The Music Industry Vs. The Freelance Writing Game

In recent times there is a great emphasis on radical transparency for websites and blogs, so I feel it’s only fair to point out that today’s headline is completely sensationalized and downright misleading. It did what headlines are meant to do though, it got you to read what comes next.

As some regular readers here may remember from my earlier screeds, I’m a fan of Dave Allen’s music blog, A recent post reprinting the words of Todd Berry of Greyday Records discusses some practices in the music biz that drive the value of a musician’s work down.

What does any of that have to do with freelance writing?

You may not be at all familiar with companies such as or, but it is the contention of many musicians that these companies use business practices which hurt independent musicians. Take a look at and substitute the word “writer” for musician and see if you know of any other websites which operate in OUR space offering more or less the same thing. I’m guessing you know at least three.

There are a lot of people hawking services for freelancers which don’t actually do much for your career. My favorite offenders include content websites which actually charge you a fee to access their site so you can put in for the work they themselves put on offer. This is so clearly wrong that I can’t believe anyone takes part, but there are plenty of new writers eager for cash and clips who can overlook the fact that they are working for free until they get paid above and beyond what they paid to access the job board.

My other favorite offenders are the sites which charge you a subscription fee to access their list of writer’s markets, then don’t update the old listings. In the early days of my career I subscribed to a very well-known market site only to discover outdated, useless and just plain wrong information. When I complained about the outdated contact names, wrong addresses and other details, my messages were ignored and the bad information remained. Needless to say, I don’t tell ANYONE to waste their money there, even a newbie writer eager for any lead they can find.

I am shocked that anyone in the electronic age has the gall to publish a BOOK of writer’s markets, knowing full well that the most important details–the name and contact information of the current editors–will likely be out of date by year’s end in many cases. Editors get promoted, fired, quit the biz or go back to the trenches quite regularly. Who among us would purchase a book of old details?

Newcomers who don’t know any better, that’s who. And don’t even get me started ranting about those magazines that tell you (in so many words) ANYBODY can be a writer. “Start TODAY!” the hyperbole goes, but as we all know that advice is a bit misleading. Any boob can string a few sentences together. It takes work to make them a pleasure to read.

The Pampelmoose blog entry about the music biz isn’t directly relevant to the writing game, but musicians live their own type of freelance existence. While their career issues have a different flavor, in the end it is about the same thing–trying to earn a living and the struggle to deal with companies that devalue a freelancer’s work whether on purpose or not. Writers could take a lesson from musicians, who are much more vocal about their opposition to bad business practices that hurt the industry.

We tend to feel that anyone currently able to offer work in the writing game has all the cards or at least controls the deck. I’m here to tell you that is not true, and some sacred cows do indeed need to be turned into a very large meatloaf. That’s a topic for another blog entry…