Though music sales have slid over the years because of piracy and illegal downloads, the industry still remains a billion-dollar business. In 2013, the industry achieved $16.5 billion in revenues worldwide, slightly up from the previous year but about half of its former glory. At its peak, the music industry was generating $38 billion in annual sales.
Many consumer and trade magazines target broad and niche interests in the music industry—from Country music to Heavy Metal—making them dynamic markets for your articles. To break into a music publication or website, pitch one or more of these hot topics to editors:
1. Top Music Lists
Billboard magazine is a champion on this one. It releases several top national and international lists regularly. It doesn’t take long for the other magazines to follow suit. You can write the top lists yourself, create a whole new list to spark curiosity, or contradict or approve the list.
2. Independent Music
Underground or indie music has never been so popular than in recent years, thanks to more inexpensive technologies, strong fan support, and websites such as iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Facebook. You can cover the growth of the indie scene, the hottest indie bands, the cross-over artists, hottest independent labels, and how to begin in indie recording.
3. Album Reviews
Some conscious music enthusiasts do take time to read album reviews before they buy one. Even producers consider initial critic reviews and use them to either move the release of the entire album to later date. Single or album reviews can make or break someone else’s career. If you have the knack for music, be one of the staunchest critics in the industry.
4. Concert Scenes
The concert scene is vibrant, and artists are now touring not only in the country, but also all over the world. You can cover live concerts, create a personal account of your experience, or write about any upcoming tours that local people should want to attend.
Some love the music, while others learn to love it because of the artists. Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Cristina Aguilera, and Adele are just some of the hundreds of artists people are clamoring for and interested in. You can share updates about them, publish interviews or anecdotes, or get into the juiciest details.
6. Music Festivals
Coachella, Woodstock, Blackbird, Big Spring Jam, Pitchfork, Voodoo Music Experience—these are just a handful of festivals held all over the United States. You can create press releases or features to increase appeal and crowd number, talk about what happened during the festival, scoop interviews from the artists, or discover upcoming festivals.
Music lovers also count on magazines for great instruments to buy, either for leisure or work. You can cover all types of instruments and brands, review products, talk about where to get them, share new innovations or technology, or showcase the hottest instruments used by the biggest bands and artists.
8. TV Shows
Recently, music has landed itself a spot on several channels in the United States: Glee, X Factor, The Voice, The Glee Project, and Sing-off. Then there’s the iconic MTV and American Idol. Get their fans giddy on the next upcoming episodes, latest behind-the-scene scoops, future plans, hosts, artists, and music covered. You can also review the respective shows based on your opinions or research.
9. Movie Soundtracks
Movies and songs are married. The former would be boring without the other, and sometimes the success of one can be attributed to the other. You can go deeper into the relationship by knowing how songs bring more life to the movies, as well as cover sales of soundtracks, or review the hottest soundtracks from recent blockbuster movies.
10. Music Industry
The music industry is vibrant, thanks to politics, key players, and rules and regulations.
Who’s Your Audience?
The demographics of the music industry are broad. Rolling Stone, for example, has around 150,000 subscribers globally, 58 percent of which are male. The median age is 32.
Vibe magazine’s target readership is mostly young, urban followers of hip-hop culture.
Country Music magazine attracts country music fans, 25 to 45 years old, with an income of $75,000.
And Paste magazine attracts readers ages 25-35 who earn around $70,000 in annual income.
- Mojo magazine – a U.K. monthly music magazine established in 1993. Circ.: 95,000. Current editor-in-chief: Phil Alexander
- Vibe – a quarterly hip-hop music and entertainment magazine established in 1993. Circ.: 31,000. Current editor-in-chief: Jermaine Hall
- Rolling Stone – a music and popular culture magazine founded in 1967. Circ.: 1,500,000. Current editor: Jann Wenner
- Billboard – a weekly international news and music trade magazine launched in 1894. Circ. 16,000. Current editor: Danyel Smith
- Alternative Press – a monthly American music magazine founded in 1985. Current editor: Jason Pettigrew
- Decibel – a monthly heavy-metal music magazine founded in 2004. Current editor: Albert Mudrian
- Guitar Player magazine – a monthly music magazine for guitarists founded in 1967. Circ.: 134,000. Current editor: Michael Molenda
- XXL magazine – a bimonthly hip-hop magazine founded in 1997. Current editor: Vanessa Satten
- Relix Magazine – a general music magazine founded in 1974. Publishes eight issues annually. Current editor: Mike Greenhaus
- Making Music magazine – a bimonthly music/lifestyle magazine founded in 2004. Circ.: 35,000. Current editor: Antoinette Follett
- Paste magazine – a monthly music and entertainment digital magazine founded in 2002. Current editor: Josh Jackson
- Country Weekly – a weekly country music magazine founded in 1994. Circ.: 63,000. Current Editor-in-Chief: Lisa Konicki
Wikipedia maintains a thorough list of music magazines at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_music_magazines. This list can help you research music publications and obtain editors’ names and website addresses.
You can also search our Writer’s Guidelines Database for music and arts magazines that pay freelance writers for articles.
What Editors Want
You need to have a lot of spunk, character, and passion for music. It’s very important that you understand the dynamics of the industry, as well as establish great relationships with artists, their managers, and even labels (so you can have sources of stories). The articles can range from 500 to 2,000 words.
How to Pitch Ideas
First, check if the magazine has its own writer’s guidelines online; if not, e-mail the editor or editorial staff and ask for them. To help you decide what the magazine intends to publish in future issues, review its current or next year’s editorial calendar. Do any topics appeal to you? Can you cover any of them? Send the editor an e-mail and propose your idea. Be detailed but don’t make the e-mail too long. Include only one developed idea in your query.
How Much Can You Earn
Pay rates vary from magazine to magazine depending on readership and advertising. Rolling Stone magazine is known to pay its top writers more than $1/word, but breaking into the magazine is extremely difficult, even for experienced writers. Smaller music magazines tend to pay (on average) between 20 and 55 cents/word. The editors usually pay more if the writer can include photos.