How to get into music journalism
By Andy Parker - posted . See all Andy Parker's articles
Want to get into music journalism? Andy Parker, the editor of national music website Electric Banana, has some tips for one of - seemingly - the most glamorous jobs in the industry.
Of course, this can therefore be a very difficult career to get involved in. Blood, sweat, and tears are often required to get your foot in the door! But fantastic writing, enthusiasm, and even online/social networking knowledge could put you ahead of other (less savvy) writers!
Here are some useful methods to put students and amateur writers in strong positions to allow your music journo dreams to come true.
Now, I'll let you into a little secret now about contributing reviews/articles to music magazines and websites: One of the most frustrating errors made by wannabe music journos is the habit of writing far too much - giving the impression that you can‘t follow simple instructions. Sticking to the writing guidelines and submitting the review on time will show you are able to do work with the minimum of fuss, which will ultimately get you into the editor's good books. Result! It is also essential to research the style and tone of the work that the publication uses…and stick to them!
Famous American music journalist Lester Bangs famously got hired by Rolling Stone by sending the magazine a negative review of the MC5 album, Kick Out The Jams, with a note requesting that if they didn’t publish the review, then they send him a reason why it was rejected. They published it. Sending in a review is an "old school" approach, but can still be successful. Music magazines usually have full-time staff writing reviews, but there is no harm in trying. You may get lucky! At the very least you make them aware of your interest in writing and perhaps also receive tips and suggestions to get future work published.
Did the Lester Bangs approach not work for you? Bugger. Well, starting a blog with your reviews will highlight your passion for music and will also give potential employers a great place to view your music journalism credentials in one convenient spot. On the other hand, a sparsely populated blog - with only a couple of reviews - will sadly only give the impression that you lack the work ethic or passion to be worth hiring, so do ensure that you keep it regularly updated.
Similar to all professions, work experience is a fantastic way to jazz up your CV and get noticed. Experience at a respected music website is like catnip to other music publications and, if you impress during your placement, can also lead to full-time employment. Therefore send emails enquiring about possible placements early on, explaining why you want to gain experience there, as these can take a very long time to secure as respected websites/magazines generally have a waiting list that almost makes the NHS look speedy!
You bagged a high profile placement? Nice one. Now, the key to impressing on a work placement is enthusiasm - so do all assignments to the best of you ability. Don’t go quiet in a corner or become a loud mouth, but always be polite and friendly with a smile on your face. If you run out of work, don't be afraid to ask if anyone needs a hand. A willingness to make cups of tea may also win plenty of brownie points.
A useful way to get experience while you are waiting for bigger websites to respond is by contacting smaller music websites/blogs or local media to ask if you can contribute. These lovely people are usually much quicker to respond and are always on the look-out for talented people to contribute!
Make an Excel spreadsheet of all the people (including name, position, and email address) you have contacted, along with the date you sent the email. Remember to include a column to be able to document their response. If they haven't responded, then check your spreadsheet to check that you have left enough time (a fortnight) to follow-up and ask if they have had a chance to look into your request or read your review.
In conclusion, the popular saying is 100% right… Patience IS a virtue. If you haven't heard back then there are many reasons why this hasn't occurred: holidays, spam folders, forgetfulness, or they have just been too busy. Sending an email every few days will just annoy them - so if you have received no response from your follow follow-up email, then you can either give them a call or just move onto the next publication on your list.
It can be a tough business to get into, so keep your chin up!
Andy Parker is the editor of national music website Electric Banana. The website is a leading website that offers students and amateur writers freelance music journalism experience.
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Thank you! This has made it so clear to me how to get in to a business that I believe I can get into!