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Music Journalist Career Profile

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Rock concert with many excited people cheering and waving. The lead singer is crowd surfing.
Henrik Sorensen / Stone / Getty Images

Music Journalists - What Do They Do?:

Naturally, music journalists write about music and the music business, but there are a few different specializations that exist under that heading. Some music journalists work exclusively in reviews - they reviews new albums, shows, DVD releases and such. Other journalists tend to do more in depth pieces about musicians - they do interviews and cover the people behind the music. Some music journalists focus on writing about the music business itself - and still other writers do a mixed bag of work, combining music reviews, artist interviews and whatever else comes up that warrants press attention.

Different Mediums, Different Styles:

Music magazines are the most obvious outlet for music journalism, but they are far from the only place you'll find music related writing. Album reviews run in most general entertainment and men's/women's magazines - these publications also sometimes include interviews. Newspapers have varying levels of music coverage, from reviews to interviews with touring bands passing through town. The latest frontier in music journalism is the internet (more below).

Types of music coverage differs between publications - newspapers and general interest magazines tend to run short reviews, music mags give more in depth coverage.

Music Journalism and The Internet:

Like it has most things, the internet has changed music journalism dramatically. In addition to giving the usual publications another outlet, the internet has allowed music fans to start covering the music themselves by starting blogs and websites. Music journalism on the internet is where you are most likely to find the boundaries pushed - writers are bound by fewer rules than they are with print publications.

Of course, not ever fan page on the net counts as "journalism" - there is good and bad writing on the web - but more and more of the great journalists are using the net to do their writing.

Working as a Music Journalist - The Pros:

As you might imagine, music journalism can be a lot of fun:

  • You get to hear the new music first
  • You get to work closely with musicians and get the chance to sit down and ask some of your favorite artists the questions that are on your mind.
  • Everyone wants press coverage, so you can count on plenty of promos and guest list spots, plus invitations to after parties and other events.
  • You get to write about what you (presumably) love - music - and you get to weigh in on important issues facing the industry.

Working as a Music Journalist - The Cons:

The pros might make a career as a music journalist sound like all fun and games, but it's not. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and a lot of paying your dues. You also have to be a self starter - you'll have deadlines, but you'll spend most of the time working independently, so you'll need the discipline to get the job done. Some other cons to consider:

  • The pay can be up and down - unless you have a steady assignment somewhere, you'll work freelance and only be paid when you get work.
  • When you write a bad review or unflattering interview, you can expect to hear about it.

Making Money as a Music Journalist:

The way music writers get paid depends very much on their job. Freelancers get paid on a per project basis - they might be paid on word count (a set amount for every word) or they might agree up front to a set rate for the whole project. People who work for a specific publication are usually on a set salary, although sometimes they receive a base rate plus a bonus based on some kind of performance criteria - this is especially common with web writing, where traffic increases are rewarded. Aspiring freelancers can learn more about pricing their work on About.com's Freelance Writing site.

How to Become a Music Journalist:

There are several different ways to get a foot in the door. Some people find internships with music publications while they are in college, and those internships turn into job opportunities. Other people take any writing job they can get - even writing for free sometimes - to build up a portfolio of work they can eventually turn into a paying gig. Still others start their own blog or website, which can also help to build up a portfolio of writing samples - sometimes, these blogs/sites can be successful enough on their own to become a living, and sometimes they are stepping stones to a steady assignment. Check out About.com's Media Careers site for more advice on breaking into journalism.

Some of the most important music publications today are actually blogs and websites. Of course, not unlike trying to get noticed on MySpace, bloggers and websites have to fight hard to get readers on the internet. Developing a good relationship with other bloggers can help. If you're thinking of starting your own music blog or website, here are some good examples of varying sizes from around the internet to give you some ideas of what is working for other people (Note: sites may include language or images offensive to some users):

  1. About.com
  2. Careers
  3. Music Careers
  4. Industry Careers
  5. Music Career Profiles
  6. Career Profile of a Music Journalist

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