Combining your love for music with journalism
Guest blogger: Ellen Eldridge
Writers feel drawn to the power of crafting a name for themselves by transforming the power of music (or news, events and so on) into the power of words. When people ask me how to write a concert review, I suggest writing down exactly what they would tell their best friend when asked, “How was the show?”
The truth is that writing album and concert reviews is much like writing poetry, in that the personal nature of experiencing a moment in time doesn’t translate as well to those who weren’t there—unless you’re a damn fine writer.
My guess about why most music journalists got into writing about music is also my confession as to why I started: to witness and capture the moments in time when an artist on stage breathes the same air as the fans in the crowd, for pay.
The problem with music journalism
Part of the problem is that music journalists tend to simply scratch the surface by relating the set list and a few quotes from the lead singer instead of following the same formulas journalists use for writing the news and for writing features.
Much of the problem lies in the fact that music journalists—more so than any other freelance writing professional—don’t get paid and often aren’t even trained journalists. The writers who review albums and concerts more often than not work for local blogs or digital entertainment websites. People drawn by the power of music are often content—if not thrilled—to review a favorite act for a ticket to the show.
So, you still want to be a music journalist?
The upside, for freelance professionals who have writing skill, is that breaking into music journalism is easier than it was when I started in about 1996. Now, my advice to those who want to get started is to go ahead and get started.
The students in school for majors in communication, English and almost any other major should get involved on campus with any organization that offers a chance to write and get published. The campus newspaper can often get credentials to cover local shows, and when students start applying what they learn about feature writing and the inverted pyramid to a concert review they start honing the elements that make a story enticing to those who may not care about the underground artist who changed your life.
If you don’t particularly care about writing but want to break into music journalism because you want to see free shows then my advice is persistence and a willingness to improve. You may never reach the point where someone is willing to pay for your opinion, but even putting up your own blog and reviewing the shows you paid to get into will help you get your start toward reviewing shows as press (with that free ticket and sometimes plus one).
God bless freedom of speech. No one can stop you from becoming a music journalist.
If you want to get paid for it, however, you need to not only do it well but also win the respect of someone who will pay you. The Examiner website pays its contributors on a traffic referral basis, so the idea of writing well is the key.
Just like with music itself anyone can produce music journalism inexpensively and blast it across social media platforms. If you fall into puddles of mediocre writing or create clichéd music you will likely spin your wheels until you burn yourself out.
As with any form of journalism, and almost any art, music journalism is a popular dream job that few will get paid to do, but if your passion is there you can build a name for yourself through freelancing.
Ellen Eldridge is the president of the Kennesaw State University chapter of SPJ (Region 3) and a freelancer for Atlanta Music Guide. She’s also a contributor to Performer Magazine and she founded the marketing magazine, Target Audience Magazine. As such, she manages a staff of contributing writers and photographers and is always looking for journalists who want to build their portfolios. Her website is www.elleneldridge.com.
Unfettered access to those in power, a push for government transparency and a vigorous defense of the First Amendment are perhaps more important now than ever before. Join us as we fight for the public’s right to know as an SPJ Supporter. Or, if you’re a journalist, we welcome you to stand with us as a Professional, Student or Retired Member.