I often hear about kids my age that are just as passionate as me about music. I am constantly asked about how I’m an editor for three music websites as well as a writing contributor to four, on top of the insanely stressful junior and senior years. Quite honestly, I’m falling apart. Don’t get me wrong, writing is my salvation. It distracts me from the bullshit of high school and is starting me off on an incredible foot for my future, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t want to rip my hair out from time to time dealing with it all.
Much of this article is a response to my UTG editor James Shotwell’s article on the fabricated plot of Almost Famous. From someone who is living just as William Miller’s life would be on realistic terms, I completely agree with Shotwell’s stand. I can’t even tell you how many people have told me to watch Almost Famous when I’d explain my journalism career to them, and I finally sat down and watched it when my mom bought me the DVD. Already being a teenager in the journalism field, I knew the movie’s premise scenario was extremely dramatized for the sake of Hollywood. However, in the eyes of kids who have yet to step into the real world of music journalism, Miller’s adventure can radically enhance their daydreams, leading to utter disappointment if they actually pursue this career. If being an adult journalist is hard enough, imagine being a teenage girl navigating her way around shows and festivals, desperately trying to look professional and mature underneath the awkward judgement from older band members and uptight tour managers.
Of course, as time has passed and I mastered the art of makeup, my attempts at fitting in with the crowd have gotten better, but my inevitable lack of life experience at this age can be difficult to fake. (NEVER lie about your age – especially if you are a teenage girl – but don’t bring it up if no one asks. It’s a tricky game.)
It’s quite a ride to start music journalism at the age of 14, and it is one that isn’t nearly over yet. Things have gone horribly, horribly wrong and incredibly right at the same time. I’m just 16, but I’ve already experienced so much. With all the work I pile up, I’ve forgotten what it means to have a social life, but I make up for that with extremely valuable networking and interesting interviews with some of my favorite musicians. I’ve had the crappy editors that toss work to the side and the fantastic ones who have given me the confidence I have today. I’ve dealt with heartbreaking rejection and disappointments, but I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by people I’ve met or opportunities that have been sprung upon me in the music industry. At 14 years old, I walked up to the box office at Mayhem Festival and handed the man my high school freshman photo ID to obtain my first ever press pass and he laughed at me with his friend; if only that guy knew the things I was doing now (with that same photo ID). With all the ups and downs of my experience that only began two years ago, I feel like I have grown twenty years.
It’s rough out there for young women trying to make it in the music industry. It seems like almost every adult around you assumes you’re unprofessional unless you prove your maturity. This is why I’ve learned to maintain my discretion. You can imagine how my 14 year old self first entered the world of music journalism: bright eyed and passionate, yet still strutting the most cringeworthy fangirl persona that belonged nowhere backstage. I went through a rapid phase of mental maturation and professionalism once I was thrown into this lifestyle, giving me comforting hope for my future in the industry. However the growth of my confidence and skills didn’t sprout from just anywhere; some of the worst disappointments in my career taught me how to cope and grow, lessons which I am now thankful for learning at such a young age. Being denied interviews at my very first Warped Tour last minute, after a month of prepping, tore my teenage heart out and ripped it to shreds. My hard work was completely ignored due to the fact that my editor couldn’t see past my young age, fearing that I would act unprofessionally. However, I wouldn’t have acted unprofessionally because my experience was there, but sometimes people in the industry just can’t see any type of seriousness in a young music enthusiast. In the end, my determined mindset got me a press pass with another site I write for, one that saw my skills over my age, and Warped Tour press really wasn’t as life changing as I imagined.
I’ve been unfortunately hit with two disadvantages in my music industry career: I am a teenager AND a woman. It’s no secret that the females of the industry need to work ten times harder to earn respect among their peers; in fact, like William Miller, maybe I’d be treated more equally by band members and industry professionals if I was a MALE teenager. For decades in the music industry, females are immediately put in the fan girl or groupie category if they are seen backstage at a show, and considered a bitch if they ever take charge running the actual show. Times certainly have changed, and women are being taken more seriously in the industry, but we have a long way to go; I for one am excited to be so young in this industry, giving me the time to see the growth and change for the influential women of music. I may be a young teenage girl, but I think like a boss. The ignorance of some people sometimes gets in the way of this, but when the right people take you seriously, you are golden. Regardless, if you are a young journalist, write for the people who see your passion and character over fixed attributes; that’s when the best will be brought out of you.
When loyal editors trust your professionalism and skills, they will offer you incredible opportunities without question. This is how I got started interviewing some of my favorite musicians, certainly providing me with memorable moments with these artists. As Shotwell mentioned in his Almost Famous article, most interviews you have with bands are in and out. You shake hands, ask your questions, then get escorted off by a hurried tour manager, especially if they can tell that you’re a teenage girl. Regardless, I am lucky enough to have some really fond experiences with band members that I never would’ve expected to click with, and this is because of the savvy, mature way I have learned to present myself. Even after the lead singer of Capture The Crown learned I was 16 years old, the professionalism I proved since the moment I walked into the green room led to an hour long conversation about The Walking Dead and the best places to go in New York City. I was able to talk to and connect with three extremely talented sisters in the band Joseph in Soho as we sipped coffee in a quaint bookstore cafe, resulting in an interview recording 45 minutes long. And every time my age comes up to these interesting, unique individuals, the shocking discovery doesn’t turn them off, but makes them intrigued about my life and appreciate what I do. These interviews are the ones for the books, and shape the way I take on my career.
Another valuable skill I learned through my experiences is patience. Keep your head down and work hard, then things will start to go your way. That highly anticipated day in the Warped Tour press room ended in disaster, as none of my planned interviews panned out . Though in the moment I felt useless and inferior, the questions that I prepped for Issues were soon asked of the lead singer, Tyler Carter, only a few months later in their green room at Irving Plaza in NYC. That patience that got me to that interview did not stand alone, though; what I’ve learned through presentation and networking is to never take no for an answer – in the most polite way possible.
I am obnoxiously persistent. Its a blessing and curse honestly. More often than not, I get what I want. But I’m the email that PR might be sick of seeing or I’m the argument that my parents can’t escape. However, even though it has yet to happen, I will get that interview with my favorite band or that acceptance letter I’ve been dreaming of. I can feel it in my bones, with any goal or dream I strive for. Being a young women in this male dominated industry, I’m prepared for the rejection and judgement that I’ve mentioned thanks to this persistence that has grown on me over the years. What I am so grateful to be doing now will prepare me for the best and the worst as I dive deeper into this tough industry.
So the main idea is, if you are a music kid who wants to make a career out of it, only go for it if you are serious about it. It’s been the most intense commitment I’ve dedicated my time to, and honestly, my hectic and stressful life would be horribly boring without it. The lessons I’ve learned and the characteristics that I’m building this quickly will make me unstoppable when the time comes – and that’s what makes the headache worth it.
Emma G .Guido is a freelance music writer who currently contributes to both Under The Gun Review and Mind Equals Blown, as well as multiple other internationally recognized media outlets. You can also find her on Twitter.