Advice for music/cultural writers in a crappy economy

by Jason Gross

17 November 2008


The news keeps getting worse and worse for music scribes and any writer on the cultural beat.  Entertainment Weekly is shedding over a dozen jobs.  Also, CBS has decided to shut down their Juke website even before it launched- this included several notable music writers.  Just in the last few weeks, Wenner Media, Time and Gawker also announced cutbacks among plenty of other publications and sites forced to do the same.

Think about the hundreds and thousands of lives effected by this.  Not only do the writers lose their livelihoods but what about their families and the business that they buy from?  Also, what about the readers who lose all of these important voices, viewpoints, inside info and tips?  It keeps feeding into the bad economy and also means that the cultural dialog is being cut down, even though it’s growing elsewhere online.

I’ve wrestled with the idea of being a full time writer or editor for a while now but even before all of this economic gloom or even before the Net started draining resources from many print publications, I worried about the up’s and down’s that regularly go along with the biz.  Needless to say, I’m even more reluctant now to take the plunge and I just remain grateful that I can do some freelancing with good publications (like PopMatters for instance).

For the hard-core full-time people in the writing biz, I wish I had good news.  The best thing I can think of is a piece of advice when you’re hit with hard times in any field.  Diversify.  You already have a solid background in writing (and maybe editing) so use that skill.  If there isn’t any work on a music beat, maybe there’s work or opportunities to be found in another field for now or maybe even long term.  It may not be your first choice but at least you can still do part of the work that you still love and keep writing.  Think of it as an opportunity to explore other realms and delve into other interests that you might have had over the years but haven’t had the chance to pursue until now- I’m kind of a film buff myself and I’m looking to expand on that in my writing. 

It’s true that all publications seem to be hurting now but if you can break into other areas, you’ll have a better shot at finding some short-term or maybe even long-term work.  What have you go to lose?

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