Education and Training Requirements
High school courses that will provide you with a firm foundation for a music reporting career include English, journalism, music history, band, communications, typing, and computer science. Speech courses will help you hone your interviewing skills, which are necessary for success as a journalist. In addition, it will be helpful to take college prep courses, such as foreign language, history, math, and science.
Most newspapers, magazines, and other employers of music journalists want reporters with at least a bachelor's degree, and a graduate degree will give you an advantage when applying for positions.
Many music writers have backgrounds in general journalism. More than 1,500 institutions offer programs in journalism, communications, and related programs. For journalism programs, approximately three-fourths of a student's time is devoted to a liberal arts education and one-fourth to the professional study of journalism, with required courses such as introductory mass media, basic reporting and copy editing, history of journalism, and press law and ethics. Students are encouraged to select other journalism courses according to their specific interests (in this case, music classes).
Other music journalists get their educational background in music. They may major in music theory, criticism, or performance and develop their writing skills by minoring in journalism or simply through reporting experience.
In addition to formal course work, most employers look for practical writing experience. If you have worked on high school or college newspapers, yearbooks, or literary magazines, you will make a better candidate, as well as if you have worked for small community newspapers or radio stations, even in unpaid positions. Many book publishers, magazines, newspapers, and radio and television stations have summer internship programs that provide valuable training if you want to learn about the publishing and broadcasting businesses. Interns do many simple tasks, such as running errands and answering phones, but some may be asked to perform research, conduct interviews, or even write some minor pieces.
Other Education or Training
A variety of webinars, conference seminars, and other continuing education opportunities are offered by professional organizations such as the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Jazz Journalists Association, MPA-The Association of Magazine Media, National Association for Music Education, Poynter Institute, and the Society of Professional Journalists. Topics include editing, writing, interviewing, social media, and technology. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There are no certification or licensing requirements for music journalists.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Any experience working or volunteering as a writer or editor will be useful for aspiring music journalists.
In order to succeed as a music journalist, it is crucial that you have typing and computer skills to write stories under tight deadlines. Although not essential, knowledge of shorthand or speedwriting makes note taking easier, and an acquaintance with photography is an asset. Many music journalists also write for Web publications, so knowledge of researching and writing for the Internet is beneficial. Experience with social media platforms, such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, among others, is also important in this field. Many musicians use these and other platforms to promote their work and connect with people.
Music journalists must also be inquisitive, aggressive, persistent, and detail-oriented. You should enjoy interaction with people of various races, cultures, religions, economic levels, and social statuses. For some jobs—on a newspaper, for example, where the activity is hectic and deadlines are short—the ability to concentrate and produce under pressure is essential.
Music criticism is a highly specialized field, one that blends music knowledge and expressive writing skills. The glamour of attending concerts and meeting musicians is an undeniable benefit. However, the journalist's job also includes possible stress and irregular hours. To succeed as a journalist, you have to have passion about the subject in which you write. You should be able to appreciate (if not like) all forms of music and have in-depth knowledge of the evolution of music trends, scenes, and sounds to place artists in their historical context.