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Making it in music journalism

How to get into music journalism

Getting the opportunity to write about big concerts like Taylor Swift, or cover events like Glastonbury don’t come around overnight. Breaking into music journalism can be difficult, but in a recent JournoResources event, freelance journalist Layla Marino covered what you need to do to get into the industry.

Finding your voice

Before you start pitching to publications, it’s pivotal to find your voice and what suits you the best. Layla advised considering what interests you most about music. It might be the technical side or music theory, in which case your voice would be better suited to trade music titles. It could be the emotional side of music and how it makes you feel. Layla said this can work well when it comes to interviewing artists and finding out more about the reasons they make their records.

She also said that it could be the storytelling aspect of music that appeals to you. This works well at the moment, with an abundance of concept albums out there. There could be a particular genre or style that appeals to you that you want to focus on writing about. In general, the tone is more informal in music journalism but will still follow good AP structure, according to Layla. You can write in first person but consider what you’re using it for.

Gaining exposure and what to pitch

Layla recommended a few different ways to gain exposure with your work – one is to start a blog or Substack and build up a collection of articles to show editors and commissioners. She also recommended pitching to alternative publications with smaller audiences. Layla advised offering to work for free at the start to get a byline and grow your portfolio.

Pitching to publications with samples rather than a CV is normally the best approach, according to Layla. Cold pitching can work, success is more likely to come with a connection to the publication. If you’re cold pitching, understand the publication’s style and audience. Layla advised that style guides can vary between publications – pay attention to details if you want to get your article commissioned. 

As with many sectors in journalism, it can be about who you know. Layla advised getting on PR’s emailing lists – which you can do by sending a request out via the Journalist Enquiry Service. She also said going direct to labels and asking to be on promo lists is helpful. Slowly over time, you can build up trust with both labels and artists.

To niche or not to niche?

Music is a broad topic to write about, and with so many different genres and sub-genres, there is the opportunity to specialise in a particular niche. Layla extolled the benefits – getting  to write about what you love, and likely gaining a dedicated following on social media because of it. She also said that the more you focus on a particular area then the more you will learn about it. This will help promoters and artists see you as the go-to person to cover their gig, albums, and more. There are also lots of niche outlets around and they will be more open to you as a result.

The disadvantages Layla warned about? Potential burnout, and getting tired of writing about the same topic all the time. She also said that it can be tricky to transition out of that niche, impacting your ability  to write for bigger outlets covering  all types of music. Layla added that specialising in an area could also lead to blind spots in your knowledge on other areas of music. Therefore, a balance between both is probably the best option.

Whatever your specialism, get what you need for your features by sending a request to UK PRs via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

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