No. 1. Persistence and perseverance are key. Do not get discouraged if you do not get an interview, concert ticket or photo pass, initially. Keep on trying. Keep writing and keep building your scrapbook. Back when I first started, in my college newspaper days, I would get approved for one or two interviews max a semester. I had to prove myself over time. For every “yes” I got, I would get anywhere from five to 10 “nos.”
No. 2. Always remember that each journalist is different, with their own style of writing. There is no right or wrong way to write. Some journalists prefer the narrative style, while others the Q&A format. Find your own voice.
No. 3. Never be afraid to ask or submit for an interview request. The worst you can hear is “no,” or sometimes, no answer at all. Some of my biggest interviews that ever happened in life all occurred by chance/luck, or simply by being at the right place at the right time. Luck is a journalist’s best friend.
No. 4. Try to cover diverse topics. In music, don’t only stick to only one genre. You are missing out that way on other great styles. Broaden your horizons. Try to cover film/television, food/restaurants, sports, business, science, health, technology, lifestyle and anything else that you feel would be of interest to your readers.
No. 5. If you and a publicist/manager have confirmed an interview time with a person, always try your best to stick with that time slot, and do your best to be on time. Most artists or interview subjects hate going to voicemail, and to hear last minute cancellations from the journalist. Re-scheduling is always a hassle for everybody involved, especially for the publicist or manager, who has to serve as the “liaison” or “middle person” for that interview. Try to be reliable, and respectful of everybody’s time.
No. 6. Make sure to proofread your article at least once for spelling and grammar, or ask a friend to look it over for you, before you submit for publication. It is always better to have a second pair of eyes proofing your work. Copy-editing is always the hardest task in journalism and publishing. Also, it is important to fact check the correct spellings of names and places in the article.
No. 7. Future journalists, check your e-mails and phone messages regularly, and respond to them in a prompt fashion. Always be courteous, and try your best to respond to them, whether it is a yes, or a no, I can’t cover this event, especially if you developed a working relationship with that PR rep or agency. Nobody wants a late response, or no response at all. They would like to have some idea if they can depend on you. The same holds true for journalists, they love working with publicists that respond to them promptly and swiftly. E-mail communication is a two-way street.
No. 8. Copy Approval for interview purposes is an interesting yet controversial topic. A journalist should never have to submit copy approval for CD reviews and/or concert/show reviews. When it comes to interviewing a significant person, then you can email the piece to that person or his/her agent to look over for “accuracy,” to make sure all the information is correct and factual, but at the same time, don’t let them take advantage of you, by having them re-write most of your work to their liking, since that takes away from the journalist’s creative and writing freedom. There has been a few instances where I gave copy approval to a few important people, and with their edits, the final draft came back unrecognizable to me. Don’t let it get to that point. I learned from that instances, many years back, and have put a stop to it. If you are granting copy approval, stress that it is only to back-up the facts and to make sure their grammar/spelling/quotes of what was said is correct. Nothing more. Do not let them introduce new information that was not previously stated in the interview.
No. 9. Publicists love responsible, hard-working and diligent journalists and other members of the media. From time to time, whenever another journalist cancels, they will offer you last-minute tickets or photo passes for great shows. If you are available in those instances, take your opportunities.
No. 10. One of my biggest secrets in journalism is revealed here: Write your article’s conclusion first. Then, work backwards, and you will realize that the body of the article is essentially writing itself. This saves me a lot of time, when I write (at least 10 minutes each time I write an article). Try it.
No. 11. Social media (Facebook and Twitter) can be great tools for the links to your published works to get exposure worldwide, so take advantage of that.
No. 12. Outwork your competition. I work seven days a week, and put in anywhere from 12 to 18 hours in journalism and I absolutely love it. Work faster than everyone else and be as prolific as possible. My energy level is tremendous. Sometimes, I feel that they need to sedate me to fall asleep at night, since I am constantly thinking about my next feature piece.
No. 13. Do not rest on your laurels. A journalist is only as good as his or her last written article. Everybody is entitled to a bad day or poor piece, once in a while, but if that does happen often, then, it is time to re-direct your focus on what it is you are working on, and step up your game. Go for it.
No. 14. Another Big secret revealed. Wear Earplugs. Whether it is a comedy show or concert or sporting event, do as much as you can to protect your hearing. You will thank me 10, 15, 20 or 25 years down the line. Earplugs are a journalist’s best friend.
No. 15. If successes, awards and accolades come your way, whether it is through hard work or luck, or both, always be grateful. Thank the people that were there from you for the very start. Don’t forget where you came from.
No. 16. The most valuable thing I learned about success in the field of journalism is that it is meaningless, unless you share your success with others (family, friends and acquaintances). I try my best to share my success as a journalist, and encourage others (friends and family) to come to shows/concerts with me as my additional guest(s), and hand over CDs (after I review them) and other cool merchandise or memorabilia, so they too can enjoy the music, entertainment and the artists themselves.
No. 17. Attend as many concerts as you possibly can, since as scientific research points out, it is good for your health and it will help you live longer (nine years according to a study). Something I’ve known all along. One thing is for sure, concert-going certainly makes you feel young.
No. 18. Never burn your bridges in this industry. Journalists need publicists, and publicists need journalists. It’s a symbiotic relationship. You both want the same outcome: a good story.
No. 19. Do not get discouraged if a publicist or manager turns you down for an interview, for a person that would normally be a shoo-in to get. Sometimes, it is their own insecurities. Do not take it personal. Years from now, they will come begging to you or other journalists, and then you will be the one that declines them, or simply tells them that you are “too busy” for them.
No. 20. Always remember, that journalism is 95 percent hard work, and five percent glitz and glamour. On social media, people see the latter percentage, but they don’t realize all the hard work, the hours of typing, transcribing, researching, studying and copy-editing/proofreading that goes into it. The glitz and glamour is the reward (the red carpets, parties, black tie affairs and backstage access) for all the hard work.
I hope you take all of these 20 additional tips to heart, and start honing your craft of writing and reporting. It is never too late to get started. Happy writing. Good luck.
Read More: Digital Journal also offered 20 tips “to start” for aspiring music journalists.