Tag Archives: music journalism

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: jwallace@joe-wallace.com

Did You Resolve For 2012?

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorby Joe Wallace

For once, I actually made a New Year’s resolution. I’ve guffawed at them for ages, but this year it seemed appropriate to make the resolution not to say “This year will be MY year” but instead try to work harder at making EVERY year “my year”.

For me, that means finding an agent for my book WTF Records: A Turntabling.net Guide to Weird and Wonderful Vinyl.

It also means NOT wasting my time sending off queries to agents who couldn’t care less about my book about strange and fun records because they don’t work with authors who don’t do narrative non-fiction or manage non-fiction books aimed at more scholarly pursuits.

For my resolution, I’m forced to spend more time doing my homework and research to maximize the postage and printing costs rather than firing blindly at anybody who happens to have an address posted on “Find An Agent” pages on the Internet.

It also means I have to carefully read the instructions on these agent pages when I do find someone who seems suitable–one agent wants only 25 consecutive pages, by mail. Another wants a sample chapter by e-mail, but ONLY after getting a positive reply based on my initial query.

It’s a lot of work getting a book written, polished, and published. Really, the easy part is the manuscript, or so it seems to me. That’s the part that requires no approval from anybody except yourself…until the agent and editors get a hold of it, of course.

Then your property becomes the subject of discussion, critique, possible revision, possible more revision, etc. I told myself to enjoy the manuscript part of it as much as possible, because it’s the only part of this I could do without having to wait on other people.

So the third portion of my resolution, at least where this book project goes, involves being patient and not expecting the world to come rushing to reply to me just because I bothered to drop a line.

I say all this as much to remind myself that I have to do all these things as to share with you what I’m learning from the process. So thanks for reading my glorified To Do List for 2012, disguised as a blog post.

Did I forget to thank you for reading this year? And last year? And the year before that? If so, forgive me for being so ungrateful and know that you are GREATLY APPRECIATED.

Here’s to an awesome and productive 2012 for all of us!

–Joe Wallace

Joe Wallace is the author of WTF Records: A Turntabling.Net Guide to Weird and Wonderful Vinyl, which is currently being shopped to agents interested in pop culture, music, and bad album covers. Wallace is the founder of Turntabling.net, and works as a professional blogger, social media promoter, and yes, he admits to being a music journalist. Wallace has been freelancing since 2003 and thinks the whole world may be joining him sometime soon. Contact him: jwallace(at)turntabling(dot)net