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The first step to become a music journalist is to define exactly what that term means. There are many people who consider themselves journalists of this type but exactly what they write about can vary greatly. Typically the music journalist is slightly different than the music critic, in writing in a more educated way about the different forms of music and the musicians creating it. People need excellent writing skills, and considerable knowledge about the musicians/music/genres in which they write to do this job successfully.
One way to become a music journalist is extremely informal. Those with strong writing skills (or not), and interest in music could start a blog, writing about favorite types of artists or genres. With a strong following, the journalist can use pay per click ads or get sponsors to make money from the site. The web is saturated with fan sites and music sites already, and even good writers may not always get noticed with this method.
Other people become a music journalist almost by accident. They get work with a newspaper or magazine, perhaps after getting a degree in English, journalism or communications, and they’re assigned to the paper’s music beat. Other people angle for jobs that will specifically cover music or lifestyle sections of local magazines or newspapers. Over time they build a resume of good articles that might then help them find work for more music-oriented publications.
A few people begin work in a variety of professional online or for print magazines that focus solely on different types of music. In this capacity, writers might not only write reviews, but they write interviews, histories, comparative studies and anything else the magazine thinks is worthy of print. Usually the more focused the magazine, the more people may need intellectual knowledge, which could require other educational paths.
Sometimes a person will become a music journalist because he or she is a skilled musician, who writes well. A person could have years of musical experience or might have degrees in music history or appreciation or performance. Background and training is very diverse, but again, the more a publication is designed to appeal to experts, the more people have to possess expert knowledge.
Some of this knowledge is acquired with continual study and listening. It’s hard to become a music journalist without staying up on present research and on music being produced. No matter whether a person reviews classical music or hard rock, he must be able to compare and criticize all the new things that are occurring in music. This means good journalists are constantly in an investigative and research mode. They depend on other publications and the productions of artists to inform their work.
Some journalists also expect a great deal of travel. They may need to see live performances regularly, or they may do pieces that follow the lives of musicians or band members. Many of the best journalists live close to urban centers where live music may be of highest quality or easy to find.
A knowledge of music will make someone a better music journalist, but it's not necessary, as even a brief look at some "music" magazines will tell you.
A music journalist should have a thorough knowledge of music in general, especially the genre they prefer writing about. There really shouldn't be huge gaps in their knowledge. They should also actually like the music they're covering, although an objective journalist should be able to conduct an interview with an artist, even though he or she is not fond of that artist's work.
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