Music journalists are arguably as misunderstood as music publicists. Since I've played both sides of the field as a writer and a publicist, I'm able to effectively understand the needs and behaviors of both. As the music journalism landscape has changed and morphed in the digital age, the music writer has become less and less understood. Here are nine things you may not know about music journalists.
1. We aren't simply nerds with encyclopedic knowledge
Yes, we have encyclopedic knowledge and are experts, which we balance with the ability to write well, but we're not cyborgs operating without passion. We want to talk to bands and artists so we can get to know the process, to understand the people who create the music we love, and to reveal the inside scoop, and thus convey that to our readers and their fans.
2. We have agendas, but not with malice
Of course we have agendas (and deadlines) since we want to get the story and the scoop for our readership. But that's never done with malice... at least not by writers that abide by and adhere to a code of ethics.
3. We like working with publicists
Full disclosure: I am also a publicist, but beforehand, I absolutely loved working with my PR people to plan, execute, and complete a story that either I pitched on my own or that a publicist pitched me to write for an editor. I never saw PR reps as the enemy, a bother, or the means to an end; rather, I saw them as my partner, and that created fruitful relationships that lead to other opportunities.
4. We are authority figures
In 2015, anyone with a keyboard and WiFi connection – so everyone, really – can start a blog and call themselves music writers or journalists. Until a year-plus of respectable and read clips are built up with a loyal following that looks to you for your opinion and expects you to expose them to new music, you're a rookie or in development. Music writers with bylines and columns for big outlets occupy that space for a reason: they earned it.
5. We're not looking for a free ride
While the perks slay, like free tickets, access to bands, and getting to hear new music before anyone else, we're not in it for that (although it's rad!). We're storytellers first. We consider writing to be our art and our craft, too. If the free shit is the motivation, you're not a real writer.
6. We value what we do, so we need to get paid
In recent years, I see a lot of fellow writers gripe about low – or worse – no pay. While that's certainly an option when you're trying to establish yourself, anyone with experience and a reputable byline deserves to be paid. Anything less devalues what we do.
7. We can write effectively about a band whether we like them or not
In the case of features, where opinion is of little consequence, we can effectively write about a band or an artist regardless of our personal opinion. We can tell a story in fair fashion; that's what makes writing a challenge and an art form. Criticism is best reserved for reviews.
8. We can adapt to the changing landscape
With print drying up and music journalism changing markedly, we've learned to adjust and adapt to the changing landscape. Sure, SEO writing might not be something we love to do, but the good ones have learned to do it and do it well. Evolve or die.
9. We can do interviews with minimal prep
This might be controversial, but I can do an interview with minimal prep. I don't write out 20 questions ahead of the chat. I write three specifics pertaining to the latest album, or the band's current status. Then I have five questions I ask everyone, and I let the conversation percolate from there, which brings about further, not-standard or been-asked-100-times-already questions. It's organic, not canned, and comfortable. Plus, I want the reader to feel like he or she had a convo with their fave band, or to walk away learning something totally new.
Again, these are generalities and my responses to some of the things I hear being said about music journalists that suggest that some myth-busting needed to be done.
Amy Sciarretto has 20 years of print and online bylines, from Kerrang to Spin.com to Revolver to Bustle, covering music, beauty, and fashion. After 12 years doing radio and publicity at Roadrunner Records, she now fronts Atom Splitter PR, her own boutique PR firm, which has over 30 clients. She also is active in animal charity and rescue.