Freelance Writing About Music

DJ PAISLEY BABYLON gig at Transistor Chicagoby Joe Wallace

I’ve written more music-related material than I can count–from LP and show reviews to critical drubbing and snark about lousy album covers, even some how-to recording advice, I’ve written myself around the block when it comes sound.

My music writing work is based on personal experience as a performer and recording artist, but also as a rabid collector of many genres including dub, electronica, new wave, post-punk, early experimental and industrial recordings, and a genre of LPs I can only describe as “WTF??”

A lot of people want to know how to break into music writing, and honestly, there are a couple of basic things you should do to help yourself–but they are for NO PAY. It’s just the nature of the beast in music writing circles. Get used to it. But it’s best to write for free…for yourself.

I should also caution aspiring music journos that there is NOT a lot of money in obvious places when it comes to writing about music when you DO get paid. A lot of the music business people I know or know of who have made it onto the printed page for a fee are either capitalizing on their earlier success as performers (built in fan base), writing from their direct experience writing, recording and performing, OR they have written about areas on the fringes of music but still connected.

One of my instructors in the Recording Arts program at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Academy has written two books–not strictly about music, but about Tiki culture in America and related topics. His music experiences did help him write these books–apparently whenever he was on tour with the bands he worked with, he made side journeys to find local tiki bars…research for the book he didn’t know he was writing just then.

Back to freelance music journalism.

The best advice I can give to anyone who really, really REALLY wants to write about music for a living is to start now by ramping up a music blog and pouring the reviews on quite liberally. No, you aren’t getting paid, but you WILL be developing your music chops and building an audience–two really important skills to hone as a music journalist.

To make such a blog successful, you should pay a lot of attention to your local and regional music scene. Soon you’ll be getting guest listed on local shows, receiving review copies and downloads and entrenching yourself into the local music scene. There are many other bits of advice I’ve scraped up along the way, but those are two of the best career kickstarter type things you can do in the earliest days.

Networking in your own back yard is so very, very important. But social media and making contacts with other music writers, editors, and PR folks is just as important. View your music writing career like a very long ladder and you get an idea of what to expect in all these areas. One foot goes above the other…one rung at a time.

Joe Wallace is a multi-media professional. He writes, shoots, edits, does sound design and a whole lot more. He is currently too busy to breathe, balancing a full-time freelance writing career with his full-time studies at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Academy in the Recording Arts for Film program there. Wallace accepts new writing work on a very limited basis, but is happy to consider film, broadcast, and online media projects. Contact him: