Jennifer Lucy Allan, online editor of The Wire
Jennifer Lucy Allan: online editor of The Wire

A comprehensive six-week introductory evening course in music journalism, which aims to have you commissioned by the end of the course and will give you the tools to be a great writer, with a focus on independent music writing.

This course with The Journalism School is led by Jennifer Lucy Allan, online editor at The Wire, and will cover feature and reviews writing, pitching and blagging, interview techniques and essentials including subbing, contacts building, and law for music journalism, all with a focus on independent music journalism.

Guest speakers will include Derek Walmsley (Deputy Editor, The Wire), Luke Turner (Co-founder, The Quietus) and Phil Hebblethwaite (NME, ViceUK, The Quietus, former editor of The Stool Pigeon).

No previous experience of journalism is needed.

The course will cover various styles of writing: music news, features, profiles, plus a masterclass on reviews writing, and the all-important ‘dark art’ of the pitch.

We will cover basic journalism law, subbing, editing, research and interview skills (including how to find and approach people for interview, and building contacts).

All questions about how the industry works will be answered en route.

There will be constant feedback and appraisal of your writing throughout the course, and all work and activities are aimed to be as close to real scenarios as possible, with the opportunity for one to one feedback, guidance and contacts.

There is no final exam, as the last piece of homework set will be to write a successful pitch to a publication or website of your choice. Success will be a real life commission!

Full course outline:

Week 1:

Introduction to music journalism

We’ll give you some key dos and don’ts in music writing, cover the essentials of libel and copyright in music journalism, and have a look at specialist research skills – how to find anyone, how to use custom search skills, and how to use and access other resources.


You’ll learn the crucial ability to sub-edit your own work and the work of others, how to write headlines and standfirsts, and we’ll also discuss basic style rules.

Week 2

News writing and collecting

You’ll learn how to spot news stories and how to build contacts from majors to bedroom label heads. You’ll use and ‘abuse’ press releases from the music industry, and learn the inverted triangle of news, with a brief introduction to Freedom Of Information requests and how you can use them as a music writer.

Guest speaker: Phil Hebblethwaite, a journalist and editor who founded and ran The Stool Pigeon music newspaper between 2005-2013. He now works as a freelance journalist for The Guardian, NME, Vice and The Quietus. Phil will talk about investigative journalism and music writing, bringing your news copy to life, and how to transcend the confines of a press release.

Week 3

Interview techniques

Get your dictaphones out for a practical lesson on different types of interviews, and how to make the best of geographical limitations with your interviewee! We’ll learn how to deal with difficult or awkward interviewees, and how to ask difficult questions, before looking at basic rules for editing transcripts and using quotes.

Week 4

Reviews masterclass

Writing album and live reviews for print. Common mistakes and misdirections to avoid, and how to write the perfect review.

Guest speaker: Derek Walmsley is Deputy Editor at The Wire, where he commissions and edits around 30,000 words of reviews per month. He has contributed to the magazine since 2004, and has also written for The Quietus and Resident Advisor.

Derek will give an editor’s perspective on how to write album and live music reviews for print. Learn the mistakes that most writers make and how to avoid them. Find out what makes for rock solid music journalism, authoritative criticism and a style that zings of the page. Also covers the fine detail of how to put a review together, strategies that will grab a reader’s attention, and how to make your writing stand out from the pack.

Week 5

Feature writing

We’ll cover the basics of feature writing, including news features, profile interviews and essays, with a 101 on basic structure, which you will learn to play around with. We’ll use an interview transcript from earlier in the course to draft a 500 word feature.

Online music journalism

Guest speaker: Luke Turner is co-founder and co-editor of The Quietus, the award-winning, respected UK online magazine devoted to music, film, literature and popular culture. He has also contributed to Q, The Guardian, BBC, NME, Stool Pigeon, Dazed & Confused, Monocle, Caught By River, among others. Luke will look at the different considerations for online and print journalism, from the nuts and bolts of writing to how to seed that writing, from the basics of search engine optimisation vs shareability, to leveraging social networks.

Week 6

Features recap

We’ll look at a feature you’ve written, write a headline and standfirst, and use your subbing skills learned earlier in the course to mould it into a finished piece of writing.

Pitching and blagging

The final class will cover (arguably) the two most important aspects of music journalism: pitching and blagging. You’ll be given a primer on the ‘dark art’ of the pitch, with focused discussion on what editors are looking for and how to contact them. We’ll discuss internships and how to get one, and by the end of the class you’ll have a pitch ready to write up and send off.

Six two-hour classes for only £180.

Monday evenings 7pm to 9pm at

Celia Fiennes House
8-20 Well Street
E9 7PX

Nearest station: London Fields / Hackney Central / Bethnal Green

The course runs from Monday 9 June – 14 July 2014.

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