Hey guys, Nialler was kind enough to mail over an edited version of his incisive notes from last night. Here they are:
Dancing About Architecture
Niall Byrne (Nialler9.com)
Why start a blog?
For a journalist, it increases visibility. The majority of the journalists and writers I look out for have a blog and write original features there. No limits or constraints.
So how can blogging help you to write?
• Help you get the basics right.
• Help formulate a style.
• Help you to write clearly and concisely.
• Helps you get web-savvy and understand how Content Management Systems (CMS like WordPress) work. Get really familiar with HTML language & ready for the print apocalypse.
• Helps you understand how the music industry generally works – emails / PR / promo copies / news / release schedules
• Allows you the freedom to write about anything.
• Don’t forget that blogging can me a means to an end itself too. Advertising on blogs can help pay rent as well as hosting costs if traffic is high enough.
Starting a blog
• Use WordPress – It’s designed with search engine optimisation in mind. (explain difference between wordpress.com & self-hosting)
• If you’re really serious and want to stand out – buy your own domain.
• Use a customised design. Make it unique.
• Interact with other bloggers / leave comments.
• Link to other blogs.
• Credit your sources.
• Write something original every day.
• Read other media: books – Da Capo Best Music Writing.
• Have an about page with a pic – personalise yourself.
• Think before you rant.
• Tag your posts so search engines and aggregators
• Promote through Facebook, Twitter etc – these are consistently two of my biggest traffic sources these days.
• Utilise social buttons – Facebook like buttons etc.
• Offer prominent RSS subscription.
• Apologise for lack of posting.
• Post for traffic.
• Post Mp3s just so you can get hits from The Hype Machine and Elbo.ws (if you’re listed).
• Be negative
• If you have to be negative be wary that negativity breeds negativity. Construct a sound argument.
What makes a good music blog
• So many blogs – so little time.
• Exploit a niche. Become known for that niche.
• Write with an original and unique voice.
• Readers recognise similarities with their own taste and will revisit accordingly.
• Write about bands (who you believe are generally great) that only few others are writing about as much as you can.
• For MP3s – Don’t repost songs from Pitchfork and other blogs too often. It happens but be wary of it as nearly everyone is feeding off the same PR drips.
• Write about local music. Become an expert.
• Start original and regular features.
• Offer something unique – whether that’s a poetic style like Said The Gramophone.
• Incorporate criticism and provide context in pieces and features.
• Help your reader understand the music world better. (applicable to bloggers and journalists alike)
• – Try podcasting (IMRO / copyright / explicit) – very simple to do. Cheap dictaphone, free open source software.
• Learn how to use Photoshop to make your blog images look good.
It doesn’t have to just be a blog.
100Times Yes by journalist Chris Weingarten (140 character record reviews)
Now selling as a 12″ deep wooden box with 1,000 hand-typed 3 x 5 index cards.
@Discographies A definitive guide to an artist’s body of work (studio albums only) in 140 characters.
Muse: 1-5 “As a soundwave travels rapidly from Radiohead through Rush and towards Queen, its perceived tone becomes excruciatingly painful.”
Six-Word Reviews of 1,302 SXSW Mp3s (Paul Ford)
Metal • San Francisco, CA Ommniscient
Might inspire a good school shooting.
Blogs are great but what about writing?
• To truly improve, you need feedback on your writing.
• Write for an online music magazine – while you might not be paid, the experience and feedback is invaluable.
• Pitch articles, ideas and features regularly.
• Ask for feedback.
The difference between a blogger and a critic
A journalism course may teach you how to write but not necessarily how to write about music. So devour music as much as you can. You’re probably doing this anyway.
Music bloggers generally only talk about music they like.
Music bloggers favour enthusiasm and sharing over authority.
Music bloggers curate. Critics contextualise. But both are invaluable skills.
The State Of Music Journalism & The Fallacy Of The Cost Of Free (Posted by Davy Minor)
“In the past, journalists could get away with praising whatever random, obscure thing they wanted and readers didn’t have the resources to call their bluff, or many other alternatives. But now that there are so many media choices, and previewing records is easy for anyone, journalists can no longer hide behind their title. They have to stand purely on the merits of their words, and that’s where they are losing.”
The ability to provide insight can be the best tool a music journalist has.
Print journalists are largely lucky that there is no empirical evidence telling them how many people read their feature. It’s a stab in the dark unless you get reader feedback.
Online media outlets know exactly how many people read each article.
Writing as a journalist vs. A blogger.
The most common mistakes young music writers make
• If you’re doing a live review, this should be an opinionated and critical analysis of the performance, rather than just a retelling of what happened on the night.
• Avoiding platitudes: phrases which mean nothing – “a good night had by all”, “a cracking good album”, “worth a listen”. You’d be surprised how many submitted reviews are just written on clichéd autopilot. Every sentence should make sense and not just fill a word count.
• If you don’t like a band or a genre, you should be still able to articulate their or its appeal.
• Don’t swallow the dictionary. When I started for State, in the first month or so – I used a few words in my features that I blatantly looked up in a dictionary. Don’t be verbose for the sake of it if it’s not natural to you.
• If review – structure it – intro / argument / argument 2, counter-argument / conclusion.
• Avoid words that don’t really mean or describe very much in regards to music music, such as good, bad, great, super, excellent, lovely, awful, best etc.
• “Music bloggers favour enthusiasm and sharing over authority.” Learn to write as a critic with authority AND enthusiasm.
• Don’t just passively email pitch, use the phone if you have a number.
Expand your repertoire. Diversify. Radio / Presenter.
The future of music journalism is no longer just writing. Especially if you are planning on making a living off it.
Wikipedia: History of MP3 blog – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MP3_blog
Drowned in Sound: Music Journalism R.I.P? – http://drownedinsound.com/lists/ismusicjournalismdead
@1000TimesYes by Chris Weingarten (140 character record reviews)
@Discographies – A definitive guide to an artist’s body of work (studio albums only) in 140 characters.
Six-Word Reviews of 1,302 SXSW Mp3s (Paul Ford)
Said The Gramophone
The State Of Music Journalism & The Fallacy Of The Cost Of Free (Davy Minor)
Into the Great Unknown: Music Journalism in the Post Print Era (Daniel May)
What’s the Write Word?
Over 100 music scribes are confronted with this not-so-simple question: “If an eager young writer cornered you and asked ‘What’s the best advice you could give me?’ what would you have to say?” Today we offer up part one, Charles Aaron to Dave DiMartino.
Thesis: The Future of Professional Music Journalism in Ireland by Steven O’ Rourke (available on request)