Employment in the Music Industry: Job Profile of Music Editor
There is always much interest in employment in the music industry. There are far more talented musicians than really solid musical performance opportunities. Too many talented musicians find themselves in the “starving artist” category, more or less. Key to avoiding this trap for many musicians is finding music-related work that is both satisfying and more steady than picking up gigs here and there.
This description of one such music-related niche, as an example of non-performing employment in the music industry, is in the words of a music editor.
I am an Associate Editor for a music news and reviews website. I have four years of experience working at this position. My primary responsibility is to write reviews on new albums and singles, but I also edit news pieces and sometimes reviews from various other content writers who submit reviews.
Critical Listening is A Key Part of a Music Editor’s Job
I think a big misconception about music reviewers is that they are always negative or cynical and are music snobs. The truth is that we simply go into listening to music with a critical ear. It’s something that can be turned off and on.
I listen to a lot of music casually, but when I’m ready to write a review, I really listen to and dissect every part of the song. Things that would not normally annoy me in a casual setting often get negative comments in a review.
People don’t like to hear negative things about their favorite artists, but music reviewers are not usually paid to gush about everything that crosses their desk. I write what I hear and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way.
Music Editor’s Job Satisfaction; Career Interest Is More Writing Than Employment in the Music Industry
I would rate my overall satisfaction with this position at a 7. The website I work for covers an obscure genre of music and as such, going to live shows is not part of the job description. I rarely cover concerts, but I would love to do that on a regular basis.
I enjoy trying to bring what we cover to more people, but it feels like an uphill battle a lot of the time. I do not feel like I’ve reached the place I want to be yet. I love writing about music, but I would like to be a travel writer more than that, and even more than that, I would like to be a published fiction author.
The most unique thing about my specific situation is that the website I write for does not cover American popular music, but instead the efforts of an international scene to make inroads in the American scene. It requires more passion for the scene than anything else simply because the audience is not as big. Everyone writing for this website is doing so because they love the subject matter.
Career Path and Job Search Leading to Music Journalism Position; Network, Network, Network
Even though I took journalism classes in college and majored in English, I did not have any quick paths into journalism. I essentially found this position by connecting with people over the subject matter and eventually being invited to submit a brief piece in order to qualify to write for the website.
Essentially this proved to me that some of the things I heard in college were true. Namely, that to get into any kind of journalism field, you had to network with people in the field.
If I had it to do differently, I would have focused on networking or learning how to network earlier on, while I was still in college, rather than going through several fruitless years afterwards.
I learned the hard way that, when it comes to web writing, sometimes you cannot help but make enemies. This is especially true in a highly opinionated field like music reviews. People will not always like what you write. Specifically, the website allowed comments so eventually someone left a negative comment about one of my reviews. I engaged in the dispute before realizing that I really needed to let it go.
Work is Not Like School!
Probably the most important thing I’ve learned about the working world versus school is that it life in the working world is very rarely fair. In school, you have a fairly straightforward path to being recognized for your work. But jobs do not always work like this. In fact, many times academic success doesn’t matter at all in the working world.
Job Satisfactions and Challenges
Even work you enjoy doing can sometimes be tedious, but ultimately I love to write and I love music. One time one of the bands that I reviewed posted my review on their website. I was pretty proud of that and very glad that my review was positive.
Deadlines are always strenuous, and although I don’t have a lot of them, when it’s a deadline to put out a review for a popular album, but not one I’m interested in, sometimes that is very challenging. Challenging to find the motivation to get it done, and challenging to get it done on time.
This job is not particularly stressful, unless you count the sheer volume of it sometimes. Fortunately, deadlines are flexible and I don’t usually have a problem balancing work and life.
The average salary for a music critic is around $40,000. Like most employment in the music industry, music writing and criticism doesn’t make you rich — unless you’re famous. But I am happy living within my means. I take vacations infrequently, but this has less to do with my job than that I simply don’t often feel the need to get away.
As I said earlier, it seems that getting this type of journalism job is less about education than it is about who you know. Nevertheless, there are some necessary skills, including knowing how to write and having a knowledge and appreciation of a wide range of music.
If I were to advise a friend wishing to go into either writing or writing as a music critic, I would say to take journalism courses for starters, but don’t rely on them. Instead, try to network as much as possible with people who are already in a similar position. It really does end up being all about who you know.
In five years I would like to be a published author and do that for a living. I have been at the freelance writing thing for quite a while now and it would be fantastic to eventually be able to do what I really want to do.