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It is quite easy to become a music critic, as long as you do not expect to be paid for your efforts. The title of staff music critic for newspapers, television networks, radio stations, and virtually all forms of electronic media is both rare and elusive. Most people who wish to become a music critic begin and end their career performing the service for free, or reporting via their own blog or website.
For those who wish to persevere, however, there are certain strategies and tactics that can improve your chance to become a music critic. While it certainly does not hurt to have a close relative who serves as a newspaper publisher or network CEO, most aspiring critics are not so fortunate in their connections. This being the case, you must possess musical knowledge, musical talent, and the ability to network with reckless abandon. An exemplary and vivid writing style is also a must, as is the ability to not only define trends, but to anticipate them before they occur. Last but not least, the would-be music critic must be mobile, willing to live in, or relocate to, a major metropolitan area with a vibrant music scene.
In terms of musical knowledge, the music critic seeking a wide audience must be extremely well-versed in almost all forms of music. Being a niche critic is fine for blogging, but to become a music critic within the major media, you must be equally comfortable writing about classical, country, hip hop, metal, rock, and perhaps even Russian folk tunes. A critic is expected to have a strong opinion, but that opinion must be backed up with facts and technical expertise. A degree or three in music theory, history, and performance technique is almost mandatory.
You need not be a musician to become a music critic, but exhibiting proficiency on one or more instruments will add the credibility that a successful critic requires. At the very least, you should have a working knowledge of almost any musical instrument or playing style imaginable. There are, without doubt, a few music critics who cannot play a note and are all but tone deaf. In most cases, these would be the aforementioned fortunate ones who have relatives residing in the corner office of a shiny, media penthouse.
Anyone who has ever been involved with the media or music business will realize that both are tight-knit clubs. New members do filter in from the time, but the standards for inclusion are quite restrictive. If you seek to become a music critic, you should get to know musicians, producers, composers, and directors on more than a casual basis. If you become an accepted member of the clique, recognized by editors, publishers, and network executives as part of the musical scene, then your foot is in the door to become a music critic.
@Vincenzo -- that's not a bad way to go, particularly if a student can parlay his or her knowledge of music into an occasional newspaper or magazine article analyzing new bands and such.
And if the whole critic thing doesn't work out, at least there's some solid radio and journalism experience to fall back on if necessary.
More than a few of these folks have started off working for their college radio stations. Those stations often need volunteers and someone willing to put in the time can get to the point where artists (especially independent ones) do what they can to get in touch with the hard working college radio DJ and get their music played.
Someone who can start making those connections and stays in touch with them could have a great network built up by the time college ends and it is time to find a job. It's not a bad start.
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