Four steps to becoming a music journalist
Learn to write
While a university education (and not just in the field of journalism) is certainly desirable and will stand you in good stead – it’s not absolutely essential. However, learning to write properly is a necessity. Regardless of your natural inscription ability, learning how to write both academically and informally is a skill a writer develops throughout their life. One of the best ways to do this is to read; read a range of authors and writers in a variety of disciplines and be critical as to what makes these writers good. Perhaps start frequenting influential music critic websites, such as Pitchfork and get a feel for how those at the top of the industry are operating.
Start a blog
Don’t worry too much about your readership just yet, like all skills in life, writing requires practice, practice and more practice. One of the best ways to do this is to start up a blog with a decent dedicated server like 1&1 and begin reviewing and previewing shows, as well as offering your opinion on the latest releases and so on. The most important thing here is getting some practice in, if you look back at a piece you wrote a few years ago and cringe – great! That means you’re getting better.
Find an internship
Unfortunately, unless you get lucky in the journalism game, you’ve got to be prepared to work for very little or no money in the beginning; experience is king in the industry and connections are everything. Get your foot in the door by applying for internships as an editorial assistant at reputable magazines or websites using your blog to leverage your way into the position. Once you’ve secured a position, you can begin creating a portfolio, which along with the connections you make will be your bread and butter in gaining future paid work. Most importantly, you’ll get to see behind the scenes and how the industry really works.
Find some freelance/contractual work
After you’ve created a body of published work, you can start building a network of publishers who’ll buy your work, or alternatively, and perhaps more rarely, you can find yourself a contractual position with a publication writing solely for them.
The editorial unit
Photo: Maria Reyes-McDavis