Rolling Music Writers' Thread

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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.

xhuxk-post

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

Maybe Dave Queen sent stuff on Spec, too? But those guys are weirdos. (And George, especially, is a really fast writer; he can churn stuff out in his sleep.)

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

One thing related to Beatrix's posts: Use Google Docs. that's what we use at XLR8R, and it works like a charm-- not only can you share with editors easily, you can also go back to previous drafts of things to do comparisons, etc. i've been using the Docs system since it was in beta, i guess, and it has saved my ass numerous times.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:17 (4 years ago) Permalink

I think I'll download that program, table! Was just reading about it in Chris Anderson's new book, had never known it existed.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:18 (4 years ago) Permalink

also, i am gonna rep for xlr8r here and say that it does a better job that 95% of the music magazines that i read.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

you don't download it! you just use it on the web-- easy uploads, too, so you can write something sans internet and then just zip it on up when yr connect is together.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:20 (4 years ago) Permalink

He pretty much sent everything to me on Spec, and I wound up printing most everything he sent eventually

Very true, but everything else I wrote for the mag -- and in toto I wrote for every section except movie reviews, including a cover piece -- I pitched. And that was quite a lot.

Gorge, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:21 (4 years ago) Permalink

The other good thing was being able to invoice the Voice for the CDs if they weren't review copies. Which took the publicists and the quid pro quo arrangement right out of the loop, very good things.

Gorge, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:22 (4 years ago) Permalink

the first one or two things I wrote the voice were done on spec, but that was seven years ago and i dunno how many places are looking for reviews that aren't mega timely now

da croupier, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

the demise of pop music criticism reflects the general decline of print media overall and as Gorge says the disinclination to "pay for stuff" w/r/t music

not just downloading and filesharing but streaming leaks and previews -- all the ways legal and ill that people can access music now has radically changed the role of critic as gatekeeper and tastemaker. getting an advance copy of a new release no longer gives writers a leg-up on consumers. and in the internet age I think music aficionados actually read MORE about music but they do so from a variety of sources rather than one trusted outlet like a magazine or alt weekly or authoritative critic. pardon the cliche but the playing field has been leveled. and over-run with people publishing their own opionions theories rants and discourse on blogs messageboards online publications what have you. scott is right: at this point you have take in your own hands and DIY. figure out something people want to read about and give it to them. the money will come eventually, maybe. better that then making a million compromises and getting your copy shred to ribbons and then getting stiffed just so you can say you're published. it's meaningless.

m coleman, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:26 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah if I was a young person determined to make a concerted effort to "break into" what's left of rockcrit, I'd just blog a lot, interact with other blogs/forums and send out specs that, if rejected, could easily be worked into my DIY stuff. that infamous ying yang twins piece i did for the voice was originally going to be a blog post until i decided to throw it chuck's way just in case.

da croupier, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

xp Yeah, as Anthony says, the timeliness factor ("pegging" everything to release dates, or maybe local shows in the case of alt-weeklies -- in a bogus attempt to be "newsworthy" when really it usually just means kissing music biz butt) is something else I didn't have to worry about much at the Voice.

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:39 (4 years ago) Permalink

"Music Biz" in this case meaning "record labels who want publicity on the day a record is released" and "local clubs who advertise in your paper."

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:41 (4 years ago) Permalink

I'm kinda amazed that the sinking-ship record companies would have that kind of clout anymore; you'd think publications would be freed up to run reviews when they want.

fifteen years ago in my nightmare final few months at R0lling $t0ne I nearly got fired for suggesting reviews not be tied to release dates and daring to run a review of a three-month-old album that had belatedly surfaced near the top of the charts.

m coleman, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:49 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think i've just convinced myself to put out a zine. anyone want to write for it? for free? i'll put out a hundred copies. or more, if needed. i know a cool guy at forced exposure. maybe they can sell it. the aquarius guy is really nice too. maybe he could sell it too. i need a new fun project. um, aside from the new fun record store that i just opened.

scott seward, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:57 (4 years ago) Permalink

scott, i'll write for your zine if you promise to send me a copy.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:58 (4 years ago) Permalink

seriously!

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:58 (4 years ago) Permalink

xpWell, for years (in pre-Entertainment Weekly days, so through the end of the '80s at least) running reviews of albums weeks after their release was more common than not -- especially if, say, the album was ignored on release and now had a couple hit singles. Some albums have to be lived with a while to sink in. Nobody thought twice about doing it then, because it was the sane way to do things. And I'm guessing that, now, it's not so much that the companies have clout as that the practice became commonplace when they did have clout, so suddenly editors (and their bosses) started worrying about being "scooped" if everybody else reviewed an album first, and nobody wants to go against the grain, especially since lots of editors haven't been around long enough to remember when it was any other way. (As if reviewing an album first has anything to do with scooping; as if reviews are even "news.")

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:59 (4 years ago) Permalink

scott, if you do do that, i would be happy to cover some weirdo new music/electronic stuff.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Friday, 14 August 2009 18:18 (4 years ago) Permalink

this thread kinda makes me want to do some music writing, y'alls professional woes sound kinda fun

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Friday, 14 August 2009 18:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

eating ramen noodles is not fun

Whiney G. Weingarten, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:11 (4 years ago) Permalink

what about tweeting about ramen noodles?

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

"eating ramen noodles is not fun"
even though you probably don't literally mean that, them's fightin words!

Philip Nunez, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

xpost to some dude

I set you up for a subway gag and you bring that? ^^^

Whiney G. Weingarten, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

if i'm gonna bring it i'm not gonna bring subway gags

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

hey i keep my ass in cheesesteaks well enough.

strongohulkingtonsghost, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:22 (4 years ago) Permalink

...

strongohulkingtonsghost, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

I Love Style is over here

it's like i have a couple worked up vadges under my arms (HI DERE), Friday, 14 August 2009 19:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

I'm guessing that, now, it's not so much that the companies have clout as that the practice became commonplace when they did have clout, so suddenly editors (and their bosses) started worrying about being "scooped" if everybody else reviewed an album first, and nobody wants to go against the grain, especially since lots of editors haven't been around long enough to remember when it was any other way. (As if reviewing an album first has anything to do with scooping; as if reviews are even "news.")

the result, invariably: a whole lot of reviews that have the exact same sets of impressions that anyone would have from a few early listens. (my own writing certainly included.)

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:26 (4 years ago) Permalink

Aww, I can't believe I missed conversation about the odd overconstructions that sometimes have to go into the journalistic "there is no I" POV thing -- for whatever reason I find it charming when a piece says "at 4pm a reporter arrived at his house" and we all know pretty precisely who that reporter is. (And I actually do find it profitable, to be honest, because the introduction of an "I" into an article really is a major thing that brings forth expectations; there's an actual benefit to avoiding it that's not just rule-based. If Kelefa says "I arrived at Savage's place" you are more immediately led into the frame of thinking okay, what did you, Kelefa, think of him, which is not the article you're reading.)

nabisco, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:27 (4 years ago) Permalink

Totally Different Subject xpost - the opposite problem = late-breaking reviews that seem to mostly be responding to the conventional wisdom / response of earlier reviews and public reception

nabisco, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

i use I in my record reviews all the time, it is I who is listening, right. fuck the reader.

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

is that a problem, per se, nabisco? to me it seems like the same thing as the first-person thing: good writing is good writing no matter what pov it takes.

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

i use I in my record reviews all the time, it is I who is listening, right. fuck the reader.

classy

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

thx. (i don't get paid for it either) ;)

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

I kept trying to read that sentence like Ludo is in full on "I and I" rasta speak

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:33 (4 years ago) Permalink

lol.

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:34 (4 years ago) Permalink

haha I think understand what ludo means though; my worst writing usually comes when I try to "put myself in a fan's shoes" or something like that.

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:34 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think that in the post internet age, ppl probably read more reviews for things they have heard, and really want longer expanded bloggy reviews that help parse a record or pinpoint what it is they like about it. I mean, I enjoy reading a review that just gets something 'right' for that flash of recognition, but if i read a review as a buyer guide, I'm just skimming for words that will pull me in and once i've seen enough i'll myspace/youtube/rar depending on my interest and if I like it buy it.

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Friday, 14 August 2009 19:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

that's true...in the 90s i would devour these big review sections full of albums i still have not to this day heard, now i tend not to read reviews of anything i'm not either already listening to or planning to get.

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:37 (4 years ago) Permalink

maybe a good writer can avoid using "I" and still write personal reviews, but often those fake objectivie reviews lead to newspaper men praising a hiphop/world music/techno record while you can easily read between the lines that they don't even like the genre.

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:37 (4 years ago) Permalink


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