How Does Music Journalism Differ From Traditional Journalism?

Posted on May 13, 2013


Any career as a journalist is heavily associated with the strong smell of coffee and the fluorescent glow of a computer screen. But the activities that take place after that first coffee of the day differ between a music and a traditional journalist.

So you’re a writer for NME. It’s 8am and you’ve already consumed 12 espressos. Now the rest of your day will consist of reviewing albums, replying to copious e-mails, interviewing musicians, listening to new bands and having no time for yourself. NME’s Hamish MacBain says that “it would not be uncommon to go to six gigs a week and not get to sleep until 3am most nights [and] you spend as much time staring at a computer as any IT tech does” (Ideas Tap, 2010). It’s not all fun and games or partying backstage with the band you’re reviewing – in fact, that’s just a glamorised concept of a career involving nothing but hard graft and competition.

Across the road sits a writer for The Sun. Apparently Sarah Harding has been slagging off Cheryl Cole’s solo success and Andrew Stone, that guy who was on celebrity big brother, is on trial for assaulting his girlfriend. Interviews will commence and e-mails will be sent ten to the dozen, but the creativity and passion fall far short from that of a music journalist. An English author of comics, Warren Ellis, once said that if “you’re miserable, edgy and tired, you’re in the perfect mood for journalism” (Good Reads, n.d.). After all, if you’ve been researching all day into consumer affairs and whether your cash is safe with the struggling credit union, your spirits aren’t going to be on top form. But music criticism does not entail this dull and monotonous style. According to music critic Stevie Chick, “more than any other journalism, music journalism has got a really powerful creative writing quotient to it” (Reid, 2013). With music being a creative art in itself, it seems logical that those writing about it do so with style, character and creativity too.

But what is it that sets the music writers apart from the traditional ones? There are many instances where the line between the two blurs. When Justin Bieber is snapped smoking something slightly longer and fatter than your average cigarette, which covers it? – The traditional journalist, because their job has more investigative elements to it. They are cunning and inquisitive and write in-depth about the personal lives of musicians, whilst a music critic writes in-depth about the music itself. Lucy Jones from NME believes a good music journalist has “more lateral ideas and thinks outside of the box and comes up with things that are unpredictable and weird and leftfield” (Reid, 2013).

Music critics take the facts and mould them into something creative and unique. Every music journalist will come to a different conclusion based on their own opinion, whereas every traditional journalist will end up with the same conclusion – the only thing that differs is the word order; or order of the words. You choose. It’s still the same concept.


Good Reads (n.d.) Quotes About Journalism [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 11 May 2013]

Ideas Tap (2010) NME’s Hamish MacBain tells us about his career as a rock ‘n’ roll scribe [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 22 April 2013]

Reid (2013) How to: get into music journalism [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 23 April 2013]


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