Hello, was curious on some music journo advice. I have begun writing album reviews on a blog and find myself following a similar pattern each time. On one hand, I find this perhaps something I can make "my style" but on the other hand, am I not being varied enough? What is your opinion? I'd be happy to send a link to my blog if you'd like - didn't want to push that unsolicited on you. Thanks!
Here’s something to try. Find ten, completely different reviews of albums - wildly different writers, and you’re not allowed to only pick ones you like. Now look at them purely in terms of structure - not what they say, or which band it is, and look at how the review is plotted.
For example: do they start with some biographical detail? Do they then examine a couple of the tracks? Do they start with an obscure allusion to something? A personal anecdote?
For the next ten album reviews you do, put each of those writers’ hats on. Be them. Not stylistically (you have to supply that yourself) - just follow the path they took within their wordcount. Don’t worry about whether you agree with their structure, just follow it and see what happens.
Having a ‘voice’ (as I’m sure you know) is not something you can be taught. It comes with pathological reading habits, years of practice - and most of all - a looseness in your brain that allows you to turn off your inner critical monkey.
Once you’ve done that, you can then experiment with form in more nutty ways - writing reviews as blank verse, as illustrations, on a 5 minute stopwatch - until you find the form of expression that best pays respect to what music makes you think or feel.
I have no idea if that is helpful. But the marvellous thing is that you’re never, EVER going to run out of words. And that’s pretty boss.
WenbY is not a LAb IN Hre
My nephew thinks a funny joke would be if he did a post it note and then stuck it to my office door. This one is to tell me that I am not allowed in my own office which is in my own house.
Now every time I sit at my desk it feels like a rebellion.
MY SISTER IS IN POETRY REVIEW!
Sarah’s poem ‘Ritual’ is the first poem in this month’s Poetry Review. I believe it is on page six, which I keep reminding her is the best page due to its association with scurrilous gossip and blind items.
I would like to think this here list of contents is in order of importance. It is to me.
A little while ago I went to the Turner Contemporary in Margate. It was really good and they had this nice thing upstairs where you could pose a question about some of the ART you had seen in case someone else could answer your ART QUESTIONS in case some of the ART had made your brain go WAT.
I do not believe in grey ‘areas’ so art galleries tend to turn me into either a) an eight year old, or b) an insufferable ponce. So I got my friend to write this…
..just so I could write this…
It is also fun to do This Kind of Thing when you have the opportunity to sign a hotel guest book (‘We loved the badgers’ / ‘Thank you for the massage oil’ / ‘Neil was so welcoming’) or have to sign birthday cards for people you do not care for at work (‘Working with you on that spreadsheet made me feel things, love Jason’). Obviously you do not do the last one if your name is Jason and/or you do work with spreadsheets.
Hello, i met you at the creative features in norwich on the 22nd. I was just wondering if you would still give me some advice about how to make it as a blogger in the music industry? Thanks, sophie smith.
Hiya! Yes, I’d be happy to. The best thing to do is start your own blog first, so you can start writing your own reviews/posts - aim to post at least one thing a day so you get loads of practice. A good thing to do is set the timer on your phone and give yourself 20 mins each morning to write your post - then just sling it up, without trying to make it perfect.
Your own blog should be a place where you experiment with form, and try to develop your own style as a writer, so don’t spend as much as one second worrying about what other people might think and don’t try to appease the masses - that way madness lies. The important thing is to read lots of different kinds of writing (novels, poetry, journalism, non-fiction) and to write every day, until you find it easier to express what you want to say, in the way you want to say it.
It’s then a case of building up a portfolio of work - most blogs and websites will want to see some samples of your work before they take you on as a writer for their website. So try writing a couple of 300-400 word review of a recent album so you can send it along to the reviews editor of the site you want to write for. When you’re asking to be taken on as a writer, it never hurts to include a compliment in the first paragraph - ideally something nice about the last article written by the person you’re writing to - don’t forget that most music journalists are massive egomaniacs :)
I would make sure you ALWAYS write for sites/blogs that have a decent, sizeable readership - so maybe look at the blogs tracked by the Hype Machine as they’re seen as influential blogs in the genre of music they cover. You can find those blogs categorised by genre here http://hypem.com/blogs. Write for them for a bit, then target the bigger sites. Then start pitching to the blog section of newspapers. Then the print versions.
Always keep moving, and have a ‘fantasy portfolio’ of magazines you’d love to write for, so you know what you’re aiming for, before you start. This will keep you focused, because you don’t want to write for a site with a small readership for ever and ever and ever. You will of course have to write for free (at first).
You’ll also need to start getting on some mailing lists - this is because you need advance warning of all new album/single releases/tours/festivals so you can pitch your feature ideas to magazine/newspaper/website editors way before these releases/events happen. There are hundreds of different music PR agencies and some record labels do their own PR in-house. So you’ll need to do some research to find the right PR companies, with a roster of artists making the kind of music you want to write about.
It should go without saying that you should also be doing your own research too - write about whatever music is making Narnia happen in your brain; track down the amazing local bands no one else has written about yet; mercilessly sling any and all shiny new noises into your brain so you’re aware of what’s happening in music locally, nationally and worldwide.
There’s obviously lots more I could tell you, but I suspect this is enough to get you started (!). Hope that helps.
The lyrics for Fast Boyfriends were not on the internet so I have made them happen on my computer as they are marvellous. You may like to Singalonga Girls At Our Best using the below videothing.
Creative Futures 2013
On Friday I took part in Creative Futures (@creativefuture3), where I gave four, 40-minute workshops on music journalism. I was hoping to impart a snapshot of the (often flawed) process involved when you have to whittle a pile of 40-50+ singles down to the 6 or 7 you might include in a column.
I met young people from schools and colleges across the county - some of whom were marvelously brutal and all of whom were sparky. They were brilliant.
In each workshop, everyone had a minute to pick a promo from The Pile and then justify their choice. Were they attracted to a goofy band name? Did they spy some lively artwork? Did they recognise an artist/label? Or - horror-of-horrors - did they read the press release?
We then listened to everyone’s choices, loudly, for an (unfair, punishing) 30 seconds, marking each track out ten. This was especially good as Scruffizer woke up all the grannies in the library.
Once we had a winner, I then asked the students to find a word that described that track in various ways – they could choose to use one of the selection of ‘texture’, ‘pace’, ‘genre’, ‘mood’, ‘opinion’, ‘colour’, ‘musical instrument’ and ‘visual’ words and phrases I’d supplied, or use their own.
Here are the results:
Pompeii – ‘Bastille’
Wheel in the new seaside, blissful tune! ‘Pompeii’ is a blue-mood debut sure to hit the charts! #indie (by @amityoria)
Pompeii sounds indie and has a repetitive chorus. It is #papery (by @GiselleLMarise)
Pompeii is an indie pop mix between soul/rock which makes you imagine driving down a country road towards the sunset. Cool, original and fun. (by @lobeless64)
Pompeii reminds me of open roads and sunsets. The breezy, happy song creates good memories. #summer (by @miss__trouble)
I love Bastille’s song Pompeii, it’s indie but AMAZING. I like how it reminds ms of open roads and yet is also kind of gloomy. Listen to it 24/7 #YOLO (@bellabari)
Great texture and smoothness throughout the song, with passionate lyrics. Often feels dark with a hint of sunrise in the chorus. Addictive! (by @kieran_grady96)
Bastille’s Pompeii interprets psychedelic disco. Sounds very synchronized and gives visuals of indie culture. (@ArcticBarnes2)
Pompeii is horrible, vile, noisy and jagged psychedelic disco that reminds me of the sea
Pompeii is fast and vocal-heavy with a retro, techno feel
Pompeii by Bastille sounds indie. It’s repetitive. It reminds me of open roads.
Drenge – ‘Bloodsports’
Abrasive guitars like QOTSA/Kyuss in a hurry. (by @kierenmccallum)
Dirty, busy guitar rock akin to 70s pub/bar punk. (by @DavidPWhittle)
A razor sharp slice of garage rock with post-punk vocals, over visceral jagged stoner-rock guitar and hard-hitting drums. An angsty youth anthem. (by @calvycake, who said he would like to be a music journalist and who definitely should)
Grubby rock. I liked it but after a few listens it got a bit bland. Could imagine it playing well live though.
Great rock song, great breaks in rhythm but all the breaks get old after the first 3-5 listens.
Scruffizzer – ‘Rap/Rave’
A fast paced back beat with a heavy rap lyric, however the MC is slightly repetitive. It has the potential to be a club banger. Missing a bassy drop. (by @lewisw_ovoxo)
Regurgitated garage sprinkled with a dirty bassline (by @beckmunn)
Rap/Rave is happy, immersive, fast and flashy house with electronic synths
I find the song really annoying and harsh on your ears. Too repetitive. #boring
The Vestals – Perfect Pain
Soft, shimmery, relaxing and fast. (By @max_firman)
Perfect Pain is blue pop that puts me in mind autumn trees and has the texture of a scratchy, short beard (by @openthegatekate)
Clean, punchy electronic drums, a strong bassline and 80s synths make for light indie rock that’s both upbeat and gloomy (by @edchalu)
So there you go.
I am giving two short, 40-minute workshops on music journalism this Friday at The Forum - teaching would-be Lester Bangs and Sylvie Simmonses that music writing is not just about knowing what genre pigeonhole to put an artist in. We will be creating tweetable, 140-character reviews and it is going to be snappy, amusing LARKS.
There will be other workshops on the day, most of which are digitally-focused taster sessions on creative disciplines. Nice people from Norwich Arts Centre, Access to Music, Outline Magazine, Community Music East, NUA, Your Future in Digital, HomeFx, BBC Voices and Cinema City will be there. There’s a careers fair on the Saturday - so if you are a young person interested in a creative career path (or the parent of someone who fancies an arty job), come down and get some advice from some People What Know.
For more information (or an invitation to the launch event this Thursday) email the marvellous Marion Catlin on email@example.com.