How to get a job as a music journalist – by Al Horner

27 09 2011

I landed a role as a music journalist after a whirlwind ten weeks at Brighton Journalist Works. Though the course was more orientated towards news reporting – real journalism, story-hunting, local reportage on important issues – I learned everything I needed to know about dedication, hard work, interview skills and more in those ten weeks.

I got offered a position at Q Magazine after doing a couple of weeks on work experience placement there. I now spend my days bleating on about bands, putting questions to pop stars and making endless cups of coffee. BJW asked me  if I had any advice to pass on to prospective students, so here’s a few pointers, albeit from someone on the very bottom rung of the ladder.

Take a leap of faith

I was working in a Blockbuster video store at the beginning of the year – not a bad occupation by any means, but there is only so many times you can shoo errant children away from the pick ‘n’ mix stand before wanting to sellotape together a makeshift weapon out of Nicolas Cage DVDs. I decided to give journalism a go, writing stories in newspapers instead of potentially appearing in them (“DVD STORE EMPLOYEE CLOBBERS SWEET-TOOTHED CHILD”).

My point is, I really wasn’t sure about doing the Journalist Works course initially. Three months is a long time to commit to a course, and it’s a lot of money to spend on something that you might end up deciding isn’t for you. But if you have a serious interest in writing, reporting or if you’re a grammar pedant, give it a go. You won’t regret it.

Get writing

“You learn by doing” and “you only get out what you put in” are the sort of clichés that news writing tutor Louisa Hannah would balk at if you put them in an article, but they ring true. Get involved with local magazines, hound the Argus news desk with stories, start blogging, get going. I wrote for several music websites unpaid just to hone my writing style, and continue to write for them now, just for fun.

Twitter is also great, not only for updating the world on what you put on your toast that morning. So much in news and feature writing is about being succinct and to the point, so if you tend to rattle on like I do, getting into the habit of conveying a point in 140 characters is oddly beneficial – even if it is only about toast.

Sharpen your coffee-making prowess

On work experience, you can be a budding Jon Ronson, the next Caitlin Moran or even George Orwell reincarnate – it doesn’t matter, you’re still going to end up on tea and coffee-making duties. It’s actually a really good way of meeting people and getting your face about the office. You’ll see fellow journalists in the kitchen, you’ll get chatting and maybe they will remember you when it comes to freelance commissions and work opportunities.

If any future BJW students end up in Q on work experience and, you know, if you’re offering, I take mine with milk and two sugars, thanks… just kidding. Seriously though, don’t dismiss the persuasive power of a half-decent Americano.


From blogging…to Twittering…to experience

21 09 2011

How a taster day at Brighton Journalist Works led to my dream job 

by Becky Barnes

The power of the internet and social networking never cease to amaze me, and certainly have not failed me at the start of my journalistic journey.  Following six months of post-uni travels, I returned to the UK four months ago, seeking a career in journalism.  While I trawled the internet for potential ways into the industry, I thought it wise to start  a blog.

My first post was a little bit unsure.  What should I write about?  Would people really want to read about me and my opinions?  I decided to name the post ‘Rediscovery Channel’ saying I would chart my rediscovery of popular culture after my time away from it in rural India.

If I was to take this blog seriously, I would need to go to events I thought would interest people, so I decided to buy a ticket to The Great Escape Festival in Brighton as I was going to a taster day at Brighton Journalist Works at the same time.  BJW had caught my eye firstly because it was in Brighton, but mostly because it seemed that the course could fast-track me to where I wanted to be.  I spent the evenings at the Festival and a day at BJW.  The day was interesting and interactive and I signed on the line straight away (for the test that is!)

At the same time, I reviewed The Great Escape.  I submitted my review to a website and got into an e-mail conversation with one of the people that ran it.  This conversation led to a summer of free tickets in return for festival reviews, and of course invaluable writing experience.

So, there I was; blogging and waiting to start my journalism course.  As the course approached, a flood of helpful e-mails from BJW prompted me to get on Twitter.  I had used it before when I was a Marketing Assistant for an arts festival but not for personal use.  Wondering where to start, I started following lots of Brighton people and gig venues, as well as newspapers and journalists.

It was a good move to write ‘Writes festival and gig reviews’ in my description, as I got contacted by a Brighton gig review website after tweeting about music and gigs.  Never underestimate the power of mentioning people in tweets – it’s a great way of networking, and gaining followers.  I now have a string of dates in the diary of gigs I am reviewing, which will be more writing experience.

It helped me to mention I was about to start an NCTJ Diploma, so anyone waiting to start their course at BJW, get writing.  Get on Twitter and follow people in your field of interest.  You never know where it might lead.

Blog: Twitter: @beckybarnesb