Writing about music is like…
To the great amusement of (almost) everybody listening, a new free music writing course was formally announced live on Phantom yesterday evening.
The funny part? The announcement came slap bang in the middle of an interview with Stuart Clark of Hot Press, who was there to talk about his own magazine’s new 12-week course in music journalism, which is being run in conjunction with Independent Colleges. The course will feature 12 three-hour lectures from some of the magazine’s best writers and costs a measly €900.
The free course, Dancing about Architecture (hence the blog title), is being run by Times journo Jim Carroll and the Tribune‘s Una Mullally and will feature other similarly-minded members of the profession offering their services one night a week for four weeks, free of charge. No prizes for guessing which one I’d prefer.
Other writers have expressed legitimate reservations about the motivation behind Dancing about Architecture and the admittedly shady way it was announced – presumably Phantom were savvy, but Clark sounded like he’d been broadsided and did very well to defend his pitch on the backfoot. Still, I think it’s a very worthwhile venture.
It may not be as comprehensive as the Hot Press course – and it may not even be as useful – but it seems to have prompted an almost universal feeling of disgust amongst music journalists. Most of us made our way into the business either through intensive journalism training or, in my case and that of many others, just by finding a place to write and learning on the job. Both are equally valid methods.
€900 for 12 lectures is taking the piss in any language – it’s the equivalent of just over 2 weeks of lectures. For €900 (almost the exact cost of doing a full-time diploma course for a year at PLC level) you’d expect some kind of serious training and a qualification that offers a real prospect of breaking into the business, but that’s not the case.
No employer in the world is going to take a diploma earned over such a short space of time seriously and it’s disingenuous of Hot Press to suggest that they would. As Mullally pointed out in her radio interview, not a lot of people have that kind of money knocking around at the moment, and to offer people an expensive hobby in the guise of a new career opportunity is opportunistic at best and exploitative at worst.
If you’re truly seriously about learning to be a proper journalist, the first thing you need to do is be able to write – all a course will do is help you refine those skills. But you don’t need to take a course, and you certainly don’t need to spend corporate conference rates to get there.
The Dancing about Architecture course is full already (the Twitter mafia was all over it within minutes), but the internet is full of places where you can learn and develop your writing for no cost at all. Start a blog – WordPress and Blogger will host your work free of charge. Make connections with people – the aforementioned Twitter mafia never sleeps.
The site I run, Sputnikmusic, offers the opportunity to write album reviews and receive immediate constructive (well, sometimes) criticism. Failing that, there’s RateYourMusic and plenty other places where you can learn from others and practice your craft. Heck, places like Suit101 will even pay you a pittance to write – you don’t even have to be good!
That’s not to suggest the Hot Press course won’t be good – parts of the syllabus look a bit dodge but overall it seems quite promising – but if you want proper training for a proper career, save your money and do a FAS course. There’s a wealth of free information out there and millions of people just waiting to read what you have to say, and they don’t give a shit about whether you have a diploma in celebrity journalism.