Starting the Journey Into a Music Journalist Career

Whether you want to become the next influential music critic in the industry like Greg Kot, Jim Fusilli, Jon Caramanica, or Hugh McIntyre, or you just want to express your thoughts about music, becoming a music journalist may be on your bucket list.

With your hard work and dedication to building your craft, you just might be the next big shot music critic for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or Forbes magazine. 

Continue reading to learn what you should be doing to jumpstart your career as a music journalist.

What Does a Music Journalist Do?

Music journalists who work for prestigious music publications like Rolling Stone or the New York Times are likely to have VIP access to major events and stars in the music industry. This gives them the opportunity to interview high-profile artists while seeing first-hand what the music industry is like.

However, most music journalists work for smaller publications, and most of their work is done from a computer in the office or even from home. While this might not seem as glamourous, they still get to do what they love. Listen to new music releases and then write about them.

While the prospects for scoring a job for a print magazine have grown smaller, job opportunities are abundant out there for freelancers online. In fact, some of today’s well-known music publications are online via music review websites and blog sites. These publications include:

  • Spin magazine
  • Pitchfork
  • SOHH
  • Stereogum
  • Nah Right
  • Drowned in Sound

Even though freelance positions tend to make less money and have less job security, it could be worth it if it meant that you get to look forward to doing what you love every day for the rest of your life.

How Can You Get Your Foot in the Door?

Start writing immediately! Aspiring music journalists need to become a part of the local music scene to get their footing in the music industry. You need to attend events, write about the show, and then send your reviews off to local news outlets and online music publications.

You can send your pitches to music websites and blogs. Even if you don’t know that you will get paid for the pitch, it can add some depth to your resume. Taking odd music reviewing jobs to create your portfolio can help you get one step closer to landing your dream gig.

One of the best ways to get noticed in the industry (aside from adding to your portfolio) is to make connections with people who can get you noticed by the bigwigs in the industry. In a field like this one, knowing the right person can land you in your dream position.

Do You Have to Have a College Education?

While having a degree in music or journalism can help you to understand how everything works, it’s not required to find success in the music review industry. A degree can increase your odds of snagging an internship with popular music publications. 

If you are fresh out of high school, getting an educational background in music or journalism can help you to hone the skills needed to succeed as a music journalist.

However, you don’t have to worry about going back to school to become a music journalist. Experience with writing music reviews and conducting interviews with artists means more in the industry than the education that got you there, especially if you are looking to change careers. 

Skills Needed to Become a Music Journalist

The skills most necessary for you to become a journalist are writing and interpersonal skills along with dedication to your craft.

As a journalist, you will have to do research and then write about your experience in the music industry. You may also be expected to interview famous or up-and-coming musicians about their experience in the industry, so being able to get the nerve to talk to strangers and then make them comfortable around you are skills essential to the craft.

In the music industry, you need to have at least a general knowledge of the music industry and how it works so that you understand the basics. Other skills that you might find useful to music journalism are time management and focus on important details while meeting tight deadlines.

One of the most important skills that you can have as a music journalist, though, is to be completely dedicated to building your resume and getting the scoop on all of the new music in the industry. You need to be able to push through the backlash and get the scoop on the next big musician to come onto the scene.

A good music journalist is going to have to be persistent. You will have to be able to self-promote yourself to land the big interviews with up-and-comers and rockstars. As a music critic, you are going to have to have the ability to perform under pressure. You will need to be the first one on the scene and work on tight deadlines to get your reviews out there before anyone else can.

Making Money as a Music Reviewer

Employees of music publications will likely have a salary while freelance music journalists receive payment based on the type of project or word count. Freelancing in any industry may provide a bit of an unsteady income, but you have to start somewhere. Your freelance work may just get you noticed by those prestigious music publications.

If you are just starting out in the music reviewing industry, legitimate music reviewing websites like slicethepie can help you start making money. All that it requires you to do is listen to a track and write an honest review about it. These reviews could potentially add some variety to your growing portfolio.

Ready to Become the Next Best Music Journalist?

Becoming a music journalist may be on your bucket list, but do you have what it takes to make it in this industry? Take your first steps to find out.

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