How to be a freelance cultural writer in music and film



Being a freelance cultural writer who can make a living has the revolutionary success rate of becoming a C-List pop star, with an equally precarious lifespan and so many precariousness and benefits. The highs are high, the lows are low. But how do you actually become a freelance writer covering the arts, spending Tuesday mornings screening unreleased films and interviewing musicians you love?

It is not easy, but certainly not impossible either.

Step one: do you really want to do this?

The first step in becoming a freelance cultural writer is to ask yourself how badly you want to do it, and to know that – as is the norm with any media job in particular – drive and determination alone won’t get you there. will not lead. . As you know, a lot of it comes down to factors like your financial stability: those with inherited income, or a relative who can pay them London rent every month, are the ones who almost certainly earn every month. times. This is because much of the cultural journalism industry – and journalism in general – is cultivated by the upper and middle classes and their children.

Internships are not remunerated. Supporting jobs are in high demand, pay quite little, and come with the added bonus of bosses hitting your neck. But by completely letting go of these barriers, you can start making your own way from your bedroom.

Step two: college is cute, but not necessary

The advantage of being self-employed and writing about the arts is that no one asks you questions about your university or college degree. The only way to really improve your writing is to do it. Instead of essays, write reviews or brainstorm articles about the movies you love. Consider your relationship with art and ask yourself why you connected (or not) to something.

Step three: create an online magazine

The first obstacle is access. Any publicist is going to ask you who you’re writing for when you email them and ask to see a new movie or hear a record sooner. The answer? Make your own. Jump on WordPress or another blogging platform and find a place where you can store all of your writing about art you have thoughts on. Give it a fancy name. Fill it out as often as you can because practice makes perfect.

Go see movies when tickets are cheap, or watch old movies that you think might have more relevance now. An album celebrating its 5, 10 or 20 years? Revisit it and write about what it means – not to you, but its cultural impact and who maybe used it as a benchmark today. Before long, you’ll have racked up enough wallet to pretend editors and publicists it’s your job, and you’re not picking up shoes at a mall outside of the city. city ​​as your real source of income.


Step Four: Believe You Are Shit

Illusion is the greatest gift you can give yourself when you are just starting out. Aim higher than you think sounds realistic, as there’s a good chance you’ll get something anyway, especially if you’ve proven to a publicist that you have the skills to string together a sentence and say interesting things about it. their artists.

Continue to fill your own platforms with your writing in the meantime. Write personal essays, reviews – anything, mainly to remind yourself that you can write even when there are long periods of time when nothing makes it seem like it is happening. Once you’ve worked on it, start applying for local festivals or concerts. The buildup of minor flexes like this always adds up to a much more alluring picture.

Step five: get started

At this point, write your first point of sale pitch and accept that it will likely be terrible. Think about the title, it will streamline your idea. Search for publisher names on LinkedIn and Twitter, then search for their email format on Google. Google again to see if anyone has written your article before, and if they have, make sure your perspective is different enough that someone is spending the money for good reason. Research your topic’s conflict and focus it on the main issue you want to resolve or want to resolve.

Take note of ideas. Write them down on your phone, then rewrite them on your laptop, or vice versa. Want to interview someone? Don’t think about what makes them great, but what makes them flawed, and use that observation as an entry point. The base “how did you this upcoming album / movie? ‘ question you plan to ask has probably been asked about the same topic a dozen times that day. Go deeper – look for interesting lightning in something, something the artist himself may not have noticed.

These are general, but also pay attention to your style. Launching an irreverent fashion and culture title like iD? Be smart but cool. It goes without saying, make sure you’ve read the post you want to promote. Yes, we all want to write for The New Yorker, but sadly, they’re unlikely to accept your 5,000-word Rita Ora opus. Wanting a signature doesn’t mean your natural style suits them, so be prepared to be versatile with subject and tone – and always keep it sharp.

Then prepare for rejection. It’s a tough job, but know that just because your idea wasn’t good for an editor doesn’t mean the staff at another magazine won’t think it’s ingenious.

johnny depp in fear and loathing in las vegas


Step Six: Be Boring and Find a Mentor

Find someone in the industry who is patient enough to listen to what you have to say. The old-fashioned trope of success is built on who you know rather than what you know is, disappointingly, still true. But many of the barriers that previously existed have been eased by social media. Message someone in the industry you are evaluating and ask if they need anything. Be available, positive and interested, but know your limits. Don’t go slamming someone’s personal IG DM application pack with resumes at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. Be courteous and they will be courteous in return, and you never know what this conversation can lead to. You’d be surprised how many connections are made outside of in-person functions – a major reason the London-centric crowd thrives – especially on platforms where much of our personality permeates the “content” we broadcast.

The point is, the seemingly offhand DM slip may be the only reason you get somewhere, so don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with strangers. No one likes a response guy, but a real message of appreciation will beautify anyone. Just make sure you mean it.

Seventh step: secondary jobs are encouraged

There’s a long-standing joke among freelance creatives that you have to put “free” into anything – and that’s never more true than when you’re a newbie writer in the arts. Very little good can come from writing for publications that don’t pay you but pay their staff – it’s unethical and a fatal flaw in the magazine industry. Instead, be sure to do as much as possible for your own platform beforehand and wait for the right person to answer you – one who actually has a budget and the mentoring skills to help you hone your craft. .

If you are going into this world on your own, not knowing how much money you are going to make, try it as a side activity until things look good. Truth be told, you have to invest the time to make it a full-time gig, and if you spend all of your time focusing on it, you’ll naturally make more money, but that doesn’t mean that amount will be enough for it. to survive . Find an affordable referral, and when it feels tangible, give it a try. Know that there is no shame in having a job on the side to increase your income – no one is making millions here.

william miller penny lane talk in almost famous


Eighth step: be reasonable; work intelligently.

The trick is to work smart and hard at first. If someone offers you £ 40 to write a cover, consider whether you can afford it given the time you put into it. Don’t be afraid to turn down things that seem like huge opportunities to you if you know you’re going to hurt yourself mentally by doing it for little money. These things keep coming back.

The world won’t stop spinning if you stop doing this, so don’t take it too seriously. Take the less exciting commercial jobs if they pay well (ask music publicists for the biographies they need!). Much of independent cultural writing forms your legacy as you progress, so when it comes to climbing the ladder of success, it depends on which ladder you’ve stepped foot on before. Patience is important.

Doing a job so closely related to the fantasy of art and creativity is a blessing anyway, but be prepared for a tough setup. Holidays are rare and every hour of your life soon begins to have a price (“Can I take this day off? Is it worth ‘X’ amount of money?”). But there are advantages.

The 9-5 grind rarely applies to anyone in art journalism; culture doesn’t work like that. But for those who want to do their own thing without a boss, you can play around with your hours in the day. You’ll meet people you’ve long admired, and wake up on a weekday without feeling the looming fear of having a boss waiting to talk to you. And, perhaps the most liberating aspect of it all: you’re free to go see movies at 11 a.m. or go to a nightclub and break the bank midweek – and no one is. may make you ashamed of it. That’s the glamor of magazine writing, baby!

If you have any questions, contact the author of this article on Twitter or E-mail. Good luck my dear !

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