How to Become a Music Critic

Dave Mostert
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You don't need to be a musical genius to become a Music Critic, but a passion for music and in-depth knowledge of music artistry is essential.

A music critic evaluates and reviews a concert, a piece of music or an album and compares it to the standard of the composer's style, the quality of the performance or the other artist's performance.

Some music critics are music connoisseurs or collectors. They accumulate recordings of songs and the information associated with them. These individuals have a deep knowledge of historical background of the songs and the musicians.

Becoming a music critic could be a good stepping stone for those who wish to be or who are professional musicians. It could also lead to a leadership role within a magazine or other publishing house.

You may expect to be required to have a Bachelor's or Master's degree in music. You may also have to have work experience in the field or have a degree in journalism or communication.

Although many critics work full time as writers, a number of them are employed by record companies or music publishers.

Also, many critics work part-time while writing in other fields to make ends meet.

It is a good idea to develop a network of contacts within the business to get your name and your work known to the people you will be writing for.

A music critic may work for a magazine, a newspaper, a music store or a music publishing house. You could also work privately as a critic.

Why become a music critic?

Have you ever sat down and listened to your favorite album and wondered why you liked it? Or have you ever asked yourself why that particular rock song made you feel the way it did? You may not know what makes music the way we do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

Being a music critic is a bit like being a detective. You’ll research an artist’s background and look at their influences and the reasons behind their musical style. Then you’ll dig through old records, videos, and interviews until you’ve explored every aspect of an artist’s work.

Sounds like a lot of work? It is, but you’ll have the reward of being able to explain how this one particular piece of music made you feel.

Music critics don’t have to just be writers. They can be radio personalities, bloggers, vloggers, and more. Whatever area of the industry you choose to take the critic’s seat in, it will take a lot of hard work and dedication to become the best.

But for those who want to be more than just a fan in the front row, a career as a music critic is a popular choice that can also open up a lot of opportunities.

How to become a Music Critic

Reviewing music is perhaps one of the most interesting and challenging careers. It is not everyday that you get to write down your own opinion on a piece of work that you feel passionate about.

Before you get to do that, you have several important steps to take first. To get the best training, you must enroll in a music school and get an appropriate degree.

Try finding the schools that have the most experience in reviewing music. Such schools will also be able to guide you through educational programs related to music review.

However, there are limited slots available to fill the jobs in this industry. The competition will be tough but that does not mean you can’t apply.

You simply have to be prepared and willing to work hard and long to earn your freedom.

However, if you are willing to do so, it will not be difficult for you to be employed for some online reviews or in a publication.

If you would like to shatter your passion and enthusiasm for music, then this is the right career path.

Music Critic Career Information

Music critics have to learn how to be able to listen carefully and analytically to the countless songs that are being made every week. Right now, there are more critics than ever writing for a wide variety of publications, be they print, digital, niche, or otherwise.

All music critics need to be able to write entertainingly and clearly about the music they are analyzing. A large part of any start-up music journalist’s job is to be able to write about the music they hear.

The more effective and professional music critics have to be good interviewers who can make music artists feel comfortable when discussing their work. They have to be able to ask intelligent questions while at the same time avoid being a nuisance.

They have to be able to ask tough questions as well as ones that will encourage the sort of light banter that makes artists feel like they are talking to a friend.

Most importantly, the better music critics have to be passionate about music.

They have to love what they do and be able to make their readers and listeners feel like they love the music they are writing about as well.

Education: what do I need?

You do not need a formal education if you like writing about music.

If you decide to join a newspaper you will have to study journalism.

If you have never worked with the media, then write blogs with a honest opinion, and try to work with internet radio.

Experience and skills

The skills required to write about music start with a strong background in music history or a degree in music theory. But in the digital age, none of that is really needed anymore.

A music critic basically needs a strong ear and the capacity to relate to the rest of the world what music they are listening to.

The Internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunities to get your first writing gigs trying your hand at music criticism.

In addition to writing about bands and musicians, you can also get stuck into tutorials on how to use recording equipment.

Use commentary on new bands you enjoy and point to their resources for people to check out.

You can try building a distinctive voice with your writing or expand on new artists and tracks as they become popular music.

You can even use Twitter to check out the hottest things of the moment and feed your writing from the reactions people have to what they are hearing.

Full time or part time?

No need to decide too hastily, at least for the time being. What’s more important now is to increase your visibility in the industry.

The easiest way to do this is to become a freelancer. This means you won’t work for one publication, but you’ll have several publications you write for.

You can list your services on freelancer websites, which will help you get a consistent flow of gigs. It’ll also be easier to get your work published, because you’ll have a backstock of previous work to show editors.

The key to becoming a music critic is to stay confident and keep consistent.

You have to learn to evaluate music critically and pay attention to detail.

The more you’re able to explore as a music critic, the better you’ll be able to tell a good song from a bad one.

Getting Started: what kind of pay can I expect?

As I mentioned earlier, many music critics have a background in journalism. Therefore, they’re comfortable with writing and have good communication skills. At entry level (or internships, etc.), you will have to prove that you have some basic-intermediate experience in writing and reporting.

At the same time, you’ll have to be passionate about music. In addition to a music background, you need to have great writing skills and exposure/knowledge of current music trends in a particular genre or area.

What are the qualities of a good music critic?

To be a good music critic, you need to bring a certain passion to the table.

I don’t mean a passion for music, though that’s obviously a big plus. Most of us wouldn’t read a review of The Beatles by someone who hates music. But you also need to be passionate about music criticism, or at least passionate in writing in general.

You also need to be cool under pressure. If you’re a passionate musician who can’t stand negative or even harsh criticism, then music criticism is not for you. Being a music critic is a tough path, but rewarding nevertheless.

You also need a broad knowledge of music. You need to know what makes a good song, and not just popular songs. You can’t be a good critic if you don’t understand classical music, jazz, blues, folk, Broadway, or any other genre.

You should be able to write well. Being able to write sentences is a good start. Being able to write thoughts and opinions is what’s next.

If you haven’t had any experience writing about your passion, hop on over to our Music Blogging 101 course. It’ll help you develop your writing skills and get you ready to write about music.

Musical knowledge

It isn’t enough to just love music and try to convey that love and passion. As a music critic you are responsible for giving a fair and honest opinion about new releases. In other words, it’s not just about your personal opinion; it’s about maintaining a certain level of quality for the reader. This means that you must have a lot of musical knowledge; not just enough to make a successful review, but enough to provide your reader with the detailed information they need to make their own mind up.

If you can write well too, all the better. Writing is important because you may be conducting interviews with the musician, or in depth reviews that also include opinion from others.

Attention to Detail

It isn’t enough to merely copy and paste a review that another critic has written, or give a simple overview of each track. You need to broaden your readers’ musical knowledge, and this means getting the most out of each track and pointing out the details.

A piece of insider advice

How to become a music critic

If you want to become a music critic you will need a bit of insider advice in order to thrive in your new career.

A well-stocked music library is an essential requirement for any music critic. A good critic must be able to listen to as many different genres and types of music as possible.

This creates a base for later critical analysis.

Try to build a broad knowledge about music and singers.

Another essential point is to develop an auditory memory for a wide range of songs.

Don’t be afraid to go out and see music live. Most professional critics do spend time attending concerts and concerts and even serve as an ambassador for the renowned venues they work for.

Besides, unlike other forms of media, seeing live music offers an intense experience that is hard to find by simply listening to speakers.

It is extremely important to support local artists, both emerging and well-established ones. This way, you will be able to offer your audience a more in-depth, trustworthy critique of local bands and singers.

“Listen. Listen to music, listen to your peers, listen to people you disagree with, listen to people talking about something you’ve never heard of. The more you listen to, the more you have to bounce ideas off when you’re getting your own thing going.”

Conclusion

You are now very close to becoming a music critic. You know the industry, how people think about music, what the function of a music critic actually is, and you now have the tools to actually become a music critic.

If you already use these tools because you are currently a music critic, you can continue practicing your profession as you have been doing.

If you want to become a music critic but are not yet a music critic, now you know what you need to do in order to become one.

So, does this mean that there is nothing more to learn in order to become a music critic?

If you look at it from one perspective, there is not really more to be learned. But if you look at it from another, there is always more to be learned. Just like in any other field of expertise.

If you are still on the way to becoming a music critic, you can either become discouraged and quit right now because you have read this article and now you have absolutely no excuse not to become a music critic, or you can accept this fact and start learning as soon as possible.

There are a lot of things to be learned in order to become a music critic – the more you learn, the better music critic you will become.