I’m Todd L. Burns, and welcome to Music Journalism Insider, a newsletter about music journalism. I highlight some of the best stuff I hear, read, and watch every week; publish news about the industry; and interview writers, scholars, and editors about their work. My goal is to share knowledge, celebrate great work, and expand the idea of what music journalism is—and where it happens. Questions, comments, concerns? You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re not already subscribed to the newsletter, you can do so at musicjournalisminsider.com.
Today in the newsletter: Interviews with Prince fanatic Jack Riedy; Oxford music diehard Ronan Munro; and Ghanaian freelance writer Gameli Hamelo. Plus! Lots of links to fun things to read, listen to, and more! But first…
Throughout July, I put a note in the newsletter about creating an informal program of matching mentors and mentees in the music journalism world. The response so far has been great, but I’ve gotten FAR more folks wanting a mentor than the other way around. Are you open to offering up your experience in a mentorship role to a young music journalist? Please email me with the subject line “Mentor” and a little bit about how you think you might be able to help! I’d love to pair you up with someone looking for guidance.
Jack Riedy is a freelance journalist in Chicago who has written for Pitchfork, GQ, and Chicago Reader. His most recent work, though, is the self-published book Electric Word Life: Writing on Prince 2016-2021. In this excerpt from our interview, Jack offers up one tip for a music journalist starting out right now.
Do your research. Most people know nothing about music beyond what’s on Wikipedia or a magazine cover, so your job should be not only to present the proper historical context around an artist, but to show how that history informs the present. I think a lot of people get into writing about music because they just have to let the world know their thoughts about the subject—but your opinion means just as much as a flame emoji tweet without bringing something more to the table. (And I actually saw a PR email citing a flame emoji as positive press this week.)
What’s one thing you’d like to see more of from editors, in general?
I would love to know more about editors’ schedules up front. Could be a form email, an auto-reply even. Especially early in a relationship, it would be great to know how often you’re looking for pitches, how soon is too soon to follow up on a pitch, general “office hours” where they’re open to checking email. I frequently work with an editor who is sometimes close to nocturnal, and I always appreciate when he’s clear that “tomorrow night” for him means 11pm or later.
From Jack Riedy:
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is a legal advocacy organization working to end homelessness in Chicago and the state of Illinois. They advocate for public policies to curb and end homelessness, and help those experiencing homelessness receive the maximum amount of aid possible. To preserve their independent voice, CCH does not accept government grants, so all donations make a big difference.
What music journalist is commonly believed to be the originator of the genre name “microhouse”?
Ronan Munro is the founder and editor of Nightshift, a free monthly music magazine in Oxford, England, that serves the local community with news, gig listings, and reviews. He’s been doing it for more than three decades. COVID forced the magazine to cease printing, but earlier this year, Ronan held a successful crowdfunding campaign for the magazine, which should help secure its future for some time. In this excerpt from our interview, Ronan describes the most gratifying part of his job.
Simply going to gigs. I love live music and can’t see myself ever losing my appetite for watching new bands and musicians, whatever their abilities or lack of. I listen to music constantly at home but up close and loud in a venue is something special, surpassed only by watching Wycombe Wanderers score a last-minute winner. Seeing acts I’ve championed since they were complete unknowns getting wider exposure and success is very gratifying, and I can’t deny it’s really nice when those acts remember who helped them at the start. Radiohead have never forgotten, but really, all the acts who have gone on to be big from Oxford—Foals, Glass Animals, Stornoway, etc—retain that humbleness and remember their roots. Bands with big egos or a bad attitude really don’t last long here because it’s a small city and word quickly gets around.
Gameli Hamelo is a freelance writer from Ghana who has written for GQ South Africa, Music in Africa, and Songtrust. In this excerpt from our interview, Gameli shares his favorite part of being a music journalist.
Documenting the present for the future. For whatever reason, the majority of the folks in the industry don’t see the need to do that. I feel fortunate, and believe it’s a huge responsibility to do what I do. I know for sure that in decades to come, my work would be referenced when discussing an individual or an issue. It’s happened already more than a few times in the past years. That’s what I think about every time I am working on something new, especially profiles or features. Is there some new information in there? Is there context to a popular assumption? Would the piece matter in a decade or two? Even centuries to come?
Thanks for reading! In case you’ve missed them, I’ve published a number of special features in the newsletter, including articles about music journalism history, what music journalism might be like in 2221, and much more. You can check out all of that here.
I also do a recurring column in the newsletter called Notes On Process. The premise is simple: I share a Google Doc with a music journalist where we go into depth on one of their pieces. It hopefully provides insight into how music writers do their work. You can check out all editions of Notes On Process here.
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Philip Sherburne is commonly regarded as the writer who came up with the term “microhouse,” in a piece in The Wire.
Thanks for reading! Full disclosure: My day job is at uDiscover Music, a branded content online magazine owned by Universal Music. This newsletter is not affiliated or sponsored in any way by Universal, and any links that relate to the work of my department will be clearly marked. Feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter, it’s @JournalismMusic. Until next time…