Module JD110

Music Journalism

Module author

Caroline Beavon

Birmingham City University

Learning objectives After you have completed this module, you will be able to:
  • Appreciate the importance of professionalism within music journalism and some of the threats to that professionalism;
  • Understand the relationship between the key individuals in the music business and the music journalist, and how to maintain these relationships;
  • Appreciate how to listen critically in order to prepare a music review;
  • Appreciate the planning and preparation involved in conducting a music interview;
  • Understand the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of interview;
  • Understand what is required when covering a music industry event or festival;
  • Understand the process of dealing with music news stories;
  • Recognize the key types of music article and documentary;
  • Appreciate the on-going developments in content creation and how this affects the day-to-day role of a music journalist.

Chapter 1: Music journalism
1.1 What is a music journalist?
1.2 Professionalism
1.3 Print
1.4 Broadcast
1.5 The Landscape Today

Chapter 2: Music industry
2.1 Changes in the Music Industry
2.2 Music Industry - People
2.2.1 Publicists
2.2.2 Musicians
2.2.3 Managers

Chapter 3: Sources
3.1.1 Press Releases
3.2.1 Reviewing a Gig - the practicalities
3.2.2 Recorded Music
3.3.1 Interviews
3.3.2 Interviews by e-mail
3.3.3 Interviews Over the Phone
3.3.3 Interviews Face-to-Face Events - Festivals Events - Awards Ceremonies

Chapter 4: Content
4.1 News
4.2.1 Q&A Interviews
4.2.2 Video and Audio Interviews
4.3 Articles
4.4 Documentaries
4.5 Alternative Content

Study points 2
Preview Music Journalism


Why Open School of Journalism believes that Music Journalism is important

Music Journalism is a branch of journalism that covers on all things music. Often considered a type of entertainment journalism, music journalism was founded in the eighteenth century, when it covered mostly classical music. Today, music journalism covers information concerning bands and artists of all genres, as well as interviews and album reviews.

Music journalism is important because of the co-dependency of artists and critics. Music journalists expose artists and their product to the public. Music critics provoke thought by breaking music down for listeners and helping the public experience it in both a sensory and critical way. There is a lot to be said for the music-making process. Music journalists appreciate this process, and pay homage to the art form by studying it, promoting it and therefore sustaining its relevance in society today.


Overview of the module

A music journalist is a journalist who covers news concerning music. The job title offers flexibility to work within specific branches. For example, some journalists focus on new music critiques, others focus on interviewing and creating profiles of artists to be displayed through various mediums. Some write about the state of the music business itself. Being a music journalist requires interest in and commitment to music as an art form.

A level of professionalism is required in any field of journalism. When covering music, journalists have to be mindful of artist reputation and possible backlash that can result from unethically published stories.

Print music journalism are reports found in newspapers and magazines. Most newspapers have sections dedicated to arts and entertainment where readers can find information about new music, and there are countless magazines dedicated exclusively to music and entertainment (Rolling Stone, Variety, Billboard, etc.).

Another type of music journalism is broadcast journalism. Broadcast journalism is journalism published through radio and television. Artists and bands are often interviewed via this method of journalism so that journalists can fully capture their personalities and give an accurate picture of the people behind the music.

The internet is a bigger force in the publishing world than it ever has been. Because of this, it's an invaluable resource for journalists, as the public and journalists use the web to find information and stories on artists.


The music industry

The music industry is always evolving. From how we experience it to methods of getting product out, nothing in the industry ever remains constant. From YouTube to Spotify, the age of the internet has made access to music easier than ever. The industry is no longer conquered by the big studios (Sony, MCA, Universal, RCA and Warner Bros). Now, a whole slew of independent labels have been established to compete with them, relying on word of mouth to sell their product.

Music publicists work with musicians and managers to make sure that an artist's image is always properly projected. These individuals are responsible for public relations, so are normally the ones to arrange interviews and communicate with the media on an artist's behalf.

The musician is the talent of the team; the one marketed. Musicians compose, arrange, and/or perform the music represented.

This individual oversees daily business endeavors of the musician and can act as career advisors. He or she has to be organized and have an understanding of the ins and outs of the music industry. Managers help promote and shape careers of an artist or band.


Sources in music journalism

A press release is a form of written communication about a new product directed at news media for the purpose of product exposure.

A big part of the job for some music journalists is reviewing gigs. This involves keeping up with and attending concerts in your area, taking notes at performances and organizing them into an article that details the experience.

Listening to the music recorded by an artist or band should be the first step for anyone who wants to cover said artist or band. Music journalists must do their own research in this area.

Interviewing a musician requires conducting detailed research about the musician, preparing suitable questions to ask and having good verbal and written communication skills. Interviews can be carried out in a variety of ways.

Interviews can be done over e-mail for those journalists or musicians who don't wish to talk or meet face-to-face. This is ideal for journalists with more confidence in their written communication skills than their verbal communication skills. It is also an easy way to ask questions you may not be comfortable asking in person.

Phone interviews are a happy medium between e-mail and face-to-face interviews. Journalists can communicate with artists and pick up on immediate responses and vocal cues they can't through text. These interviews are practical because they can be conducted from anywhere.

Face-to-face interviews are often considered ideal. Having a personal connection with your interviewee gives you the best material for your article because you hear their voice and can capture their personality, which the public tends to enjoy getting insight into.

Music festivals are great places for music journalists to discover new artists or report on familiar ones. Festivals are often themed events with attractions such as food, stands, and games. They provide affordable opportunities to see multiple artists perform in one place.

Awards ceremonies are another necessary event for music journalists to attend.


Writing music journalism

For music journalists, the quality of the content you produce can make or break your career. Fine-tuning your communication skills (written and verbal) is the most important part of reporting news. News is the medium of the journalist. The relevance of news outlets correlates directly to the relevance of a music journalist's career.

Q&A interviews are often considered the best interviewing paradigm. Simply ask a question and let your interviewee talk. It is in your best interest to ask open-ended questions to get as much information as possible. Video and audio Interviews are forms of broadcast journalism and are ideal ways to get interviews out to the public for journalists working in radio or those comfortable in front of a camera.

The written content music journalists produce is normally in the form of articles. Articles should use clear, simple, yet descriptive language and only include the most relevant or interesting information. Documentaries are another way (perhaps the most creative) for journalists to synthesize their research into a news story. Music journalists who are artistic and/or have an interest in film will excel at this form of journalism.

In addition to writing for a publication, music journalists can publish content on their own blog or independent website and build their own traffic. This is easier than ever in the age of the internet.

For more information, visit: Music Journalism.