How To Be A Good Writer

Posted on May 13, 2013

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According to Simon Frith, music journalism is “not commercial, but ideological” (Frith, 1987). As a writer, when we’ve been given an album to review, we listen to it analytically then regurgitate the ideas, opinions and feelings that record has sparked within us. We then put pen to paper on how we have interpreted it. But where is the line between a good and a bad writer?

Music critic Alison White says that to be a good writer “music really has to be your all-consuming passion” (White, 2011). If you’re not passionate about music then this will show in your writing and whatever you say will spark no interest or response from a reader. A genuine, heart-felt opinion makes your writing appealing and credible. But just being passionate about music isn’t enough in itself. Music journalist Stevie Chick says “the writing has to be entertaining. It’s got to be vivid and exciting and thoughtful and funny and have all these different qualities” (Reid, 2013). Having knowledge and understanding is no good if you can’t convey that knowledge in a way that engages and entices your audience. Add character and personality and deviate from what everyone else is doing.

To be a successful music journalist Andrew Dubber stated that you must be an “investigative person with genuine curiosity” (Dubber, 2011). Exploring outside the prescriptive orders from a higher authority makes you stand out. You need to distinguish yourself from other critics otherwise your work won’t be praised any more than anyone else. Due to the boom of online media, music writer Alastair Reid says “it can feel like everyone is a critic and it is harder than ever to stand out in the crowd” (Reid, 2013).

So how can you stand out? Firstly, avoid clichés at all costs. Alison White also believes that, if an article “is full of clichés, unfunny puns or sentences that don’t do anything except fill space, then it’ll be rejected” (White, 2011). Writing about music is meant to be creative and unique, not writing the same as everyone else in the industry. Saying how a new rock band have ‘saved rock ‘n’ roll’ will only make your readers think you have no imagination and your whole career rides on the wave of hyperbolic bullshit. Be honest, not dramatic. Be clear, not confusing. And most importantly, be a music critic, not an advertisement. 

Music journalism is not just about the sharing of opinions, it is much more. Lester Bangs didn’t become Britain’s most infamous music critic through saying ‘yes, that’s good, I like it.’ He caused havoc and controversy and he stood out because of this. Hunter S. Thompson from hypebot said “the music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs” (Harfield, 2013). So, if you’re in it to please everyone then quit now and become a hooker – the money’s probably a lot better.

Bibliography:

Dubber (2011) Music journalism is the new boring [Online] Available from: http://andrewdubber.com/2011/12/music-journalism-is-the-new-boring/ [Accessed: 24 April 2013]

Frith (1987) Towards an aesthetic of popular music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Harfield (2013) 5 tips on how to break into music journalism [Online] Available from: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2013/02/5-tips-on-how-to-break-into-music-journalism.html [Accessed: 27 April 2013]

Reid (2013) How to: get into music journalism [Online] Available from: http://www.journalism.co.uk/news-training/how-to-get-into-music-journalism/s13/a552475/ [Accessed: 22 April 2013]

White (2011) Our experts said: Breaking into music journalism The Guardian [Online] 28 February Available from: http://careers.guardian.co.uk/music-journalism-best-of [Accessed: 22 April 2013]

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