New approaches to music journalism
The Editor in Chief thinks about news ways of writing about live music and the bands and artists that make it ∏
7th August 2013
Trevor Locke writes:
How to get paid for writing about music
Thanks to James Hickingbottom for commenting “I love writing about music, I just want to get paid for it for once ” on our Facebook wall. I challenged him to write about this but I thought I would give it a try myself.
People do get paid for writing about music but it tends to be where they are writing for commercially successful paper-based magazines and newspapers. That might be strange when you realise that the subscriptions for paper-based publications are going down as fast as on-line content is going up.
Getting paid for writing about music seems to depend on (a) there being people out there who are willing to pay to read about music and/or (b) there being plenty of commercial advertising that can fund the process of writing and reading.
Paper-based publications appear to have been successful in getting paid advertising in sufficient quantities to pay authors fees. I am not sure that the same can be said for on-line publications.
If we focus on writing about unsigned bands, is it possible that the bands themselves would pay people to write about their records and their gigs? Not very likely I hear you say. That is mainly because unsigned bands make very little money out of their music and certainly not enough to pay for reviews. If I write something really nice about an EP or a live performance (of an unsigned band) they are often very (verbally) grateful but almost never put their hands into their collective pockets and offer a gratuity for the service they have received.
It costs me money to write about bands: particularly where I go to gigs and spend a fairly long time watching a band play and then going home and writing about it. In the time I am at the venue I might spend a tenner or more if I can there for the whole evening. Ok I get the valuable pleasure of an evening’s entertainment but I can’t pay that into the bank.
Positive reviews (whether or records or gigs) can be valuable asset, especially for a new or rising band. I know this because many bands have quoted what I have written about them in their profiles. I have never asked for payment and I don’t know if I should in fact offer my services as professional reviewer.
Writing for pay has its downside: bands might pay for a positive review which, had it been impartial, would have said something different. If readers find out that reviews are being paid for, the work might appear to be less than honest.
Advertising copywriters get paid but they are not expected to write objectively about a product. Music writers work best when they can be completely honest. I sometimes get criticised for being too nice about bands. I usually reply that if I don;t like a band, I don’t waste my time writing about them. I am not the Which Guide to live bands. Nor can I be bribed to write nicely about a band I don’t like.
It’s commonly understood that music magazines separate their content from their advertising. Having said that, it’s uncommon to see a magazine where a reviewer has penned a damning review of a band’s album and a couple of pages later there is an advert urging people to buy said album. It’s more common to see paid advertising for albums and glowingly good reviews of them. So, the good thing about writing for Music in Leicester is that no one pays anything for any of what’s in it. What ever we write can be assumed, therefore, to be our genuine opinions. Maybe that counts for something.
Writing about music generally – an article on metal, punk or indie – without over-lauding any one band, might be worth paying for. I have also commented, elsewhere, that we should be writing more about what the audience at gigs does not see: all the work that goes on behind the scenes.
It would be nice to receive a gratuity for one’s literary efforts but I don’t hold my breath waiting for it. Neither do I want to be thought of as having a pen in one hand and a wallet in the other. If we could pay people to write about bands I guess we probably would, if only to get more copy for people to read.
In my dreams …
Thanks to Simon Faulks for pointing to ‘Frank Zappa declared that, “Most rock journalism is people who can’t write,
interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.”‘
In Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_journalism
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