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Your typical article or post about making it as a music journalist tends to go on about how hard it is to prosper as a music writer. They describe the herculean effort it will take to suceed and scare people off!
In truth, it’s super easy to become a music journalist.
It’s just really hard to get a job that pays well. But you grind out a living doing what you love!
Here’s what you need to know about the dream job of millions and the typical journey of music journalists everywhere.
Music journalists do a variety of work but mainly they write for music publications (such as music magazines), they may write about the music industry or do music reviews and interviews or handle music-related news.
Some will work with or for a music PR company or a music business such as an instrument maker or record label.
There’s a thin line between music writer and music journalism and to be fair even if you just write for your own blog or free stories for your student magazine, nobody will mind if you call yourself a music journo.
If you want to get into this line of work the easiest way is to just start.
Set up a music blog, get involved in your local scene (or as in my case, an underground scene – death and black metal). Start writing reviews, most music journalists are going to do this for much of their career, and when you’re a self-employed music critic, you don’t face the same constraints as other music journalists, you can write (mainly) what you want to write.
Offer free writing samples to other online publications, talk to labels and see if you can get free music releases, hone your writing skills, and maybe one day Rolling Stone will call you?
Most music journalist jobs do not require a college degree, in fact, many music journalists never go to college, and most of them probably never even read a book on music theory for that matter, either.
However, if you’re an aspiring journalist that wants that bachelor’s degree just in case churning out opinion pieces on the web and the fact that you love music don’t turn into a career – there’s nothing wrong with going to university.
It shows you love writing, you’ll learn to conduct interviews without embarrassing yourself in front of artists and musicians and meet other writers, who may be able to help you if you want to work freelance at a later date too.
You may also find that this experience can help you focus on building one website and generating good ideas before you go out and seek work. You may also be able to get access to visiting artists at the college campus and get practice writing about them before you have to publish anything.
You’ll certainly build up an interesting story portfolio which can really help if you’re looking to get on the staff of a music magazine.
Not enough. Just ask my editor (*that’s enough of that – Ed*). It really depends staff writers on bigger publications can make a good living, whereas if you’re freelancing occasionally for a local publication, you’ll probably need another job and the cash won’t compensate for the late nights you put in – though the big stack of free new releases they send journalists, might make you feel better.
There are lots of ways of making money in the music industry but it has to be said that music journalism is not one of the best options to do so. It’s more a job for music enthusiasts who live and breathe music rather than for those intending to get rich.
Having said that, many journalists who start in the music press find that their ideas, blogs, written portfolio, etc. eventually create a stir with editors in other fields and their skills and education are usually transferable to better-paid areas of journalism.
Not everyone who sets out to work in music journalism succeeds at it but it really isn’t hard to get started in this field at all.
Then it’s a question of learning from other journalists that you meet and from your own experience to push your career forward.
One thing you’ll need to learn to write is music features and we’ve got a few that you might enjoy: the true story of Axl Rose’s First Wife, a guide to careers in the music industry, and our music submission guide! Have fun.
The first time Nicholas went to a live gig, 31 years ago, it turned out to be an Iron Maiden secret gig and he became hooked on the music scene. He was one of the founding writers for Astro Zombie a heavy metal and new world techno-inspired zine and his interview with Rob Caggiano of Anthrax brought in over 300,000 readers. He’s based out of Southeast Asia now, but his love of music is as strong and diverse as ever.