Ask anyone working in the music industry today, and they will quickly tell you there isn’t one, clear-cut way to break in. Thanks largely to the access afforded by social media and the wealth of affordable technology at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to kick-start your career in music journalism before you’ve properly mastered the art of a boiled egg (trust me).
For me – a writer, sometimes-presenter and Blog Editor at Ticketmaster UK – a NCTJ qualification in Newspaper Journalism took me from courtside reporting to a fast-paced fashion cupboard, all before I made the jump into music journalism. It was there, while riffling through the glamorous rails of major women’s magazines, that I decided to turn my love of music into a career.
Here, I round up five of the most important lessons I learnt as a trainee (but you can expect to be doing them for the rest of your career).
It’s no secret that you need to be multi-skilled in all areas of journalism (that’s writing, filming and editing as standard), but there’s no underestimating the power of expertise. If all things folk are where your passions lie, get to know the bands (new and old), the PRs and the biggest promoters in this scene, and work at becoming the go-to writer for their genre.
Becoming a regular punter at your local venue is a great way to get your name out there. Even in big cities like London, you’ll soon find yourself bumping into regular gig-goers – many of whom will be using social media to connect. Don’t be afraid to post 140 character reports after the gig, say a friendly hello to bands at the merch stand and remember to look like you actually want to be there.
Everyone’s right when they tell you doing work experience is invaluable, but you won’t be much use at NME if you’re only clued up on black metal. Music titles are inundated with applicants, so target publications that you regularly read and you’ll really be able to impress when you’re in-house. Warning: proving you know more about their brand than they do isn’t always a winning approach. Be respectful, folks.
Got an idea for a great feature? Pitch it with confidence. Trainees are expected to go above and beyond, especially when it comes to brilliant ideas. Summarise your perfect pitch in two lines or so, have a clear headline and get it in the editor’s inbox during your lunch break.
The best thing about being a trainee journalist, is that you’re still learning on the job. Practice really does make perfect (although you’ll rarely admit to being totally satisfied with much), so write at every available opportunity and about everything you can. If you’ve landed a great job, keep updating your personal blogs as that’s where you can keep developing your individuality and recognisable tone of voice.