How to be a … Music Journalist

The incredibly lovely Thomas Hannan has been blogging and writing about music since he was 15, and after stints at LoveLive, Rockfeedback and NME he’s now at the hottest online destination for new music discovery – The Line of Best Fit.

So what does it take to be a music journalist? Well, you need to be able to write. After that, you’ll need a music obsession that verges on slightly creepy. And you better love going to gigs for free. And getting free records. And hanging with your favourite bands.

And probably having a day job for a while. But who cares about that?

I asked Thomas for a headshot.

Why music journalism? What hooked you?
I’ve loved music since my parents got me hooked on The Clash, Springsteen and Neil Young as a toddler, but at age 14 I had no money to buy records or gig tickets and offering to review them was a great way of getting both for free.

Tell me about The Line of Best Fit…
Best Fit is an independent online music magazine who find new bands, report music news, write in-depth features and reviews and film great sessions, along with running gigs, podcasts, festival partnerships and the like. It’s been going since about 2007, and I’ve been Senior Editor there for the past couple of years. We were named Most Influential Music Blog in the UK (and sixth in the world) by Style of Sound in 2014.  It’s our baby and we all love it.

What exactly do you do in a day?
Like most people I know who are music journalists, I have a day job (working at Amazon Music), so, that. But in the bits in between (early mornings, lunch breaks, evenings, weekends, bouts of insomnia), I manage a team of writers and try to get them good records, gigs and festivals to write about, sub-edit their work, email a tonne of PRs and labels, and occasionally review things or interview people I really like myself, which is the best fun.

How did you get your big break?
I’m not sure I ever did! But I was very lucky to meet a fellow called Toby L on a Blur newsgroup (remember them?) when we were both 15, just as he was starting Rockfeedback.com. He was the first person to say my writing was any good, and we worked together a lot after.

Who are the biggest artists you’ve interviewed or worked with?
Blur, the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Jimmy Page, Paul Weller… I’ve just realised that sure is a lot of old white dudes.

How close do you get?
Physically? Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan gave me a bear hug once, just as he came off stage. He was really sweaty and very, very high. Nice fella.

Blur Young
I googled ‘Blur, Young’. Yikes.

Who did you love the most?
Blur were the first band who I went a bit nuts over, and I still go a bit nuts over them today. I haven’t fucking shut up about Blur in over 20 years.

Tell me about some crazy requests you’ve made…
I’m not sure I’ve ever requested anything that crazy. I’ve been surprised that some of the bigger artists I’ve interviewed ever agreed to it though. People have often asked how we get the access, and the honest answer is just that we ask nicely. Be nice, it gets you stuff.

Who was the weirdest interview with?
I interviewed Steve Albini, who I hugely admire, while sat on a large, pink, plastic sofa shaped like a pair of lips in a hotel in Barcelona. I’d wanted to interview him for years, and the whole time I was thinking ‘this isn’t how I pictured this’. He was great though, especially his line about how struggling musicians should “get a fucking job”, because if you’re reliant on your music to make you your money, your music is probably going to suck.

If you weren’t a music journalist what would your dream job be?
A doctor, or a human rights lawyer, or one of those people who go in to school playgrounds to dismantle unexploded bombs that have laid dormant since World War II. Something less fun, but actually worthwhile.

How do you find people to work with?
They usually approach us, but if there’s someone I get in to a conversation with who I think has an interesting take on music, I’ll encourage them to write it up and send it to me. I spend a lot of time chatting outside pubs, basically.

What can a job applicant do to get noticed?
Write well, often and stick to deadlines, be personable over email, and offer something a site doesn’t already have.

Can you give us your 3 golden tips for getting into music journalism?
Go out of your way to listen to stuff outside of your comfort zone so as to get as wide a frame of reference as you can, find your own voice, and have some other source of income.

Your Career high
Walking through downtown Austin, Texas being filmed talking about Slint records with Graham Coxon. Taking a helicopter around Sao Paulo on a day off from filming a festival. Or just any time I get to go to Iceland. I’ve been very lucky.

Your Career low
Having to feign interest in interviewing The Ting Tings.

Your favourite TV
The Simpsons

Your Favourite Record
Deep Men, self-titled, 2015. As yet unreleased, might remain that way.

A couple of your Online Bookmarks
The Line of Best Fit, The Talkhouse, Clickhole.

5 Top new artists of 2015?
Girl Band, Tirzah, Hinds, Georgia, Shamir.

Parklife or Cigarettes and Alcohol?
See question seven.

Last thing you searched for on Google?
Bed and Breakfasts in Broadstairs, Kent.

Follow Thomas on Twitter
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