major player and massive influencer in the music space, but with this transformation we'll be bigger, stronger and more influential than ever before.

"Every media brand is on a journey into a digital future. That doesn't mean leaving print behind, but it does mean that print has to change, so I'm incredibly excited by the role it will now play as part of the new NME."

Time Inc previously had to deny reports an edition of the weekly magazine in February would be the last paid-for issue of NME but did not completely rule out a such a decision in the future.