I started this blog in 2009, a month before I left on an epic metal journey across Europe and the Middle East. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it, except that I wanted to write about things I enjoyed. Now, four years on, I’ve published over 500 articles, a lot of them about metal music. Occasionally I have been accused of journalism.
I’ve always maintained that writing about music is a talent, one of which I believe others possess in much great quantities than I do. This is why I shied away from writing review for so long. But like any good skill, writing about music and the people who make it is something that will improve with practice, and through careful study of masters.
Leticia Supple is one such master.
Sure, she might find the label embarrassing, but I’ve read her work for years, and she has an ability to distill the essence of sound into words, to articulate just what draws her in to a piece, and to identify the flaws in a piece that doesn’t quite work. Her music writing is addictive, personal without wallowing in introspection, reporting the facts while calling attention to the
So, in the interests of honing my craft and all that, I somehow found the time in between building a house, sussing out a new job, selling socks galore and finishing seven million freelance assignments, to read Music Journalism 101 cover to cover. Granted, it’s been on sale for awhile, so I didn’t quite get that “launch week review” out I was hoping for. Hope Leticia forgives me :)
Leticia opens in an unexpected – and yet most sensible – place; a discussion of ethnography, and why understanding ethnography is important for criticism. Leticia explains that ethnography is about awareness and reflection – continually reflecting on what you are doing, and why. She balances her discourse with practical action steps – tips for the aspiring music journo to get the work done. She lists, and discusses the properties of, what you should be aware of and be thinking about when reviewing a show or an album, and shows the reader the elements of a good critique.
The critique chapter was one of my favorites. “No amount of education will teach you how to limit yourself,” says the author, who urges critics to practice their craft through gig reviews, press releases, reviews, and other articles, but to also be aware of what limits you – to read the words of great critics and to understand what makes them great.
My other favorite chapter was that on reviewing releases, which I know personally is one of my weak points. As a fellow “non-metal-geek”, Leticia’s tips about not relying on one-sheets for info on a band’s history and not admitting that you’re completely clueless about a band’s discography definitely tread in familiar territory. She carefully and thoroughly describes methods for discerning and describing sound in an album, which is an area of weakness for many aspiring music journos. Leticia’s list of simple tips has renewed my spirit for reviewing albums (and I’m writing one in my head for the latest Rotting Christ album right now). The book is worth the list price for this chapter alone.
Other chapters deal with in-person, phone and email review tips (including how to deal with nerves, and writing interview questions – wish I’d read this before interviewing Nightwish!), writing feature articles, and even a chapter about managing your workload. The quick reference guide at the back could be printed and taped beside the computer for easy reference.
There are very few – if any – books on the market about music journalism, and how to do it well. Music Journalism 101 is an essential read not just for aspiring music critics, but for hobby bloggers like me and, in fact, anyone who is interested in improving both their writing and their experience of music.
If you want your own copy, you can buy Music Journalism 101 on Amazon. The Kindle edition is $3.50 – so it’s not going to break the bank. And while you’re at it you should check out Leticia’s blog, Biodagar. If you’ve ever entertained the idea of writing about music, then you’ll find Music Journalism 101 an invaluable resource.