Rolling Music Writers' Thread

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the economist, which is prob my fav magazine out there, certainly the best-written, omits all bylines - and has a hugely distinct, consistent house style throughout - i suspect its quality is at least partly down to this

i love the gossip columns which refer to themselves in character - pendennis, pandora &c (americans won't get those sorry)

lex pretend, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 15:45 (4 years ago) Permalink

The Daily Howler has a habit of referring to "our analysts" and "our staff" when I'm pretty sure he means "me, sitting at my laptop in my underwear."

Tracer Hand, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 15:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

"I've always liked it when reporters refer to themselves as the name of their newspaper. It's stupid but endearing. "The Observer caught up with Mickey Rourke at last night's charity fandango, but he got away again.""

this has always been fun for me as a reader, though i try not to do it myself. well, when i've interviewed whoever and i have an intro that presages the Q&A, i do the "XXX publication caught up with Katy Perry last week via email and discussed, A, B, and C" thing because it's what a lot of publications i write for do. when in rome, etc.

Gang Gang Sign (Waaaavvves Remix) (Beatrix Kiddo), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

okay, i'm going to try to steer things in a different direction for a second.

one of the biggest issues i have with some blogs (and even some more 'professional' publications/sites) is the level to which many don't even talk about music any longer. some examples:

A flat sea lit by infinite jetties of Crocketian excess. Sleek yachts deathly still in their moorings. The conspiracy of their impossible symmetry visible only from above, hanging in the cloudless night, or below in the warm throbbing abyssal depths.

The purple night laid out before her older self, wooden platforms leading out across the sea offering up each boat’s bass heavy delights. A network of unobtainable ritual dances. Moving between the vessels, stars vibrate as a precursor to the bacchanalian delights on offer.

She pauses, the infinite possibilities of the night on water beneath her feet. Adrenaline bubbling to a peak, managed, subsiding, then surging once more. The anticipation paralysing her in ecstatic indecision…


They’re having boat parties in America! All ‘cross the territories, from Italo-disco glides tracing the very edges of New York to the viney boondocks of Missouri, citizens are hauling bold bodies to the waterside and filling aquaways with bustle and blood, red cells under a transient spell of summer. NPIP, too! - in shilly-shally dock shoes and rolled-up jeans, holidaying in the surf, talking to the faces. Faces to listen to, too! - punk sons of out-of-work raftsmen talking all Tom Sawyer; sons of richer men falling in with the wrong crowd and - better - daughters, chewing on river-reeds and shooting doe; bug-eyed acid kids floating in a cherry-pink spume, vigilant sentries for any angry langoustine and (god forbid) kill-krill. We sang and boister-bought as the light changed over our heads, put bricks through the window of the run-down boat-house and ran off guffawing into the woods to doze like drunken apes in trees.

This is a deck of lies of course. NPIP spent last night on the banks of the Thames, glugging kidnapped cans and looking on as the party boats, pumping stale sound out into the air, pottered up from under London Bridge and far enough past the one that shook ("synchronous lateral excitation") to disappear on the way to Vauxhall or Westminster or Blackfriars, before returning, louder and drunker and, somewhat inconceivably, with even worse music wafting from their tow. YMCA?! Balls to Village idiots. We need our own boat party.


nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:08 (4 years ago) Permalink

no need to be dry and terribly serious in music writing, but this is just...not good music writing.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:09 (4 years ago) Permalink

thats always sort of been 20jfg's "thing" hasnt it? baroque ott descriptions of the MP3s theyre putting up?

max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

i kind of like it tho i dont blame anyone for skipping over those paragraphs. but that blog i think is better known and loved for its curatorial skills than for its writing--i could be wrong.

max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

well, yes. i still think it is fucking stupid, and hardly ever read a word they post-- i listen to the embedded player, and if i like, i download. the writing does nothing for me.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

"glugging kidnapped cans"

I hate when people try to use "colourful" language in this way, "drinking cans" is ten times stronger than the above, if you're investing meaning in drinking cans then say DRINKING CANS.

I for one welcome this new Nazi ILX (Local Garda), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

and let the reader agree or disagree that it merits a mention

I for one welcome this new Nazi ILX (Local Garda), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah table id wager youre not the only one. like i said i can dig on their writing if im in the mood--but if music writing as a whole went in that direction i wouldnt be aboard. at all.

max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

one nice thing about blogs is theres room for everyone!

max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:17 (4 years ago) Permalink

The Daily Howler has a habit of referring to "our analysts" and "our staff" when I'm pretty sure he means "me, sitting at my laptop in my underwear."

hate this kind of thing even in a blog where it is a group project. "we at blog x...." or "here at blog x we try to...blah blah blah"

I for one welcome this new Nazi ILX (Local Garda), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:18 (4 years ago) Permalink

the second example i posted is so much worse than the first.. i even had a little email fite with the guy who wrote it, because i thought he did a terrible job of describing a great track.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

i admire ur dedication to keeping up the standards of internet writing table but i wonder if ur not needlessly raising your blood pressure

max, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:25 (4 years ago) Permalink

I think you should escalate the email fite into a knife fite.

I for one welcome this new Nazi ILX (Local Garda), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:26 (4 years ago) Permalink


nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

perhaps i come across as too strong-headed...i'm not really that pissed or anything about the phenomenon. it's more like a really annoying mosquito-bite-- i just want it to go away.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 16:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

Whenever I read that kind of writing, I recall the Peanut strips where Charlie Brown is recounting his dreams in detail, and Linus is nodding off or trying to escape.

bendy, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 17:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

20jkg is awesome but i'm not gonna actually read it or anythin

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Wednesday, 12 August 2009 19:21 (4 years ago) Permalink

Another question for you all, amateurs and pros... What is the best way to get or pitch for freelance work?

I'm currently building a bit of experience simply writing for free, which is all fine and dandy, but I'm only writing about 5 short album revews a month, so it's becoming a bit repetitive and I'd like to eventually get a bit more work, and maybe one day get paid a little for the effort.

Is it better to write a letter to the editor saying "I'm me, I do this, I'm interested in whether you have any freelance opportunities at the moment" or OTOH should I have some ideas for features already prepared that I should pitch directly upon initial contact? Should I send portfolio examples straight away and should they be scans of the edited versions or my own unedited versions? Is it even worth sending complete unpublished articles and saying "here's an article, wanna print it?" or is that just silly?

dog latin, Thursday, 13 August 2009 11:40 (4 years ago) Permalink

dl, to everything in yr second paragraph i'd say yes - say you're available, suggest some ideas, include a couple of short examples - short of sending the unpublished article. all of the former are essential in pitching to a new editor.

like i'm the fucking orange juice man (stevie), Thursday, 13 August 2009 11:53 (4 years ago) Permalink

And I don't want to state the obvious but the majority of people who email me for work spell shit wrong, haven't read the site properly. Come correct, as the boxer dude (who looks like Marvin Gaye) out of The Wire, might say.

Doran, Thursday, 13 August 2009 13:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

I've only ever cold-pitched once. I didn't hear anything back, and I didn't chase the pitch up as a) self-promotion makes me squirm and b) parts of the pitch itself made me squirm. However, the editor did eventually came back to me - nearly two years later, having spotted something I wrote elsewhere - and comissions ensued from there. So, um, you never know...

All my other freelance gigs (such as they are) have resulted from editors making the initial approach to me, on the strength of work which they've seen elsewhere. (Friends who have edited fiction and poetry tell me that this how things normally operate, and that scouting is part of an editor's job, but I don't know how much this applies to music journalism.) This has provided me with enough work to keep me happy - but then freelancing is something I do on top of the day job, so I'm not looking to work constantly, or indeed to earn a living wage from it.

That said, I do sometimes find myself wondering what would happen if I wasn't so shy of pushing myself forward.

mike t-diva, Thursday, 13 August 2009 13:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

I cold-pitch myself every once in a while. Shit, I wrote the editor of JazzTimes an email this very week looking for work. (He said their masthead's overcrowded as is right now, and he's gonna prioritize the roster he's got. Which is perfectly fine; that's what Albert Mudrian told me when Metal Edge went under and he was mobbed by our writers, and I totally understand.)

Speaking as an editor, I have recruited writers whose work I liked...just dropped 'em an email saying "Hey, would you like to write for Metal Edge?" I have not generally hired writers who came to me, because the samples were boring, bad, etc.

unperson, Thursday, 13 August 2009 15:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

I'm at a point where I've got as much freelance as I can handle without going insane - and this is after losing some gigs because (a) places have gone under, (b) space is sphincter-tight, or (c) editors have revealed themselves to be either inept at corresponding or severely overworked (and i'm talking about editors who I'd worked for for years before, suddenly, my submissions and pitches vanished into the ether and my inquiries after same began to be roundly ignored).

Have I sent cold-pitches in the last year or so? Sure. I've even gotten some feedback. But until one or two outlets disappear or don't need my services, I'm not gonna bother. There are only so many hours in a day, and I have a family and friends, and I have a super-demanding full-time job.

(And I'm starting my own online concern, because I am insane.)

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

I used to get several writers pitching me every week at the Voice. Always got back to them, and always told them I needed to see examples of their writing, preferably as published. Then, if they didn't send ideas, I sent them back to the drawing board.

Never understood writers who figured an editor would just stumble on their byline somewhere and they'd be called out of the blue, but then again I don't understand people who buy lottery tickets, either. I already had scores of writers to choose from; the idea that I'd go hunting for new ones who hadn't even contacted me is, well, really wishful thinking.

Well actually, once in a while, I would see somebody's writing somewhere else and be impressed enough to track them down, or I'd really be in a pinch for some obscure genre specialist and I'd go out hunting, but those were exceptions to the rule.

Anyway, if I still had that job, here's what I'd say: (1) Send clips first (I prefered hard copies to links, because I didn't want to do your work for you, but then I'm old); THEN (2) send specific pitch ideas, in an email convincing me that the topic is worth covering. Not "if you ever need somebody to write about something, I'm here."

xhuxk, Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:18 (4 years ago) Permalink

I mean, obviously if you're already a household name (if you can be reasonably sure the editor would know your work without googling), sending clips might not be necessary. But when I was editor, that applied to fewer writers than you'd think (and at the Voice, since I ran Pazz & Jop, I probably had the most extensive database of music critics on earth. So I can't imagine it would be different anywhere else.)

xhuxk, Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

Chuck, I'm one of those writers who pitched you and received a thorough, welcoming, quick-turnaround reply! You never were into my pitches, but I appreciated you taking the time to say "no thanks."

I've never been recruited, probably because I don't write for super high-profile outlets.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

Before the Collapse of 2006, I sent cold pitches all the time, with clips attached (xhuxk actually gave me the second fastest turnaround I've ever experienced).

Anatomy of a Morbius (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:42 (4 years ago) Permalink

Writers thought I was really efficient at getting back to them! But really I just neurotic; figured if I didn't answer right away, I'd never get around to it. (Billboard was a little different, btw, since the stable of freelancers was smaller, and the pay was less than it had been at the Voice, and since people who can write about the industry are rarer, especially certain segments of the industry. So there, I did spend more time looking for writers. At the Voice, they came looking for me.)

xhuxk, Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:50 (4 years ago) Permalink

xhuxk was the the fastest turnaround in the biz. i did do my best to always reply in a timely fashion to pitches, but my "best" varied widely. to be kind.

strongohulkingtonsghost, Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:53 (4 years ago) Permalink

jess, you were pretty fast, man!

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:54 (4 years ago) Permalink

we should start a thread on the slow, cruel death of the print music review? or just talk about it here?

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 13:50 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think it's been discussed on a few threads (weingarten's recent speech at the twitter conference raised a lot of discussion) but feel free to talk about it here. that said i'd prefer if this thread could focus more on positive discussion, hints and tips, solid examples rather than hundreds of people moaning into their pints about shit bloggers etc.

dog latin, Friday, 14 August 2009 15:52 (4 years ago) Permalink

sorry man.

i'll try to think of some advice.

oh, wait, here's a chestnut: don't delete your article from your email system's "sent messages" queue (or your hard drive) until it's seen print. why? because your editor could inadvertantly delete it.

this sounds like common sense, but i lost some stuff forever because i was young and foolish.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 15:55 (4 years ago) Permalink

if we're going to talk about it, better to focus on how (and if) it is possible to get printed reviews back on track.

i still buy magazines from time to time, but there's nothing to really get my teeth into on the news stand these days. i either feel that i'm being patronised by feeble indie weeklies (NME) trying to force things down my neck, being reminded how great old music is (MOJO, Uncut etc), or am subject to amateurish attempts at hip design values cabled together with very dry reportage (Artrocker, Notion whatever other upstart rag'll end up collapsing within a couple of months) that purposefully avoids the yellow-journalism of the aforementioned indie weeklies by avoiding all humour and interesting points.

Select was my bag back in the day, and I felt they got everything right - knowledge, subject matter, humour, diverse content, subjectivity etc.

dog latin, Friday, 14 August 2009 16:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

xpost :-) cheers

dog latin, Friday, 14 August 2009 16:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

I don't buy magazines, either. At this point, I'd only buy the Wire, but it's just way too expensive, so I read it in the tsore then leave.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 16:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

bea, who are you? i've been gone too long to keep up with the namehopping.

strongohulkingtonsghost, Friday, 14 August 2009 16:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

ray cummings

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 16:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

Didn't pitch my first thing at the Voice, or at Creem many years ago, for that matter. Just sent them in. xhuxk told me he probably couldn't use it. I forgot about it. A bit later he e-mailed back and asked me to resend it but I deleted it. At the time, my e-mailer was one which didn't stash a copy of everything sent.

Anyway, stopped pitching in music for two reasons: The pitches were getting half as long to as long as the paragraph reviews. Got tired of the quid pro quo required to get review copies in a timely manner.

Gorge, Friday, 14 August 2009 16:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

"Got tired of the quid pro quo required to get review copies in a timely manner."

i actually wrote a few reviews for a mag a year or two ago, then stopped, because the editor a) wouldn't send review copies and b) wouldn't pay me.
(which is to say he just stopped writing back to me. i called and left some messages, no dice.)

which sucks because i no longer have copies of the reviews - which i was really proud of - in my email and flat out refuse to subsidize the mag by buying it.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 16:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

anyway, that's more hatorade, and i should chip in with advice, right?

here's a basic one: spell-check your copy. when you're swamped and in a hurry, it's easy to not do this. i'm guilty of it myself. but if you do it, that's less work for your editor, and your editor will appreciate it. (probably.)

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 16:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

when people were talking about pitching mags and papers i got a shiver when i thought about the only time i actually sent e-mails and letters to people (i was a baby daddy at the time and not working so i thought i would have more time to write) in order to get more work. the only magazine that got back to me was magnet. the less said about the stuff i wrote for them the better. oh, and blender contacted me and asked me to send them more stuff and i did and then i never heard from them again. (for which i am eternally grateful) anyway, i realized then and there that i could never hack it as a freelancer. and that i was much better off not worrying about and writing for fun. or occasionally writing for people i liked if they asked me. mostly ilxors! (i got my job thru the ilx!) it was hard then and now i imagine it is a LOT harder. i mean, it's hard for everyone in the print biz now. my advice - i have advice! - to anyone with a, um, burning desire to write about music is to d.i.y. as much as possible. get together with like-minded people and start your own website. put out your own books with an e-press and hawk them on the street. or whatever. use the cheap and easy tech available. if it's good stuff, maybe someone will notice. or maybe they won't. in any case, try and have fun with it. start a zine! zines are on the rise! no, really. cuz there is almost NOTHING good on newsstands these days. NOTHING. when i think of a perfect world where i could write for a cool magazine - other than the cool magazine i write for every month - i draw a blank. if mojo or the wire called me up and asked me to do something, i would. i like them. that's about it. for real. so, there IS definitely room for something cool out there if you are willing to work it.

scott seward, Friday, 14 August 2009 16:51 (4 years ago) Permalink

The tricky part is getting people to buy it. For reasons which escape me, Mojo and Classic Rock can exist in the UK. But stuff like that fails here, discounting the fact that they work as imports at urban bookstore mag racks.

Well, maybe they don't really escape me. I'd guess the audience for Mojo and Classic Rock is older and still familiar with the idea of paying for stuff. Kind of like the base for Guitar Player.

Gorge, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:11 (4 years ago) Permalink

xp Yeah, George was definitely an exception in the pitching (or even assigning) department -- He pretty much sent everything to me on Spec, and I wound up printing most everything he sent eventually. Thing is, George had an extremely good grasp of wordcounts (he sent lots of sidebar-length reviews I could use to plug in holes on pages), my sense of humor, my musical tastes, subjects other writers wouldn't be writing about and could be fairly evergreen (in other words, the records were so otherwise unnoticed that nobody else would notice if I ran the reviews five months after he sent them.) I wouldn't necessarily recommend that anybody follow his lead -- certainly not now; in fact, I have no idea where you could get away with it now, with alt-weekly editors seemingly operating under limitations I never had to deal with.

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

Scott may have sent stuff on Spec now and then too, come to think of it -- Or maybe we'd at least exchange emails about it first? Maybe he remembers.

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

it has always amazed me that those magazines exist. when i see one of those special uncut issues devoted to one band especially. the things are massive! on really nice paper! they are as handsome as books.

but when i said do it yourself, i meant the real deal of olden tymes. handmade. hand stapled. an old xerox machine! if you put out a cool rock zine you could sell it to every smelly record store on the planet. there is almost nothing to choose from these days.


scott seward, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

Actually, I had a similar experience with you, Chuck - everything I sent on spec got printed, while everything I pitched got rejected.

unperson, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

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