Laura Snapes is a freelance culture writer and editor, and a contributing editor at Pitchfork. She writes regularly for a number of magazines and newspapers including Uncut, The Guardian, The Observer, The Financial Times and NME to name but a few. She also teaches journalism, media trains artists and bands and translates between French and English.
Laura will be joining our panel of high profile journalists and musicians at Manchester Jewish Museum on Thursday 10 March discussing the impact of written media on female representation and stereotyping. Find out more and book.
Here, Laura shares her top tips for aspiring music journalists.
1) Read far and wide. I mistrust anyone who says that the ‘golden age’ of music writing happened in the 1970s or 80s; as far as I’m concerned, the diversity of writers and formats available today makes now the golden age of music writing. But that doesn’t mean the past is all bad (though there are some really bad bits that history likes to gloss over): complement your internet reading habits with the richness of anthologies and archives. Get Ellen Willis’ Out of the Vinyl Deeps and go from there.
2) And not just about music. The best writers are the ones who can link together ideas from different disciplines. This will come naturally if you’re interested in music, as the best musicians steal from all mediums, but make sure that you do, too: look at the socio-political context around an artist, or how a record or sound might tie in with prevailing trends in, say, cinema or fashion.
3) Listen to everything. As with the interdisciplinary approach detailed above, a familiarity with all kinds of music will only deepen your ability to respond to whatever you’re listening to. And it’s a massive cliche by now, but genre is increasingly irrelevant: jazz and hip-hop intertwine as fluidly as classical and techno, and knowing a bit about all of those things means that you’ll rarely be hit by a curveball.
4) But develop a specialism. When you think about great, in-depth pieces of music writing that really thrilled you, chances are they were written by someone who had spent their whole life up to that point thinking about the subject at hand. Make yourself the go-to person in a certain field – whether a scene or even the business side of things – and you’ll always be in demand.
5) Do it because you have something to say. Not to yell too loudly at clouds, but it winds me up when you see certain sites and writers whose sole existence is predicated on being able to live a certain kind of lifestyle. Kudos to them for figuring out how to play a system where free drinks and gig tickets are never in short supply, but if you want to be a music writer, do it because you have something to say rather than because you want a mealticket to hang out in Dalston/the Northern Quarter with other industry idiots. Trust me, that side of things gets boring fast.
Image taken from Refinery29.