Since there's no longer (and hardly ever was) an I Love Writing board, and since there are a quite a few pro and amateur hacks here, I thought it might be worth starting a general purpose thread for the dark art.
I don't really consider myself a journo, having only had a couple of things published here and there (mostly for free might I add), but it would be good to get more stuff in print I admit. It would be interesting to hear more from people who've been doing it for longer than I have.
To get things rolling, I thought I'd ask a staple question that I think may have been toiled over before on ILX, regarding use of the first person in gig and LP reviews. Is this generally considered unacceptable in anything less than the most stylistic circumstances? Or does it really not matter too much? What about the use of "this writer" (don't really like this myself, I'd rather use "I/me" than "this writer", but that's just a personal thing).
Anyway, feel free to discuss whatever you like about music writing and journalism here.
― dog latin, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:04 (4 years ago) Permalink
I've said before about how I always hated that "The NME was told by Morrissey'" which is fine on the news page, but when it's "Morrissey bought the NME a drink and began .." on an interview, it's dumb.
― Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:08 (4 years ago) Permalink
Wrt first person: depends on who you're writing for and what kind of piece it is. Personally speaking, I've often had issues with the idea of "objective" criticism, so pretty much everything I've written, music-wise, has used the "I." But I've also avoided writing album reviews for publication, preferring to keep to autobiographical essays, short takes on singles, and blog posts, and in those contexts, no one's had an issue with it.
― jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:14 (4 years ago) Permalink
I often use first person, though rarely in a particularly deliberate way. It doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.
― Tim F, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:17 (4 years ago) Permalink
Something I've noticed that crops up in features like that, something that isn't necessarily wrong per se, but I feel is one helluva boring way to start one of these goes along the lines of: "It is 3:17pm on a rainy Monday afternoon. The NME sits in a Harringey spit'n'sawdust boozer sipping a pint of Timothy Landlord..." etc. What I mean here is that the intro seems to tell you more about the time and weather and location of the actual interview than about who is being interviewed. Whenever I read features like this I tend to stop reading much past the first paragraph.
― dog latin, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:19 (4 years ago) Permalink
3:17pm on a rainy Monday afternoon. The NME sits in a Harringey spit'n'sawdust boozer sipping a pint of Timothy Landlord
^ very accurate summary of state of british indie rock in the 09, though
― thomp, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:22 (4 years ago) Permalink
"It is 3:17pm on a rainy Monday afternoon. The NME sits in a Harringey spit'n'sawdust boozer sipping a pint of Timothy Landlord..."
if you're gonna "set the scene" like this the best way to do it is to say "[the artist] sits by the swimming pool sipping a mojito" - the i/v is about them after all
― lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:26 (4 years ago) Permalink
i mean all obv dependent on what kind of feature, which publication &c &c &c
― lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:27 (4 years ago) Permalink
"[the artist] sits by the swimming pool sipping a mojito"
The Lex interviews Raygun.
― Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:45 (4 years ago) Permalink
I tend to use first person if my experience is an important part of the total picture. If I'm writing a piece that's based on a phone interview and three listens to the album, I don't do it; but if the publicist has flown me to Ireland to spend three or four days with the band, fuck yes I'm gonna inject myself into the story because I am then part of the story. I never use first person in CD reviews.
― unperson, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:52 (4 years ago) Permalink
there's no i love writing board per se but consider this thread. a not-just-music writers' discussion might be fun.
New: "I Love Writing"
the first person thing is tricky. back when I wrote for the village voice many many years ago it was practically required in music reviews. as time went on many publications took the opposite tack, pretty much banning the "I" these days in the NY Times reporters are required to don this pseudo anonymity which I think reads terribly. instead of "so and so told me that..." it's "so and so told a reporter" waht? was it YOU or just some other random journalist who happened to be in the room?
― m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:03 (4 years ago) Permalink
ha, you *are* the room!
― Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:06 (4 years ago) Permalink
Maybe 5% of music writing in the first person isn't hacky. I see it as a huge red flag. Unless it's absolutely necessary to the story, don't do it, imo.
― wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:08 (4 years ago) Permalink
How is it "hacky"?
― jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:12 (4 years ago) Permalink
Maybe 5% of music writing in the first person isn't hacky.
― Hoot Smalley, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:13 (4 years ago) Permalink
On second thought:
― Hoot Smalley, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:14 (4 years ago) Permalink
o here we are slagging off writers again, that didn't take long at all
― lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:17 (4 years ago) Permalink
there are different kinds of first-person usage. the kind i can't stand is the showy first-person narrative, where the writer becomes some kind of presence. but there's also just the casual "i" where it can be sensible and unobstrusive. "i love the first two tracks" doesn't seem more objectionable to me than "the first two tracks are great" -- they're both obviously subjective statements of personal preference. but i know some editors who will reflexively remove every "I" from copy, so it's good to know the standards you're writing to.
― flying squid attack (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:18 (4 years ago) Permalink
Just slagging off the hacks. If you'd like to defend bad writing, have at it.
― Hoot Smalley, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:18 (4 years ago) Permalink
My favourite one, (iirc)
"Kirk Brandon formed Theatre of Hate around the same time as I joined the NME. At the time, we were both unknown..."
(Can't remember the writer)
― Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:20 (4 years ago) Permalink
I mean, I get into this argument all the time. Generally, I don't CARE about the writer. If the writer was an interesting person, I'd be reading an article on THEM, not the artist I care about. Like wow, the Jesus And Mary Chain helped you get through high school. You and America, buddy.
Generally if a piece of music writing has the word "I" in the first sentence, I usually stop reading, real talk. Save it for your dream journal.
The sad shit is now most mag writing is indistinguishable from internet writing because rates are so low.
― wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:21 (4 years ago) Permalink
Not that there isn't exceptions blah blah blah strawman lol flame etc
― wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:22 (4 years ago) Permalink
What about "I don't know about you but I'm fucking sick of this indie-lite electrodribble that permeates every airwave within earshot"?
― dog latin, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:38 (4 years ago) Permalink
Whiney, you do realize you just used the first person yourself five times in two sentences yourself, right?
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:41 (4 years ago) Permalink
I'm posting on a message board, not writing for a paycheck!
― wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:42 (4 years ago) Permalink
the mark richardson thing about lovely music in stylus is pretty much verbatim all the first person objections ur spoutin btw but imo its top5 great but I suppose its kinda like how it used to be pretty awesome when Buffy had to make some inspirational speech but in the last series she did it every episode and it was really tiresome?
― ❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:44 (4 years ago) Permalink
xp (And I just used "yourself" twice in one sentence, duh.)
Anyway, first person is a tool, like any other tool. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. (As an editor at the Voice, I was frequently known to edit sentences from pitch emails back into submitted reviews in part because the emails did use the first person, and sounded less stiff and stilted and more conversational in the process. I.e., sometimes it helps make for better writing just because that's how people talk. So I've never bought the idea that "writing for a paycheck" required "detaching yourself from the subject.")
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:47 (4 years ago) Permalink
Again, i'm not saying that it's always bad, but there's not a lot of writers who can pull it off without sounding like My First Fanzine
― wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:49 (4 years ago) Permalink
"The first time I saw Spoon..."
So why would print them (unless it was a really good fanzine?)
Still, especially when space on the page is at a premium -- which it was even when wordcounts could get away with being ten times higher than they are now -- wasted words are wasted words, "I" included. (Though at least "I" is a fairly short word.)
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:50 (4 years ago) Permalink
the mark richardson thing about lovely music in stylus
Think you mean Mike Powell, but Mark Richardson is a good example of someone who uses the first person to excellent effect in his Resonant Frequency column.
― jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:52 (4 years ago) Permalink
― ❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:53 (4 years ago) Permalink
If you can write entertainingly, I forgive your first person narrative.
― Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:54 (4 years ago) Permalink
xhuxk on point
― max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:59 (4 years ago) Permalink
xp "So why would print them?", I meant.
Anyway, bottom line is, no fucking way does the the detached pseudo-objective tone used in most glossies and daily newspapers make for better music writing than what I was printing week in and week out in the Voice for ten years (though sure, a few pieces I published may have sounded "Internetty" or whatever. Point was to have lots of different voices, so it'd be a miracle if anybody approved of all of them. I didn't want to ban Internetty writing -- which can be good too, sometimes -- either.)
On the other hand, I like the creativity with which guys like Sanneh at the Times have managed to get around the limitations against first person and swear words. A smart writer can work within those perimeters, too, and make it entertaining anyway.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:02 (4 years ago) Permalink
its funny you mention sanneh--his profile of michael savage in the nyer from a couple weeks ago was very careful about not using "i" (which i think is generally a no-go in the nyer, except in the personal essays they publish every once in a while) but still managed to tell a set of interesting stories about sanneh's own encounters w/ savage that sort of hinged on sannehs own specific experiences trying to set up an interview... in the end, though, i thought it would have been a better piece if they had let him use an authorial I
― max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:06 (4 years ago) Permalink
wow that got convoluted
I thought about that, too.
Over the years, Savage has noticed that his disdain for the mainstream media is widely reciprocated ... So when he received an e-mail from a journalist asking for an interview, he was deeply suspicious. He read the e-mail on the air — he kept the writer anonymous, and didn’t mention that the request came from The New Yorker — and then asked his listeners, “Should I do the interview or not?”…
About a week later, Savage revisited the topic — “my continuing correspondence with a big-shot magazine writer.” He quoted the latest exchanges, along with his tart response, in which he asked, “Why must all of you in the extreme media paint everyone you disagree with as demonic? Why is the homosexual agenda so important to the midstream media?”
When he invited the journalist into one of his undisclosed locations, he proved to be a first-rate host, chatty and solicitous. A steady supply of beer refills lubricated the conversation (one of his earliest books was “The Taster’s Guide to Beer,” which was published in 1977), and as the temperature dropped and the sky above Berkeley started to turn orange, he seemed to be working hard to stay suspicious, despite himself. On his next show the next day, a caller asked how the interview had gone, and Savage described his interlocutor: "If I told you he looked like Obama, I wouldn't be far from the truth." Coming from him, this sounded like a deeply twisted compliment.
Sanneh has to resort to speaking of himself in the third person ("the journalist," "his interlocutor") but otherwise does a decent job with passive-ish phrases like "a steady supply of beer refills lubricated the conversation."
― jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:22 (4 years ago) Permalink
no i think you're OTM, that NYer piece was convoluted. it read to me like sanneh had a personal 1 on 1 reaction to savage that was quite different than what he expected and the resulting article would have been more effective and immediate using the "I" but the NYer has always employed a certain lofty distance from its subjects, even in the 70s it wasn't really into the personal/new journalism thing. well apart from pauline kael I guess.
but journalists do have to meet readers half-way. my problem with a lot of the vintage village voice stuff is that it's so personal to the point of being impenetrable or off-putting.
― m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:24 (4 years ago) Permalink
the best first person stuff illustrates how the subject of an interview interacts with other people, rather than "setting the scene"
― lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:25 (4 years ago) Permalink
i'm guessing whiney's not big on fiction as a rule.
― strongohulkingtonsghost, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:26 (4 years ago) Permalink
I'm not big on fiction as a rule either, and one of the principles that was drilled into me when I started writing was that first-person is something you have to earn--expecting the reader who's never heard of you before to go along with I-I-I-me-me-me instead of saying "So what?" and moving to the next item is not generally a good idea--but I love first person writing even if (despite whatever reputation I may have for it due to the 33 1/3 book) I don't use it all that often professionally.
― Matos W.K., Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:30 (4 years ago) Permalink
matos if you don't mind me asking: you're not big on fiction as a journalistic device or (gasp) you don't like reading novels?
― m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:36 (4 years ago) Permalink
I don't write fiction or about music, but first-person is the default in my area of writing (analytic philosophy). Sometimes we resort to the royal "we" if we're feeling nervous about first-person. But it was made clear to me that third-person is to be avoided, as is passive voice.
― deep olives (Euler), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
hang on, you're not big on reading fiction...at all?!
― lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
xp I don't buy the "have to earn" thing. I'm not even sure what it means. If I listen to a song sung in the first person, I might be able to relate to, and be moved by, the song even if I'm unaware of the singer's specific biography. Not sure why reviews are necessarily different. You don't have to be a famous writer to have a life that creates a context.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
i thought he meant less that you have to earn it in the sense of being already famous or noteworthy, but in the sense that you have to earn it through your writing--i.e. you have to justify use of the first person in the piece itself, not necc explicitly, but at least in making your "I" of interest to the reader
― max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:39 (4 years ago) Permalink
When it's well done - and it does have to be superbly well done, and yes, generally (but not always) "earnt" - first-person music writing is my favourite of all music writing. (And when it's pointlessly done, the reverse holds true.)
For my own part, I avoid it at least 95% of the time - but then I come from a personal-blogging background, and taking "myself" out of the equation was a deliberate, sought objective.
― mike t-diva, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:40 (4 years ago) Permalink
My first piece at the Voice (when no reader could've had any idea who I was) and a couple soon after were in the first person, fwiw. I seriously doubt they would have improved if the "I"'s had been edited out. (Whether they stunk regardless is another question, but they wouldn't have stunk less.)
Editorial "we" -- first person plural -- bugs the hell out of me no matter what, though. I never buy it, and I've fought editors to keep it out of my own writing (which usually they've been open to).
And btw, I've also edited at Billboard, where first person is almost never allowed. So it's not like I don't know that drill. I just don't like it much.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:45 (4 years ago) Permalink
Of course, at Billboard, the writing tended to be more news and less review-oriented. (So first person would have probably have made no sense anyway.)
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:47 (4 years ago) Permalink
which is cool, but you can't claim this is anything other than basing shit on your personal taste.
― katherine, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:40 (10 months ago) Permalink
well right but if i were an editor i'd sort of have some set of notions similar to that whether or not i myself liked the lumineers or amanda palmer. like there's a certain critical conversation happening about these groups and people not just in the rockwrite world, but at least among the broader set of people who pay some attention to culture (ap's poem got trashed on ontd, lots of ppl roll their eyes at the lumineers, etc.). so you're not some pure outsider voice. if you do a piece on something that's part of a dialogue going on in the world, your piece should somehow acknowledge or relate to that dialogue in some fashion. that's not about your taste -- that's about what it means to be critically engaged!
but in fact honestly if the lumineers dropped a new album i'm sure a zillion outlets would be happy to run neutral-to-positive reviews of them (and ditto AP). especially when we're talking capsule-ish things as opposed to feature stories.
the contrarian article is also a huge genre now, probably moreso than ever in the past (although lots of that is more trollgaze than decent writing). there are a fair number of things that seem increasingly out-of-reach, but being able to find a venue to publish just about any evaluation in itself doesn't seem to be so.
but yeah, your ability to do this also probably depends on your capability as a writer and the amount of trust someone will put in you to take an opinion that they don't necessarily agree with and render it in an interesting fashion.
― Chuck E was a hero to most (s.clover), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:40 (10 months ago) Permalink
i dunno i've been out of the game for a while and i was spoiled by fantastic editors when i was in it, so who knows.
― Chuck E was a hero to most (s.clover), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:42 (10 months ago) Permalink
(i think the contrarian article thing is 4real tho -- i mean, controversy sells)
but who's buying?
― we're up all night to get picky (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:46 (10 months ago) Permalink
Contrarianism only seems big because the hivemind is so strong, though. And there are acceptable and unacceptable subjects. Try getting a "No, seriously, Beyonce is terrible" story published. No matter how informed and thoughtful it might be, that piece ain't seeing print.
― 誤訳侮辱, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:47 (10 months ago) Permalink
The ability to engage with unfashionable but popular bands in an enthusiastic way without being condescending or contrarian for the sake of it sounds pretty marketable if you are writing for a mainstream audience.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:50 (10 months ago) Permalink
a well informed and thoughtful article with that opinion is not possible. that's like complaining that science journalism won't publish the well informed and thoughtful articles on the moon being made of cheese.
― Chuck E was a hero to most (s.clover), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:52 (10 months ago) Permalink
on the other hand there's plenty of mags that'll publish that sort of stuff anyway, or there were five years ago.
― Chuck E was a hero to most (s.clover), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:53 (10 months ago) Permalink
contrarian articles are definitely a thing, but how sustainable long-term is it to publish pieces that put you repeatedly, so to speak, in contempt of the court? especially if you're just some replaceable kid.
as far as the new albums -- there's data. lots of major outlets passed on the AP album. Lumineers probably got more since they are much newer. and yes, there will probably be at least a few critics turning in the "this is OK. just OK." angle when it's new album time. it's just the next stage in the backlash cycle. think "Born to Die."
(xpost -- there are actually plenty of "no, seriously, Beyonce is terrible" pieces published per event cycle. the problem is most of them turn out to be racist.)
― katherine, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:53 (10 months ago) Permalink
I was actually just recently thinking about how the internet is "the greatest engine for contrairianism the world has ever seen" or some such -- endless fast-paced cycles of finding the fresh angle on the fresh angle on the fresh angle, "X is not really about Y, it's about Z" "X really IS about Y, but not for the reasons you think" etc.
― huun huurt 2 (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:54 (10 months ago) Permalink
"Why the band everyone likes is shit""Why the band everyone hates is good""Why the band everyone likes to point out that everyone else likes but is actually shit is actually good for different reasons""I like the band that everyone likes UNIRONICALLY because I am a POPULIST, but still in a more intelligent way than everyone else"
― huun huurt 2 (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:56 (10 months ago) Permalink
when I was at Stylus we specialized in these "On Second Thought" "contrarian" pieces. I don't know if they helped or hindered hit counts. It produced some fine writing. I don't know if a market exists for them now though.
― the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:57 (10 months ago) Permalink
The thing with contrarian articles is that I think they have to be view points that are sincerely held in the face of received wisdom. You can usually tell when they aren't. I think we did one cynical one and I wish we hadn't. The one boosting Phil Collins was great though.
The one I really want someone to write for me is the pro-Bob Marley one but he seems to be the ultimate no-no for British music journalists. Presumably because there are too many guilty memories of first year bong sessions to Exodus or whatever while juggling or weaving friendship bracelets or whatever.
― Doran, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 22:24 (10 months ago) Permalink
is it contrarian to boost Collins?
― the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 22:27 (10 months ago) Permalink
katherine, you sound cool.
I really don't like contrarian pieces. They break a fundamental rule for me -- they are disingenuous for the most part. I don't think music is a sacred cow, but I'd much rather someone approach a music piece intelligently and coherently than driven by passionate, disjointed drivel. Even the genuine ones don't offer that much insight, but I can at least respect it for what it is, since they usually do away with all the rhetoric. And these I don't consider contrarian; they're just pieces which happen to go against popular thought because there is some substance to their arguments. And by genuine, I don't mean they have to be sincerely held, but more like unobscure and not deliberately going against an idea for the sake of it (forced/contrived/etc.). Those contrarian pieces that are disingenuous tend to end up in straw-man arguments or ad hominem attacks against the writer that reel in so many click-throughs/visits for online publications. The average Joe loves a good fight or nonsensical name-calling and 'discussion'.
This also reminds me of what bands people perceive as 'mainstream'. It's always interesting to me how in different countries, certain bands are played on the radio a lot, yet in somewhere like the US, they are considered non-mainstream. I can't speak for everyone obviously, but in the places I've lived in the US and Canada, there is this desire to listen to music that is not on the radio, and people usually equate that to non-mainstream. It creates a culture based on falsehood, in my humble opinion.
Oh, and don't get me started on this 'culture of irony'....argh.
― c21m50nh3x460n, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 23:13 (10 months ago) Permalink
"the thing with contrarian articles is that I think they have to be view points that are sincerely held in the face of received wisdom."
essentially, yes: the difference between "huh, I guess I'm the contrarian" and "I'm gonna make myself the contrarian." (which is another thing: the worst contrarian pieces are the ones secretly about the writer and how cool/enlightened he is for being so contrarian, damning the sheeple, so forth.)
― katherine, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 23:24 (10 months ago) Permalink
I mean it seriously, so save your abuse.I can't understand why someone who considers him/herself a talented writer would want to go into music criticism.1. From a practical perspective, there's no money in it.2. Popular music is probably the most subjective and unintellectual of all artforms, and is therefore immune to any kind of rigorous discourse. A song can be great/elegiac/sad/etc. purely on the basis that you heard it first when you were 15 years old. How do you argue with that?3. What useful things are there to say about music that can't be said in a few lines in a music forum?4. Most of the music I love, I have no real desire to read about. I have a desire to read about the lives of the people who created it perhaps, or the circumstances in which it was made. But no desire to read musical criticism.
-- bemused (bemuse...), February 5th, 2004. (later)
AnswersWriting about music is fun! And some people do have the desire to read music criticism. so, there ya go. -- scott seward (skotro...), February 5th, 2004. (later)
Judging by your lax grammar and syntax, you should be the last person to complain about artforms (sic) being "unintellectual" (sic). Perhaps you were turned down for a job and are therefore using this thread to vent your envy at people more talented than you could ever hope to be, or people whose lives are so much better, qualitatively and quantitatively, than yours will ever be.Now fuck off.
-- Marcello Carlin (marcellocarli...), February 5th, 2004. (later)
well, there's that too. -- scott seward (skotro...), February 5th, 2004. (later)
― scott seward, Thursday, 25 April 2013 00:47 (10 months ago) Permalink
I really don't like contrarian pieces. They break a fundamental rule for me -- they are disingenuous for the most part. I don't think music is a sacred cow, but I'd much rather someone approach a music piece intelligently and coherently than driven by passionate, disjointed drivel
Good writing justifies itself. Your second sentence contradicts the first.
― the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 April 2013 00:53 (10 months ago) Permalink
― The Great Natterer (dandydonweiner), Thursday, 25 April 2013 00:56 (10 months ago) Permalink
I’ve got some good advice, but, like Albert Brooks says in Lost in America, please, keep this quiet--you don’t want any other would-be rock critics stealing it.
Get yourself a non-writing job that pays pretty well, so you’ll be fine even if you never earn a cent from writing. You don’t want to have to jump through hoops for anyone, and when a certain kind of editor knows you need the money, you’ll have to.
Don’t try to convince anyone of anything. Propose your idea, and if they don’t want it, move on and never try a second time. Their loss, not yours--you don’t need the money, so no big deal.
This approach does have drawbacks. Chief among them is that you’ll get old and die and not get published. If you’re okay with that, it’s a very good system.
― clemenza, Thursday, 25 April 2013 01:11 (10 months ago) Permalink
one of my personal guidelines is to try not to assume the reader agrees with me, which i feel like a lot of music writing does -- obviously you can start with a baseline of something not too controversial like "the beatles/insert canonical artist here was good/important" but often the first paragraph stakes everything on some loaded premise that not even half the readership is going to be on board with. if you free yourself of that, it becomes a lot easier to express an opinion that isn't conventional wisdom without having to locate yourself on the 'contrarian' (or troll) spectrum.
― some dude, Thursday, 25 April 2013 01:21 (10 months ago) Permalink
i like that advice, some dude
― set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 25 April 2013 01:29 (10 months ago) Permalink
If you're going to use "we," make sure you're at least a baron, and always include a mugshot of yourself wearing ermine or gold.
― the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 April 2013 01:30 (10 months ago) Permalink
Kael showed how to effectively assume the agreement of the reader. e.g.
We generally become interested in movies because we enjoy them and what we enjoy them for has little to do with what we think of as art. The movies we respond to, even in childhood, don’t have the same values as the official culture supported at school and in the middle-class home.
It isn't that she really thinks her readers agree with her, but arrogating that assumption is a nice way of taking a strong tone, saying "You should agree with this."
― lazulum, Thursday, 25 April 2013 01:44 (10 months ago) Permalink
that's a v good point. i most enjoy and respect criticism that clearly articulates a position, a point of view. i generally dislike the pose of reportorial objectivity, preferring criticism that explicitly situate its responses in a specific and personal framework. speaking in terms of "i" is self-isolating, but kael's arrogating (and perhaps arrogant) "we" risks the alienation of those who disagree. she did it well. most do not.
― I have many lovely lacy nightgowns (contenderizer), Thursday, 25 April 2013 02:17 (10 months ago) Permalink
^ ...criticism that situates its responses...
― I have many lovely lacy nightgowns (contenderizer), Thursday, 25 April 2013 02:18 (10 months ago) Permalink
Yeah, most don't, and it might actually be a bit old-fashioned. Maybe we only tolerate it from her because we have double standards about past writers.
― lazulum, Thursday, 25 April 2013 02:30 (10 months ago) Permalink
overuse of the 1st person plural is such a bugbear of mine atm
esp when accompanied by waffle about ~the modern condition~ and, like, laptops
― flamenco drop (lex pretend), Thursday, 25 April 2013 07:31 (10 months ago) Permalink
Alfred: Re Phil Collins? Yes, in the UK, imo. This is a general observation and wouldn't apply to writers who know their stuff like DL or Unperson or whoever but I've heard writers, even relatively recently say, 'LOL rappers/R&B singers like Phil Collins.' Now this is dumb on numerous levels, mainly it's because - Homer Simpson style - they're imagining Timbaland sitting in a jacuzzi singing along to 'You Can't Hurry Love' wearing an 'I <3 Phil Collins' T-shirt and not someone appreciating gated reverb on drums as a great production technique or the really expensive sound of his synth production or the potential for sampling on his records (I'm sure some people in these genres straight up just love Phil Collins jams... and why not, I love 'Mama' for example but I'm sure that's the exception not the rule). The worst thing is, you can't even call this rockism, it's just straight up ignorance because at least a rockist scientist would know that Brand X were a rated fusion band, that Phil Collins played on some amazing albums by Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel (not to mention early Genesis in general). But when you've got a magazine like NME that literally only covers new indie and has rules preventing writers from referencing bands and artists (apart from the obvious Beatles/Stones axis) from before a decade or so earlier where is the impetus for young writers to do research? This knowledge is of no use to them. My biggest bugbear is journalistic laziness though. Collins is probably not what you'd call a nice man, or at least, I certainly wouldn't want to spend any time with him. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that he divorced his wife by fax. Not only is this legal nonsense, any amount of research will show that this story came from the front page of the UK tabloid The Sun - a completely discredited source that should be discounted or mistrusted by anyone with journalistic training. But again when magazines don't care for their writers - they have a duty to give writers without formal journalistic training the tools to do the job properly - then what do you expect? You end up with people repeating two facts about him: divorced his wife by fax and said he'd leave the UK if labour stayed in power - only one of which is true, and precious little knowledge about the stuff they should know about, the music. So yeah, as much as I rail against boomer canonical magazines, at least, some of them, American ones especially, know their history. I don't feel you can criticise this stuff without at least knowing something about it.
― Doran, Thursday, 25 April 2013 07:47 (10 months ago) Permalink
Also, I don't want to state the obvious but if you know a magazine hates Imagine Dragons or Lumineers or whatever and you're cold pitching to them for the first time with positive feature ideas on those bands? This is a really bad strategy as it suggests you don't read the publication. Why not save that for your third or fourth pitch after you've started to get work at the title.
I read all pitches that are sent to me - literally all of them and there are tons of them - and sometimes a contrarian pitch out of nowhere really catches my imagination but most of the time they're not suggesting anything that interesting and in some cases they're noticeably passive aggressive in their hurt tone about my cruel treatment of, say, Foxygen or whatever.
You've got to remember that taking on a new writer is an investment of time for any editor. The person is completely untried, the cutting they've sent in could have been almost completely rewritten by that magazine's editor. There's no real guarantee of quality from someone you don't know so it's a doubly hard sell when they're asking to write about a band that you really don't like.
As several people - who know what they're talking about - have said upthread: come up with good ideas. They're like rocking horse shit. If you hit an editor with good ideas (in my experience) you will be laughing. 'Why Imagine Dragons Are A Great Band' is not a good idea... 'What The Different Styles Cop Show Themes Are Recorded In Tell You About The Programme' or 'A Short History Of Every Song That Has Been Played By An Astronaut In Space' or 'Varg Vikernes' Secret Past As An EPMD Fan' or 'Why Imagine Dragons Were Predicted By Nostradamus' are good feature ideas.
― Doran, Thursday, 25 April 2013 08:04 (10 months ago) Permalink
One thing that very, very rarely works … telling an editor they have to use you because they are old and dead and out of touch and you are young and vibrant and the future. A surprising number of people try it. You have to have written a very funny covering note, and hope the editor is in an extraordinarily good mood, on a day when every single thing has gone right, to have any joy with that.
― If you tolerate Bis, then Kenickie will be next (ithappens), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:23 (10 months ago) Permalink
I'd like to think no one older than about 17 would ever do that. Though I doubt that's the case.
― they all are afflicted with a sickness of existence (Scik Mouthy), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:29 (10 months ago) Permalink
if you know a magazine hates Imagine Dragons or Lumineers or whatever and you're cold pitching to them for the first time with positive feature ideas on those bands?
Magazines/websites should not hold party lines on any band (ex. the obv Skrewdriver etc), they should be open to good writing on any band even if they are normally critical whipping boys
― my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:30 (10 months ago) Permalink
i don't think that's how professional publications work
― we're up all night to get picky (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:33 (10 months ago) Permalink
XP: Yeah, and I should get paid for every piece of writing that I do at a rate per word that's gone up noticeably in the last 25 years but I don't. I just wrote a piece on a feminist Egyptian film maker documenting an underground revolutionary dance scene in Cairo. It's gone up on my site because no one will pay for it. In an extremely abstract way I think this is wrong and that NME or Q should give me a decent amount of money and cover my travel expenses, instead of me having to save up for ages so I can pay to do my own job but I'm not upset about it - it's just the way things are. So you can either deal with what things are like and get work or sit round complaining about what they should be like and not get work. There are enough threads on ILM about how rubbish the music press is, I was under the impression this thread was different and about practical advice.
And, as I said, quite clearly, I am open to good writing on any band but I'd sooner give that kind of work to a trusted scribe. If you are cold calling as a first time writer how do I know you're going to provide good copy? More often than not people sending these kinds of pitches in are indulging in immature passive aggressiveness: "I want to work at your magazine - here's why I don't like it."
― Doran, Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:42 (10 months ago) Permalink
I'd recommend telling them to move to London, meet a few friends who're cooler than yourselves, then bam, you'll end up writing for Vice like me.
I've never been paid for anything, which sucks a bit after doing music writing nearly week in week out for four years now.
― the Shearer of simulated snowsex etc. (Dwight Yorke), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:45 (10 months ago) Permalink
― the Shearer of simulated snowsex etc. (Dwight Yorke), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:46 (10 months ago) Permalink
i think it's very important for people to ask themselves why they want to do something, regularly
― we're up all night to get picky (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:46 (10 months ago) Permalink
I don't pitch pieces or hustle but I imagine it's pretty stressful. Writing pieces can be stressful. Sending pieces for review is stressful. Seeing them published and having dozens of people telling you that you are a idiot for liking x, y or z is stressful. It's also fun and rewarding but doing it every day and knowing my financial security depended on it would be too much.
I accidentally wound up writing for money after being approached by a publication whose message board I posted on. It's possibly an underrated way of getting your ideas, tone and style seen by editors.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:22 (10 months ago) Permalink
xpost A former ILX regular once used that very tactic with me, Nick.
― If you tolerate Bis, then Kenickie will be next (ithappens), Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:26 (10 months ago) Permalink
I can probably guess who.
― they all are afflicted with a sickness of existence (Scik Mouthy), Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:29 (10 months ago) Permalink
― markers, Friday, 26 April 2013 19:02 (10 months ago) Permalink
what was it?
― Chuck E was a hero to most (s.clover), Friday, 26 April 2013 19:08 (10 months ago) Permalink
(tweets gone now)
aol shut down spinner effective today
― J0rdan S., Friday, 26 April 2013 19:08 (10 months ago) Permalink
And AOL Music in general, it seems.
― 誤訳侮辱, Friday, 26 April 2013 19:12 (10 months ago) Permalink
Say I have what I think is a good idea for a profile piece. However, I'm an untrusted scribe. If I pitch the idea to an editor and they like it, wouldn't they just say "yes, good idea" and then commission one of their trusted scribes to write it? Alternatively, should I go ahead and write the piece and then submit it in full? If I do that, though, I wouldn't be able to say to the subject of the profile that I was writing about them for such-and-such a magazine.
― my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Thursday, 2 May 2013 07:40 (10 months ago) Permalink
― markers, Thursday, 30 May 2013 20:50 (9 months ago) Permalink
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 30 May 2013 22:10 (9 months ago) Permalink