What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles:
Music Writer, Music Reporter, Contributor, Staff Writer
Career Overview: A Music Blogger writes breaking music news stories to be posted on an online music blog.
Average Annual Salary: $24,000
General Salary Range: $23,000 to $66,000
Become a Music Blogger
Music Blogger and Assistant Editor of SPIN.com Brennan Carley says, “My primary duty is news, so my day basically consists of trying to break stories as quickly and carefully as I can. I often pepper in other things like review writing, second-day angles, profiles, interviews, and the like. As an Assistant Editor, I also have to do a good amount of administrative work, including maintaining our freelancer database, invoicing, budgeting, socializing posts, and more.”
Unlike some Music Bloggers who work from home, Carley works from the SPIN offices in New York. Of his work environment, he says, “I work with a team of six, including myself. I spend most of the day reporting to SPIN‘s Senior Editor, and a good chunk of the day also involves me emailing with Publicists.” Music Bloggers often also work with Music Photographers and Music Critics; sometimes the duties of Bloggers and Critics overlap.
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Many Music Bloggers start out as volunteer or freelance writers. Getting hired full-time marks a big step in advancement, as does getting an increase in salary or working for a more prestigious blog. They can also move up in the ranks at the blog by which they’re employed. For example, depending on the titles used and the size of the blog, a Blogger could become a Senior Music Blogger, Assistant Editor, Managing Editor, Editor-in-Chief, and so on. Carley says, “Since I’m technically an Editor, I’m a full-time staffer and have the opportunity to move up the ranks as I get more experience.”
Education & Training
A command of the fundamentals of grammar, spelling, and journalistic ethics are essential for a Music Blogger. The majority of paid Music Bloggers studied writing in college, with popular majors including English, Communications, and Journalism. Carley says, “I went to journalism school at Columbia immediately after undergrad. I’d say it depends on the person: I knew I needed a year of reporting practice before I jumped into the real world, as I hadn’t had the opportunity to do as much reporting as I’d liked in college. Columbia helped me sharpen the skills I already had.”
Experience & Skills
Music Bloggers must have solid writing skills, the ability to meet deadlines, and a familiarity with how the blogging world responds to the twenty-four-hour news cycle. So how does an aspiring Music Blogger get the necessary experience to start applying for jobs? Carley recommends, “Internships, internships, internships. I started interning right after my freshman year of college, at a local radio station. The following year I worked at a publishing house in New York City, as I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my writing skills. Then I interned for Billboard, Boston Magazine, and Gothamist.com, which all allowed me to fine-tune my writing, work with Editors who taught me what I needed to know, and gave me the real world experience to make it all happen.”
“You have to be somebody with the skills to report quickly, efficiently, correctly, and interestingly,” Carley says. “News can be boring without the right touch. You have to be opinionated in a clever way, but not biased. Speed is important — every site is going to be running the exact same story at the exact same time — but you have to get it right.”
The lifestyle of a Music Blogger depends, once again, on whether they’re freelance or on staff. A freelancer might work out of his or her home office, interacting with Editors and other Writers mostly via email. Since Carley is on staff, his work situation is different. He says, “I’m in the SPIN offices five days a week, but my work continues out of the office at concerts, which I go to a few times a week, and whenever important news breaks. It may be late at night, and I may be tired, but when Drake drops a surprise mixtape, you’d better believe I’m the one up and writing it.”
To land a first job as a Music Blogger, you must be active online. Start your own music blog so you have a convenient link to your work, search for openings online, and pitch story ideas to Editors. “I’d say [the way to get a job is] by interning and pitching. Even if your stories don’t get accepted, you start to build up a network of people who know your name. Stay active on Twitter too: I connected with the former SPIN Editor-in-Chief on Twitter before I had a job here,” Carley says.
How Music Bloggers earn income varies based on whether they’re members of a salaried full-time staff or freelancers who earn a fixed dollar amount per article. Many Bloggers have another job to supplement their income, which can be low, especially when just starting out. However, others who work for well-known blogs make a very comfortable living.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
For online resources, Carley says, “there are countless music blogger groups on Facebook where people share contacts, ideas, and support.” He recommends, “If you’re looking to break into the industry, Ed2010 is great for job/freelance postings, as is JournalismJobs.com. If you know exactly what kind of blogging you’d like to be doing, hit up the pages of specific sites to see who regularly writes for them as a way in.”
- “Write all the time. Even if it’s not going anywhere but your personal blog, it looks really good to have a list of clips out there to prove that you’re relevant, you understand what’s happening in music right now, and that you can work hard,” Carley says.
- Make a list of blogs for which you’d like to write. Check to see if they’re hiring. Pitch your story ideas to the Editor.
- Network with other Writers online and in person.
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Go to concerts. Email Publicists. Email Editors. Keep your ear to the ground and try to break stories before the mainstream gets them. If you have an angle nobody else is taking, that’s unique enough to get people interested in your stories.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“When I first started out, I think I took rejection a bit too personally. Until you’re in the game, it’s hard to understand exactly how inundated Editors and Writers are with emails from freelancers, Publicists, and more. If you don’t hear an answer back, follow-up a week later. If you get a no, ask what kind of pitches they’re looking for. Stay positive and work your way in however you can.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“People should be asking what blogging hours look like, and the answer, boringly, is that it changes all the time!”
What is one thing I should have asked which I didn’t?
“How much sleep a Music Blogger gets! (The answer depends on whenever Artists decide to surprise release their albums, basically).”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Extra Credit: The Beatles or Rolling Stones?
“Oh man…Rolling Stones. I’m seeing them for the first time ever in Pittsburgh this summer!”
Brennan Carley is a Music Blogger and Assistant Editor of SPIN Magazine. He has previously interned and written for New York Magazine (Grub Street and Vulture), Gothamist, Boston Magazine, and Billboard Magazine.