Crash Course No. 5: Writing About Music

Ballroom Dancing: Music Panels

SXSW Live Shots
Photo By Gary Miller

Crash Course No. 5: Writing About Music

Austin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 17 "We are here to make you like us," Jaan Uhelszki began. Uhelszki, a founder of Creem magazine and a rock critic since the early Seventies, wasn't talking about companionship; she was talking about cloning – in a good way. Joined by British journalist and contributing editor for MOJO Sylvie Simmons, Uhelszki wondered why so many people want to be music critics. Simmons warned, "Everybody wants to be Cameron Crowe, but few of us are." The pair went down a list of dos – take advantage of nepotism, seek out a niche – as well as don'ts – kiss ass (usually), give up, agree with publicists – while attempting to teach what can't be taught: writing about music. Emphasizing that writing is "almost an invisible job," Uhelszki summoned Lester Bangs (à la Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous): "Rock stars are not our friends." When asked how to deal with a difficult interview, Simmons quipped, "outdiva the diva" with research. After all, "God made the Internet for people like us," agreed Uhelszki. Writing about music is a mixture of diligence, pride, and honesty, and the rewards are massive. Uhelszki took that to a level everyone can feel: "Rock concert T-shirt – $25; 'free' CDs – $10; meeting your heroes – priceless."

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