It should be common knowledge, but for those of you who are unaware: The music industry is a place where people work in order to make money. Yes, it is also a place where dreams come true, where people make connections that last a lifetime over lyrics that speak to them, where fans can live in the same sphere as the people they love from afar, even if it’s just through Twitter or a short-lived meet-and-greet.
I’m not saying the music industry doesn’t have problems, or that it should be all about the money. I am a fan, a musician, and a music writer: I’m privileged enough to be in three spheres of an endless industry that I can’t claim to know everything about. I’m not claiming anything but my own opinion.
In this case, my opinion may be unpopular, but it is my strong belief that there is nothing wrong with being compensated for writing in the music industry. I have seen many discussions — some respectful, many not — about this topic, and I feel, as a music writer, it is my place to weigh in.
For those of you who are regulars on my blog, I’m sure you’re aware that my reviews are paid, unless I find a band on my own that I wish to share with you. I state this policy very clearly on my contact page, although not on every individual post. This is for aesthetic purposes, not to try and hide anything: I’m proud that this is my job, and that I have worked hard enough on my writing that people value it enough to pay for it and take the time to read it. I have worked for many years for this privilege, and I do believe everyone should serve their time to gain experience before reaching this point.
But, there is nothing wrong with experienced, qualified writers making a career in the music industry, and that means money has to be a factor for most of us. If I could drop everything and write for free without worry, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, industries don’t work that way.
My site’s payment is based loosely off of the model used for many poetry and literature magazines, with small modifications. To submit to a magazine, writers usually pay a small fee in order to be considered, whether they end up earning a spot in the magazine or not. This is a widely accepted method in the writing industry, and we understand that the money allows writers the potential to be awarded a small prize for publication, or at least for the magazine to continue giving writers a space to share their work.
On my site, I only accept money ($10/album review, $5/single review) for accepted submissions. I have and will continue to turn down musicians that I feel would be a bad fit for the site, or artists whose genres I am not familiar enough with to accurately review their music. For the accepted applicants, the fee includes promotion on my social media channels, addition to a Spotify playlist (if their music is on Spotify), and the post itself, which typically takes an hour or two to write, depending on length of the music. This means that I am offering my writing for less than minimum wage, and my profits are far from impressive, but enough to allow me the time away from work and my studies to keep doing this.
I understand that musicians don’t make a ton of money; writers are in the same boat, and I’m both! But I would never ask a musician to perform for free, and it is unfair to assume a writer would be able to take the time to write something for free, too.
But does the money, however little, affect my reviews? Absolutely not! If you read my work, I think it would be fair to say that my reviews are positive (I want to uplift the artists I work with, not tear them down), but fair and honest. I tend to include snippets of criticism even for my favorite musicians, as I would in a writing workshop or any other critique group. As much as many people would consider paid reviews an “advertisement,” I think it is an unfair term. Instead, reviews of all types and prices serve to introduce music to a new audience, like a recommendation, and include the good and the bad to make the listeners aware of what they’re getting. If that’s your definition of an advertisement, that is fair, but my goal is not to push a product, but simply to raise awareness of a particular group. I make no profit from listeners checking out a band I said was good.
I am more than aware that many of you will disagree with me. I respect your opinions like I would hope you respect mine, and I simply ask that you do not harass me for my point of view. I will leave you with this: The music industry is an industry. While it would be a dream for everyone to be able to help one another out free of charge, it’s unfortunately unrealistic, and not the way things work in the real world.