Music journalists write for newspapers, magazines, wire services, and radio and television broadcasts. They may write for general news periodicals that have entertainment sections; for specialty music magazines, such as Rolling Stone or Spin; or for music Web sites such as Pitchfork.com. Some work as staff writers, but many are freelancers and write for several publications.
A fair amount of experience is required before you can call yourself a music journalist. Most people start out in entry-level positions, such as junior writer, copy editor, or researcher. These jobs may be listed with college career services offices or they can be obtained by applying directly to individual publishers or broadcasting companies. Graduates who previously held internships at newspapers, radio stations, or related employers often have the advantage of knowing someone who can give them a personal recommendation and leads on jobs. Want ads in newspapers, trade journals, and on the Internet are another source for jobs. Because of the competition for staff writer positions, however, few vacancies are listed with public or private employment agencies.
Once you schedule an interview, the employer will want to see samples of your published writing. These should be assembled in an organized portfolio. Bylined or signed articles are more credible (and, as a result, more useful) than stories from unidentified sources.
Music journalists can advance in many ways. As they gain recognition and respect as music experts, they may be assigned to cover more highly anticipated concerts or music releases. They can also advance by working for larger newspapers, magazines, or other media outlets. They may choose to move into other reporting jobs, such as general entertainment reporter or editorial writer. Music journalists can also move into higher paying jobs such as head entertainment editor or even editor in chief of a music publication.
Freelance or self-employed writers earn advancement in the form of larger fees as they gain exposure and establish their reputations as music critics and writers.
Tips for Entry
Write as often as you can and create a portfolio of your work to show potential employers.
Apply for entry-level jobs at music magazines and Web sites in order to gain experience in the field.
Join the staff of your school or local newspaper and pitch music-related topics for articles.