Blog: Simon Morrison

Can you make money from music writing, asks Simon Morrison, chairing a panel on the topic at Louder Than Words, 10-12 Nov

Hero image

Working as a music journalist sounds like the dream job: your backstage pass to the best gigs, the biggest festivals and the most spectacular club nights on the planet.  A famous comment (erroneously attributed to Elvis Costello) suggested, however, that writing about music is like “dancing about architecture” – in other words, a tricky, abstract thing to even attempt. And yet so many careers have been forged by those working the worlds of music and writing and doing just that. Many will be within the walls of the Principal Hotel in Manchester over the weekend of 10-12 November for the Louder Than Words festival of music and writing.

At the festival, musicians like Rat Scabies, Pete Wylie and the original punk Jordan will look to unravel the magic of music, along with key writers such as Barney Hoskyns and Paul Morley. A panel that I am convening for the festival (10.15am, 11 Nov) will also introduce contributors from the academic world, along with their students, to decode whether music writing is a skill that music fans – both of parties past and gigs yet to happen – are born with, or is it something that can actually be taught?

Because there is an elephant in this (admittedly very elegant) room of the Principal Hotel, and there is no avoiding him, even if he is sat in the corner with a lampshade on his head: monetisation. It has never been easier to get yourself published; it has never been harder to get paid for it.

Perhaps one route might be to take one of the growing number of music journalism degree courses? If that’s in your thoughts, this panel welcomes Martin James, music writer and now professor of cultural industries at Southampton Solent University. With him is Lucy O’Brien, author of She Bop and course leader for music journalism and music marketing and promotion at UCA Epsom, and Matt Parker, course leader for music journalism at BIMM Manchester.

Also from the panel (and in the audience) will be the invaluable input of students currently paying undeniably extravagant fees to study this subject and work towards their dreams. Perhaps adding another perspective is music writer David Nolan, author of biographies on subjects as varied as Tony Wilson and The 1975.

“They say it’s easier to dance about music than write about it. And yet still we do it.”

I will be chairing the panel, having made my living from the music industry for over 20 years – without ever actually making any. My career in music journalism has included writing about the music scene everywhere from Brazil to Beijing, Moscow and Marrakech (resulting in the book Discombobulated), a period living and working in Ibiza, and writing and presenting for TV and radio. It’s a career that has taken me from the dancefloor back to the campus, specifically the University of Chester where I head up the music journalism programme. And I remain extremely proud that it’s a career that began with my first ever club review, in Manchester, for Big Issue North back in 1995.

So, they say it’s easier to dance about architecture than write about music. And yet still we do it, and still long to do it – not only listen to music but learn how to sculpt out an opinion from words, and then share that opinion. In today’s digital age that means instantly, across blogs and social media.

So let’s remove the lampshade from our elephant in the room, and see if we can finally figure out how to make real money from writing about music. If not, let’s just get squiffy and dance about the Grade II listed terracotta architecture of the Principal Hotel.

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Blog: Simon Morrison

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.