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Music reviewers: please don’t…

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Friday, June 29 brought some crap news for music journalism. Heavily respected music magazine The Word announced that it will release the last ever issue in August. Famed for it’s excellent writing (go and buy a copy and learn while you still can), the demise is another kick in the teeth for the future of good, quality journalism.

BUT music isn’t going to go away any time soon and we still need people to tell us if we should pay £1o for a CD or not. So to make sure this generation of journalists keep the quality alive and in tribute to it’s death, here are some suggestions of what NOT to do as a music reviewer (stolen from a forum post on the magazine’s website):

– DON’T end a feature like this: And with that, he adjusted his trademark spectacles, gave a conspiratorial wink and disappeared into the Soho night…unless for comedic value.

– You can do without obscure foreign quotes in italics and the name-dropping of impenetrable philosophical tomes you know no one else will have read (this applies to all journalism).

– Do not use the words “sonic cathedral” or Quintessential……unless you’re talking about a record by Quintessence: in which the record will, necessarily and inherently, be Quintessential. Unless they’re trying to sound like someone else, of course.

– Stating that an album that “Demands to be listened to” . How does that work then?

– Or describing something as “Wire jamming with Nick Drake while Skillrex mixes the cocktails and Brian Wilson dozes off in a chair”…nothing sounds like that.

Thou shalt not refer to something as being like something else on (insert drug here).

– The overuse of unnecessary semi-colons to create very long sentences just to prove you’re well educated (this also applies to all journalism).

– Mentioning your drug use, especially drug use with the band. Very hard to pull off without sounding like a weakling trying to appease the schoolbully by laughing along with his joke as he flushes your head down the toilet.

– Thou shalt review the album, or interview the artist, and not review how well-heeled or dirt poor their parents were. The tunes don’t sound any different as a result.

– Stop overusing (and misusing) “cerebral” and “existential”.

– A few others…’Has no right to be this good’, ‘What’s not to like?’, similes ie “Like The Stranglers have been in a car crash with Missy Elliot”.

– “….on acid” is not only lazy, it’s stupidly inaccurate because when somebody is actually on acid they very often just say nothing for six hours and dribble a bit.

– Avoid the word I (Yes. Please, please do).

DISCLAIMER: These rules are not verbatim. You might disagree. But I right like them all.

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Why haven’t you got a blog?

The amount of twitter handles for wannabe journos I’ve seen recently without links to a website/blog has sparked off this post.

Why don’t you have a blog? Why don’t you have a website?

These things are not an option for aspiring journalists, they are a necessity.

Why you need a blog

– Writing like a journalist takes practice. A lot of practice. Your blog is the perfect way to do this: treat it as a learning project, look back on your first post in a month or two and see how you’ve improved. If people are reading it you get a bigger incentive to write, so you’re more likely to keep it up – it’s the same buzz you get when seeing your name in print

– It’s really fun. Take advantage of the fact that you are in control, you can write about whatever you want and know it’s not going to get cut to shreds by a sub-editor. Enjoy it while you can

– Remember that thing I wrote about being a PR person and creating your brand? Your blog is an essential part of that brand

Forget – ‘I’ll sort it out when I’ve finished studying’ – you need to do it now. When you are applying for jobs if you have only just started your blog, the employer will know and you’ll look far less determined and credible than that other applicant who’s blogged their way through university. No guesses for who’s going to get an interview and who isn’t.

How to start a blog

–        WordPress is a great platform as is tumblr, they are very self explanatory and easy to use. Go to the help pages if you get stuck

–        Chose a main focus. Pick one thing to write about that you enjoy and that you can get plenty of material from. Make it useful for your readers, writing about what you got up to with your friends isn’t going to be very entertaining for anyone other than you or your friends. Do you have specialist knowledge about something? Write about that. Or make it entertaining: what do you have a lot to say about? If you are going to write about people, they don’t have to be famous – is your mum funny? I really want to start a blog about my mum (she’s a character to say the least)

–        Keep at it. You don’t have to write lengthy entries every day, mix it up with videos, photos, long posts and short posts but most importantly keep it going.  You can also schedule your posts, write a few when you’ve got time and save them to be released once a day or a few times a week

–        Interact. Follow other bloggers and leave comments on their posts which link back to your own blog. Follow people on twitter who might be interested in what you are writing about. My twitter handle says this: Are you a wannabe journo? Read my blog https://rhianjournojones.wordpress.com/ and I spend a bit of time every night finding wannabe journos to follow on twitter, who then usually follow me back and read my blog

–        Promote your blog through Twitter, Facebook, your website (because you do have one..don’t you..?) and LinkedIn. Make sure the link is very clearly displayed on all of your online signatures. No one should ever have to ask you if you’ve got one or how to find it

I’ve come into contact with quite a few editors and journalists over the last few months, and after telling them how I’ll be looking for a job when my apprenticeship ends the one thing they all have asked me is: have you got a blog? At the time I didn’t have a proper one. So I quickly pulled my finger out and started one.

Please do the same.