Friday, July 19, 2013

Lots of the best music writing is free

There's not much point hanging around waiting for somebody to pay you to write about music. And if they do, they'll probably ask you to write about something you don't have much interest in.

Why not just write what you want for the love of it? Lots of people do it and some of them are big names.

In The Blue Moment Richard Williams writes about some of the musicians whose paths he has crossed throughout a long career as journalist and a&r man, touching upon areas of music beyond the well-trodden paths. It's thanks to him I'm listening to a record Burt Bacharach made with Ronald Isley in 2003. I'd never heard of it before.

Andrew Collins won't mind me saying he's a very methodical sort and therefore it's not surprising to find his music blog aims to pick "the 143 best songs in the world". It's more light-hearted than it sounds.

Finally Paul Burke writes short entries about something that's just happened to him - he saw Paul Weller in the street, he watched a test match, he noted American Independence Day - and comes up with a song it brings to mind.

In the old days of paid work nobody ever asked them to write material like this, which is why we didn't get to read it.


  1. Anonymous8:28 am

    A very good point. I've just had literally hundreds of applicants for a Staff Writer job. I risked accusations of condescension by telling the unsuccessful candidates that if they wanted to be writers, they should already be writing (and reading) every day: not only is it good practice, it's also a fine shop-window for the next job opportunity. Some of the applicants reacted like they'd never even considered the possibility, and had just been waiting around for the first job offerer to recognise their undoubted potential.

    Since the demise of The Word – in which the first page I read would be your And Another Thing - I've found great pleasure in reading through these here back pages: I'm currently halfway through Euro 2008.

    The downside of giving writing away free on the web is that it's very hard to make a commercial case for selling the same content again later. I read and like both blogs you mention, and I've merrily bought a couple of Andrew Collins' books, but I wouldn't buy a collection of his old blog posts, even though such things tend to be an ideal length for the bus journey, quiet five minutes or smallest room.

    True, AC may have had no intention of "monetising" his blog contents, but there's something of a parallel with the music business and its own battle against the idea that the internet makes everything free, and therefore commercially unviable. A young musician or writer can set up on the web, but at what point do they start to make a living from it? And if they don't, are we losing talented creatives forever?

    Keep up the good writing... everyone.

  2. I'll be honest, I've read more blogs over the last decade than magazines. The best of them have a good combination of short entries and longer articles. I got a bit fed up with magazine articles getting shorter, more space given up to photos, and more and more content going through some kind of artist/pr approval. It was one of the reasons I liked The Word when it came out, proper articles that actually took time to read.

    Anyway, in the blog field I'm much impressed with a couple of sites, that would make fantastic books.

    Then Play Long, which writes about every number one album in order. They're currently in 1982.

    And then this Bowie one, which is like a Revolution In The Head for old fella.

  3. For my money you could do a lot worse than Shane Kirk.

  4. Anonymous5:09 pm

    Thanks for the tips, Simon. Both sound right up my strasse.

  5. I don't think Barney Hoskyns will be happy with you...

  6. Can I subscribe to these on Flipboard? If so, how?

  7. Can I follow these on Flipboard? If so, how?