Three tips for music writers in 2018

Music Writing, Music Blogging, Music Journalism

The music business in 2018 would be virtually unrecognizable to the music business of 2000. In less than two decades the industry we all love has undergone an extended transformation that has placed an emphasis on access rather than ownership, created a glut of festivals, and brought into question the necessity of quote/unquote ‘music journalists’. When algorithms can predict success better than even the most gifted ears and everyone with an opinion is able to share their thoughts on social media do we really have a need for full-time music writers?

The answer, as always, is yes. There may be more people talking about music than ever before, as well as more way to access music, but that does not mean the quality of conversation around the art form is at its peak. As long as there are great artists creating impossibly catchy songs that ultimately never receive the praise or support they deserve there is still work to be done on the part of music journalists. There is and will always be a need for people to amplify the voice of artists on the rise, as well as a need for experienced listeners to help those short on time make worthwhile discoveries.

While there is a lot to be said for how music blogs and publications can better themselves in 2018 (click here to learn more), there is also quite a bit you should be taking it upon yourself to do in order to get ahead. What follows are three tips to keep in mind as we begin to navigate the uncertain months ahead. The future is always unpredictable, but there is a lot you can do right now to increase your chances of a better tomorrow. If you have any questions, just email me:

Storytelling matters now more than ever

There was time not long ago when the vast majority of music blogs created just two pieces of content: Reviews and news. The reviews were written hurriedly by young critics trying to make their name by praising or trashing talent, while the news often amounted to little more than copy/pasted press releases tweaked just enough to not be outright plagiarism. Some of this content was good, but most was immediately disposable.

Some of those sites still exist today, but most have died due to an inability to grow their audience. If the content your creating is immediately disposable then the same can be said for your site. If, however, you are able to find a way to create unique content that no one else can offer then you may be able to set yourself apart.

To do this, we suggest telling more stories. Find an artist you believe in, regardless of popularity, and tell their story. Tell your story about telling their story. Tell the story of their fans and why they choose to care about this artist instead of the other million-plus in existence. Find an angle that interests you and share it with the world. Take chances. Maybe what you uncover isn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking information, but as long as it is honest and well-written it will entertain.

Maintain your archives, both public and private

Here’s a nightmare scenario most writers never consider: What happens to your content in the event a hacker attacks the site(s) where you contribute? What happens if the owner of that site suddenly loses interest in the publication and deletes it? What happens if for whatever reason your content disappears before you or anyone else thinks to save a copy elsewhere?

The answer is always the same: Your content is gone forever.

In 2018, there are no longer any acceptable excuses for failing to maintain a personal archive. Too many sites have gone under and too many people have complained over social media about now permanently lost work for you to fall in line with those who the easily avoidable mistake of not keeping track of your work. After all, who else do you expect to do it? No one cares more about your career in writing than you, so you must be the one to look after and ensure its legacy.

In addition to saving your work offline, we also suggest you maintain a catalog of links to the currently active content you consider to be your ‘best’ work. Services like Contently make this easy and cost-effective. Again, there is no excuse for your archives being a mess. Get it together!

You need a website

Every time we create a post offering advice to individual professionals we make it a point to emphasize the need for a personal website. It doesn’t matter if you own a blog with a hundred contributors or you contribute to a hundred blogs, every single person trying to make it in the music business should have their own website. The reasons why are as endless as your imagination, but the main reason is that you need a place where you and your work can be the focus of everyone’s attention. You need a place where your absolute best work is displayed, as well as a place where people can learn more about you and whether or not you are available for freelance work. A personal website can be anything you want it to be. Just make sure you have one.

James Shotwell

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.