In an age of mobile technology dominated by social media and online press, the power has been handed over from the few to the many, particularly with multimedia journalism. It’s easy to find reviews of almost anything online, from obscure indie films to mainstream platinum albums, but it’s not as easy as it looks to write the reviews.
Here is my 10 step guide to writing a music blog that people will want to read:
1. Know Your Stuff
To debunk what may be a common myth amongst music journalism, you do not need to have a formal music education to write about music. You do not even need to be an expert in the field. But what is important is that whatever it is you are writing about is something that you understand and would feel comfortable having a discussion with a fan of the artist about. If you want to say that an artist reminds you of Damien Rice for example, make sure that you know what Damien Rice actually sounds likes and justify (to yourself at least) why you think that. It is easy to make sweeping statement about music to overgeneralise or to look like an expert, but it won’t be long before your reader’s realise you don’t know your Dylan from your Ke$ha. Know your stuff and you will earn your reader’s trust, and if you are lucky, their loyalty too.
2. Write About What You Like
It is so easy to give something a good panning. By nature, we are critical beings and like to cast shade on what others are doing, and often justifiably so, but I ask you this: why? Who wan’t to read a bad review of something? You have have the razor sharp dry wit of a seasoned stand-up, but if nobody know who you are or your voice, then you are just another sarcastic hater who trashes things online. Unless you really hate something with a passion and feel compelled to warn others against it, I suggest writing about what you love, what you really enjoy and you and your readers will want to read about it – and so might the people who you are writing it about, which is the best way to get your work shared around.
3. Meet The Musicians
It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen or smartphone at a show, but the best way to find out information about a band is to get chatting to them. Most local bands are thrilled to talk about their music with anybody that listens, particularly if they might get a review written about their show from it. So get to gigs early to see the supports and stick around afterwards to get chatting with them. It will give you a unique insight into their music that other will not have and it will be interesting to your readers. Plus, you never know which support act you review might be the next big thing, and they may just remember that guy or girl who wrote about them back in the day.
4. Compare and Compère
Two things that audiences like about music blogs is for the acts to be compared and compered. By comparing particular tracks, or the band/artist in general, with known figures helps people to gauge their interest and also helps you as a writer to compartmentalise the music a little, which allows you to be more specific, which is always a good thing. There is nothing worse than vague wishy-washy music journalism, saying things like “the band sounded like Mumford & Sons on crack”… By compèring the acts that you review, you are introducing them to a potentially new audience so give a little background information – not a full Wikipedia biography. If you are reviewing a show, review the support too. It’s a good way to engage with more people, as support acts and local acts are more likely to share your work amongst their networks, and if you like them, odds are that other people will too.
5. Write Regularly
Not everybody can polish off a swift 2,000 words in their lunch break – and that is definitely a good thing. People have a finite amount of time and attention, so don’t overstay your welcome or become a nusiance. Write when you can, but regulate it. If you know you won’t be writing something for a while after a busy period, why not schedule your posts to go out evenly rather than writing in sporadic spurts every so often. People crave regularity, as much as they may not admit to it, and consistently well written work is the key to gaining and keeping readership of your blog. Keep it fresh, interesting and really care about what you write – writing regularly will really help you with this and prevent you from writer’s block or general writing malaise.
6. Good Quality Images
We’ve all done it, but don’t just grab any old image from Google Image Search for a band. Make sure the images you use are current and where possible signed off by the band. Most bands will have a press section on their website, or at least a gallery of recent images which should be fine to use to accompany your blog. If you can’t find anything, drop them an email to request some images and they will more than likely reply with what you need – after all, it is free publicity for them and it will really make your blog stand out by having the latest and best images to complement your writing.
7. Look Good/Mobile Friendly
Before you start throwing everything you write out at the world, you may want to think about how it actually looks. Depending on which platform you use, there is a lot of functionality and deign elements which you can customise, so it helps if you have a clear design idea in your head for how you want your blog to look. If you lack a creative eye for design, seek advice from friends, as your blog template and theme is like a shop window, and if visitors don’t like it, they are much less likely to stick around to have a browse. Most blogs automatically optimise for mobile devices, but make sure that yours does by testing it on your phone/tablet. Most users will be accessing your blog through mobile devices so if it doesn’t look good then it won’t keep them coming back for more.
8. Check It Twice
Just like Santa Claus, you should check everything in your blog is how you want it to be. Do your image link to the right places? Do your web-links work? Have you spelled all the names correctly? Is your factual information correct? It’s always better to double check before publishing to avoid the embarrassment of being corrected online, or losing reader through silly grammar, spelling, punctuation and formatting mistakes.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a huge field in itself – people work full time just in this field of IT – but put simply, it about making sure your website/blog shows up when people are searching for the information which you are giving. There are a lot of tools which can help you do this through your blog site which are very simple to use and can have a real effect on online traffic. It is helpful to get into good habits, such as giving articles useful names that are likely to be search terms for people, and inserting meta descriptions for articles and images. If you don’t know what these are or how to do this, its easy to find out online, and this would really help your blog to get noticed.
10. Spread The Word
This should be quite obvious, but once you have your work all polished and ready to publish, be sure to send it out to all of your networks with whom it might be relevant. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube are all powerful tools with huge numbers of online daily users, so use the resources that you have available to you and network, spread the word and take constructive feedback on board to help you become the best writer that you can be. You never know when it may turn into more than just a hobby – it could well lead into a full-time career!