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Music Journalist Job Description, Career as a Music Journalist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Bachelor’s degree

Average Salary $43,000 a year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Music journalists are writers and reporters that focus their research on the music industry. Many are freelance writers that make money by writing reviews on albums and concerts for music publications or record labels, or write about shows and performances. Most of their information is opinion material, as music journalists are typically well educated in the music industry and therefore can give unbiased opinions and information on new artists or releases. Some will interview new artists or write essays on the music industry and business as a whole. Many music journalists write for music magazines or websites, and some run their own personal publication that focuses on music reviews or other industry related information that caters to music enthusiasts.

Education and Training Requirements

Most music journalists have a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, marketing or other related fields. For someone who wants to write about music, it is best that they take music classes for a minor or concentration.

Most music journalists get experience in the field by working as an intern or apprentice for a local publication or record company. They will spend most of their college years interning for various publications and taking writing opportunities anywhere they can find them. Most music journalists work for free to build a portfolio and eventually land a job with a paying company. Others can find regular work freelancing for several different outlets.

Getting the Job

To become a successful music journalist, the person will have to be well educated on various aspects of the music industry and have solid writing and reporting skills. Journalism college courses teach practices in editorial writing, reporting and interviewing skills. Students practice these skills by interning for various outlets and working along with reporters and writers.

Many music journalists obtain a good reputation in the industry by getting to know record producers and bands that will keep them up to date on album releases, upcoming shows and new information they’d like to have written about. Someone with these connections will have a much easier time landing a fun and successful job as a music journalist.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Most music journalists start off writing for a local publication about local bands and performances. Over time, they can advance by writing for bigger publications on a national level. Some journalists become known by several establishments or publications, and write on a per project basis as a freelance writer. Some music journalists can make enough money writing for various companies that they can make a profession out of becoming a freelance writer.

Music journalist jobs are on the rise, and more and more people are finding themselves able to make a substantial living off writing about the music industry. Instead of magazines and newspaper publications, many journalists are finding more secure work writing for online publications. Some even start their own websites or blogs where they will write reviews, announcements and news about the music industry in their own form of publication. Journalists who go this route also have a simple way to show potential clients their portfolio if all their work is displayed on one website.

Another important factor to consider for music journalism is that writing reviews can come with a price. Musicians or publications may want reviews done, but there may be times when a journalist listens to an album and simply has nothing nice to say. An honest journalist who gives reviews whether they are good or bad is usually what most publications want, but if a journalist has a reputation of writing bad reviews, they may be frowned upon and bands may hesitate to let them write a review on their music.

Working Conditions and Environment

Music journalists spend most of their time writing up stories in front of a computer. When they’re not writing, they are out in the field attending shows and interviewing bands. One of the best parts of being a music journalist is the ability to attend concerts and meet members of prestigious bands from all around the world.

Working as a music journalist is not always a fun or pleasant environment filled with meeting cool people and attending concerts. Some journalists will be required to attend an event and even get a press pass, but still have issues with security and not be allowed backstage to interview the band. Journalists have to be able to negotiate with the right people in order to speak with whoever they need.

Music journalists may also have to deal with unpleasant musicians or other people in the industry. Some may be hesitant to do interviews and take it out on the journalists. Others may simply decline regardless of the fact that the journalists’ editor is demanding a story. There is a lot of persuasion that is necessary to move up in the field, and in order to get past the barrier between musicians and the media, a journalist will need to develop and maintain a professional and trustworthy reputation.

Salary and Benefits

The average starting salary for a music journalist is about $43,000 per year. Salaries are variable, as some journalists will work freelance, thus depending on the number of jobs available in a year and how much they pay. Once a journalist is experienced and writing for large publications on a national basis, their salary can increase up to about $80,000 a year. The salary for journalists all depends on how well they are known throughout the industry, as well as who is willing to pay for their work.

Music journalists who work for one specific publication often receive medical and vacation benefits along with their salary. Journalists who work as freelance writers often work contractually for several publications, and are technically self-employed, or not a full time employee to one specific company. Freelancers often do not receive medical insurance or vacation time from an employer, and will have to purchase their own insurance as well as work their schedule around vacation plans and sick days.

Where to Go for More Information

Project for Excellence in Journalism
1615 L Street NW 700
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 419-3650

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts