5 Tips for New Music Journalists

a few tips on the craft of being a music journalist

Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash

I run a music publication, you may have seen it here on Medium, called Modern Music Analysis. I’ve collected quite a few writers, views, followers, etc. I’ve been doing this music journalism thing for a little while and have learned a lot in my time doing it. I’m going to keep this short and sweet because there are many convoluted ways to go about it, and that’s not what will keep you in business. Here are five tips for budding music journalists:

1. Have a love for music

This may be self-explanatory but it is a requirement for beginning your journey in writing about music. If you can’t listen to music for hours on end, and even the same album and specific songs over and over again to analyze, in my experience, you can’t be an effective music journalist. My love for music and wanting to share that experience is how I came about creating Modern Music Analysis. You have to be obsessed or it will get old really quickly and you’ll fizzle out before you’ve even started. This is one of the few hobbies that you could make an enjoyable profession out of if you stick to it.

2. Don’t be scared to voice your opinion

Music is largely (almost completely) subjective. Be opinionated! Everyone will have a different opinion of everything, but the beauty of music journalism is being able to share your thoughts on a piece of music or artist to those that may have differing opinions and changing their minds. If you ride the fence, scared to offend an opinion or even an artist, it will cost you your writing voice. An unsure and meager review of an album is unconvincing, so never feel bad about being scathing or enjoying works others don’t. Don’t be dejected if someone disagrees with your review. Music is art after all, and we all interpret it differently. With this, don’t be scared to change your opinion. It may seem like taboo, but changing your opinion, especially of subjective work, is completely okay!

3. Research, research, research

Do thorough research of whatever it is that you’re reviewing. Listen to every song of an album, a few selections from other albums from the same artist, know the lyrics, the motivations of the artists, any struggles they may have faced and how that relays to the music they’ve created, their influences, the genre they reside in, other players in that genre. If you don’t know something about an artist, make sure you find out. The more research you do, the more thorough you can be in reviewing music, and therefore, more convincing. Additionally, you don’t want to be called out for false information. Keep in mind that there is a difference between false information and interpretation. A handy source I use for verified information is Genius, especially when reviewing lyrics and open-ended interpretations.

4. Have a good grasp of language and grammar

Most writing is nothing more than argumentative, especially when writing in the realm of subjectivity. The more apt you are at forming cohesive arguments through mixed sentence structure and pliable evidence and analysis, the easier it is to read, understand, and make your argument. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, but you do have to be literate. Keep in mind that you’re appealing to at least the average reader. If you make your writing inaccessible through supremely technical and flowery diction (Pitchfork is extremely guilty of this), you’re decreasing the effectiveness of your argument. A lot of technical writers would suggest Grammarly as a source in proofing your work; however, I would argue that micromanaging your work through an engine like this only desaturates your work of your voice. Knowing how sentences work, with pauses, stylization, etc. is much more important that being perfectly, grammatically correct. However, if you’re aiming to write for larger companies, they will most likely follow AP Style, the universal rules for writing in media.

5. Seek criticism + build community

No matter how good you are at writing, or the clout you hold in a journalism sphere, you can always be better. Arguments can be sharper, analyses can be sharpened, stronger conclusions can be drawn. Surround yourself readers or writers that will be candid with you about your work, not just tell you what you want to hear. For Modern Music Analysis, my first connection (shoutout Mark Chinapen) came from looking at writing that I thought was better than mine and reaching out to them and working alongside them. I found all the writers I could and invited them to write alongside me as I grew the publication. Surrounding yourself with great writers (subconsciously) elevates your own writing as you see the different elements and voices in other writers. Being committed to bettering your craft continuously will do wonders for your writing and will start to feel more and more natural as you embrace the fact that you aren’t a perfect writer.

Build connections with artists and their A&R teams, especially local and underground artists. They will be supremely grateful you built that connection with them. In addition to these connections, you’ll be introduced to new music and up-and-coming talent. You could even be the first to report on the next big thing!

If you are a rising music journalist, or even a seasoned one, and interested in knowing/learning more about the realm of music journalism or collaborating, feel free to reach out! You can find submission details for Modern Music Analysis here, we are always looking for more writing talent. Below you can find some examples of what I consider to be top-notch music journalism.

Examples of premier music journalism and analyses

Here are a few good examples of diligent music journalism that were rewarded with a massive amount of views on Modern Music Analysis.
Shoutout to each of the writers Mark Chinapen, Paul K. Barnes, Desolate Testaments, Michael Datz

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Josh Herring

Josh Herring

An emerging writer working on debut novel | Top Writer in Music | Owner of Modern Music Analysis publication: https://medium.com/modern-music-analysis