Music Journalism

Mike Eckhardt on Writing About Music

Mike Eckhardt is a self-proclaimed music junkie from Utah. From listening to music to writing about it, you can be sure that he’s always up for anything music-related.

Perhaps you can understand his passion and can very well relate to it. Every two weeks you pore over Rolling Stone, which you’ve been subscribing to since junior high, eventually winding up at the album reviews at the back of the magazine. You read about Lorde’s debut smash, the new collection of Springsteen outtakes, the overhyped Imagine Dragons, and the new EP from hip-hop artist Jhene Aiko. You know more about music than any of your friends and can hold your own with all of these so-called critics. But where to begin?

Mike Eckhardt shares some tips on how to break into the writing scene of the music business:

Always keep notebooks handy.Always carry a pad with you and keep another by your music delivery portal. Images will come into your head while you’re listening. Write them down. If you’re more comfortable dictating into your phone, do that instead. Chronicle your raw thoughts and flesh them out later. We get some of our best ideas at the weirdest times so it’s best to be prepared to write your idea down before you completely forget about it. True reporters never rely on their memory alone.

Listen to all kinds of music.Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone. If you usually listen to classic rock like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and ZZ Top, spend some focused time sampling music by other artists from different genres, like Kendrick Lamar, YoYo Ma, Nina Simone, and Doc Watson. Expand your horizons. Narrowcasting is the death knell for a writer.

Read about music.This is mindlessly simple advice, but it’s crucial that you devote long hours to reading. Absorb as much information as you can from periodicals, biographies, and reference books. Visit artists’ websites, Wiki pages, and gobble up some musician biographies and memoirs. Knowledge will spark your flow. Check out other music blogs so you also know what’s out there in terms of competition.

Experience live music.Bring one of those aforementioned reporter’s pads. Scrawl notes and set lists (don’t be embarrassed to ask the person next to you about a song title that you’re unfamiliar with). You’re not going to be able to sleep after an exciting concert anyway, so write a few paragraphs about your experience while it’s still fresh. Revisit it in the morning.

This is the only way you’ll grow as a writer. It’s too easy to be a fan and write gushing platitudes about your favorites. If you’re a devotee of the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett, try listening to more obscure acts like Kraftwerk or Flaco Jimenez and write about the experience. If all you listen to is Deep Purple and Pink Floyd, check out Chick Corea and Five Finger Death Punch. You’ll hone your writing chops by articulating why you don’t like a specific piece of music.