Hello, everyone! We are thrilled to learn that you have chosen to spend a few minutes of your day with us. I don’t know if you have been following along this week, but interviews have been a recurring theme in our posts, and the article below is no exception. We are even planning a bonus interview tomorrow!
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The vast majority of bloggers and journalists we have featured on this blog were initially contacted by us for the purposes of gauging their interest in participating in collaborative content creation. Today’s creative mind, the one and only Lauren Wise, actually came to us with ideas for collaboration. That was the only sign we needed to know she was the type of hardworking industry vet we aim to highlight in this series, and within a few days of our initial introduction I was crafting questions for Lauren about her extensive industry experience.
Lauren Wise may not be a name you recognize from list of the most influential minds in music, but for over a decade she has been working behind-the-scenes of several major publications nationwide to make sure the articles and reviews people enjoy on a daily basis are not riddled with errors. That’s right, she is a professional editor, and during her time in music she has worked with hundreds of artists, ranging from Alice Cooper and Slayer, to 311 and beyond. She’s also the founder of Midnight Publishing, a consulting company that we’ll dig into a bit more during the interview below.
I’m still getting to know Ms. Wise, but I am already a big fan of her work. The music industry needs people who are willing to take life by the reigns and make things happen regardless of whether or not the rest of the planet is paying attention just yet, and that’s exactly the type of drive for success Ms. Wise exemplifies every single day.
H: Hello! Thank you for joining us. Before we begin, please introduce yourself to our readers:
LW: Thank you James! Glad to be here. My name is Lauren Wise, and I’ve been a professional writer and editor for 10 years, and have written for local and national publications including LA Weekly, Where magazine, Runway magazine, Boxx magazine, and the Phoenix New Times, where I have worked a heavy metal journalist for more than three years and write a column called Metal Mondays. While I write about other topics such as travel and culture, I have a strong focus on hard rock and heavy metal music. I’ve interviewed more than a 100 artists and bands, including Alice Cooper, Slayer, 311, Phil Anselmo, and Megadeth. Also in the vein of music, I work as the record label liaison for Heavy Metal Television, setting up interviews with the VJs when bands come through town. I also am the founder of Midnight Publishing, an editorial/self-publishing consultation company, where I edit books and help authors market and publish them.
H: It’s a pleasure to have you with us, Lauren. We have been looking forward to this interview for a while. How has the week been treating you?
LW: Not too badly. Trying to stay cool out in the Arizona desert!
H: I would like to start by talking a bit about your history with music and writing. Can you recall the first album you ever purchased with your own money?
LW: Actually, the first album I ever purchased was the Beach Boys’ Still Cruisin’. I couldn’t get enough of that song “Kokomo.” I believe I was about nine-years-old. It might not be very metal, but the Beach Boys actually influenced acts like Pink Floyd and Cream. It was only a few years later that I discovered Metallica by rifling through my older brother’s CD collection.
H: How about your first live show? Bonus points if you share an early ‘fan girl’ moment from the event.
LW: My family wasn’t really a concert-going family, so my first show was between two different experiences; I can’t really remember. It was either going to a Finch and Zebrahead hardcore/punk show with some of my skater guy friends at the time. I remember the mohawks and the mosh pit and feeling slightly intimidated, but also fascinated. Or else it was Korn and Limp Bizkit. I was a big fan of those two bands, and that concert definitely opened the door of metal concerts for me. Both would’ve been around the age of 13. Fan girl moment? I hate to admit it, but my girlfriend and I wore red Yankee hats to the show (Fred Durst’s signature look). Funny enough, I interviewed Fred Durst and Wes Borland last year, and I must admit that I felt a little fangirlish remembering how much I enjoyed that first show.
H: I want to make it clear that your skill and experience with the written word goes far beyond the world of entertainment. You’ve been writing about many things for a number of years, but can you pinpoint the moment in time you first began to consider a career in writing?
LW: I wrote a lot in high school; short stories and poetry and such were published in a few journals. In college I started writing for the ASU campus paper, and then became the op/ed editor at the community college newspaper. It was all for free, but I just wanted to build a portfolio. When I started getting internships at magazines around the age of 19 while studying at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism – that’s when I realized I ultimately wanted a career as a writer, particularly in the realm of music.
H: Who did you look up to professionally when you were getting your start?
LW: I was an avid reader as a child… a.k.a. nerdy bookworm. So I looked up to writers who were amazing with descriptive imagery, like Stephen King and the YA author Francesca Lia Block. Early on I knew I wanted to be able to paint a picture with my words to transport the reader to where they wanted to be. I didn’t know anyone who did what I wanted to do, but I looked up to my parents a lot. My father’s work ethic and how people respected him so much in business, and my mother’s creativity and positive mentality. Pretty much I had the mind-set that if I wanted to be a professional writer, it was going to happen. All I had to do was work for it, understand the business aspect, network and hone my craft.
H: You studied Journalism and Mass Communication in college, which certainly came in handy for the career(s) you would hold later in life. As someone who has established themselves as a full time writer, do you feel a college degree is a necessity for creative types in the modern age?
LW: I don’t. Nowadays, anyone who has the passion to write can voice their opinion online, or pitch unique ideas to a publication. If you are a skilled writer with patience and the mind-set to get your work published, there’s a good chance you’ll reach your goal. A college degree is an asset for sure; I learned a lot about the craft of writing and editing, and I know the internships I had were valuable, but it isn’t a necessity if you know what you want, have something to offer and are willing to work for it.
H: Where did you ‘cut your teeth’ in the world of writing, and what were some of the first articles you were assigned to write for others?
LW: One of my internships was for a publication called MYFM magazine (Make You Famous Media). It was a unique concept; a magazine that was basically a catalog for a talent company. It featured interviews and coverage of all the models, musicians, dancers, actors, etc. that this company represented. In that magazine, I was able to not only interview the musicians on the roster for the magazine, but since I was integrated into the local music scene I also suggested bands to feature. There was another Arizona magazine, I can’t remember the name of it now, but I had to go skydiving and write an article about it. That was in 2005 I think. My first paid articles were restaurant pieces for Scottsdale Luxury Living Magazine – I couldn’t afford to eat at any of them, but for some reason they thought I was able to present the restaurant and pick the best dishes well.
H: We hear from a lot of aspiring entertainment writers who would love to make a career out of freelance work. As someone who has been considered a freelance talent for over a decade at this point, what advice would you offer those considering pursuing full time freelance work?
LW: Network. Set yourself a part from the crowd with hard work and dedication. A lot of stuff you write in the beginning, you won’t get paid much for it. But no one goes into writing to get rich, right? Don’t burn bridges, be respectful, and communicate with your peers and superiors.
H: In addition to being a freelance writer you are also the Head of Editorial at Midnight Publishing. What can you tell us about your role and the day-to-day tasks you must complete?
LW: At any given time I’m working on about six or seven book editing projects, ranging from memoirs to fiction novels to non-fiction books. We provide ghostwriting, book editing, business copy writing/editing, author marketing, and self-publishing consultation. I have a strong passion for writing and editing, and love the fact that I have a wide array of projects that constantly challenge me. Plus, I love being able to help other people project a positive, influential message into the world by way of a book or product.
H: You’ve had this job for almost six years at this point, so it seems safe to assume you enjoy what you do. How did you initially learn of the position, and what can you tell us about the application process?
LW: Well, I started Midnight Publishing within a few years of graduating from Journalism school. It was hard surviving as a freelancer, so I decided to start an LLC as an “umbrella” for all of the professional editorial services I could provide. I could pitch myself as a writer and editor for a business web site, with a professional established backdrop. Then I moved onto books. It pretty much just snowballed from there. The key is to continue educating myself to stay on top of the market and ideas. There’s always something else to learn or a skill to sharpen.
H: Do you ever see a point in the future when you would consider doing freelance writing full time and walking away from your other jobs?
LW: Eventually I would love to be the owner of Midnight Publishing but have a handful of employees take care of the day-to-day operations. As much as I love that company and freelance writing for travel, music, and fashion publications, it would be amazing to focus on it full-time. Because crafting ideas and pitching editors can be a full-time job in itself.
H: You have written about many topics outside the world of music, but you keep coming back to metal and hard rock. What is it about those areas of music that you cannot resist?
LW: I studied classical piano growing up, and that led me to heavy metal: the intricate compositions, the emotion, the technical skill, the instrumentals. Heavy metal is a genre that sheds light on the world’s darkness and horrific nature, while understanding that there’s ultimately a positive strength. It’s unforgiving, gritty and dramatic. The song lyrics might be destructive to some, but all you have to do is turn on the news to hear things that are actually happening that are way worse. It may be because, with a dozen moves as a youth, I never felt like I fit in. Or it could be because I defend things that most people might judge or reject. But there’s so much amazing talent, intelligence and influence in rock and metal,as well as people with huge hearts and a ton of charitable activities, and I feel that part of my job is to alter people’s opinions about the genre.
H: You have accomplished a lot during your time as a professional, so I am curious as to what personal goals are you currently works towards. What drives you each day to work a little harder, and what do you have to achieve from it all?
LW: Well, I’d like to work on publishing some heavy metal articles in larger magazines (Guitar World and Rolling Stone are two goals of mine), but also striving to merge my company Midnight Publishing with my love for music. In the future I’d like to help influential musicians craft and publish their memoirs.
H: In terms of growth and development, what are the biggest challenges facing you right now?
LW: There just never seems to be enough time for the work – or the concerts.
H: If you could offer one piece of advice to people considering the pursuit of a career in music, what would it be?
LW: Keep your whiskey intake to a minimum.
H: When it comes to receiving for review and preview purposes, which digital distribution platforms do you prefer and why?
LW: Haulix is what I utilize the most for the digital album downloads. That’s what several labels use as well. I love the album downloads via Haulix, because it’s convenient and you instantly can listen to the music. But I like getting DVDs for reviews the old-school way; in the mail.
H: Piracy is as bad now as it has ever been, and still the debate wages on about how labels and artists should combat those who try to steal their creative works. Do you have any advice to offer on this topic?
LW: I think it’s important for fans to purchase the music from the bands they love, and to be respectful of that art. Unfortunately it can’t be overlooked that the labels have a hard time letting go of their greedy tendencies. People will get the music they want when they want it, and I think the only thing we can do is let go of the current economic model and embrace the new system, and make sure that your content is able to be crossed on different platforms.
H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
LW:The fact that a major goal is to commercialize the music. Music never used to be a product; it used to be about the connection between the musician and the fans with no buffer in between. Now we’ve all been brainwashed to think that we need to “own” this music and it’s packaged as such.
H: Ok, this ran pretty long. I’ll go ahead and let you go, but before I do are there any final thoughts or observations that you would like to share with our readers?
LW: Nope. Just thanks for the interview, and keep lovin’ the music!
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.