“Tweet journalists but don't be too pushy.”
This quote is buried in the middle of my interview with Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor of NME.com, but brings a smile to my face. Mainly because I’m intrigued whether this is advice Lucy thinks I need, or that I have already followed.
To explain, October 2012 saw Radiohead play a hotly anticipated three-date only UK tour, and I was lucky enough to be at the first gig in Manchester. Being aware that the majority of the pro music writers out there would be attending the two London dates several days later, I saw an opportunity to get an early review written and out there.
I had it ready the following morning and sent my review to several writers on Twitter, one of whom was Lucy, who deemed it worthy to retweet for her followers.
Cool - Radiohead played You and Whose Army and Planet Telex last night. Good roundup here from @timmarklew goo.gl/V9dnN
— Lucy Jones (@lucyjones) October 7, 2012
I got a bunch of views and even connected with plenty of Radiohead fans in the process. Job done, thanks Lucy! But I didn't stop there, and was cheeky enough to ask her for an interview, which she graciously agreed to. But, the best laid schemes and all that, coupled with a new job at the NME, and it subsequently took me two months to nail her down. Tweeting and emailing enough to remind her, while hopefully staying on the right side of her advice on persistence.
Fortunately, persistence is something Lucy knows a bit about too.
“After school I moved to Honduras for 6 months to work on a newspaper for free,” she tells me of the geographically-unusual start of her route into journalism.
“It was an awesome experience and I got a taste for the exciting side of journalism, I spent my time interviewing gangsters and reviewing 5 star hotels in the Bay Islands. It was insane. Then, after doing a degree in English Lit at UCL, I worked somewhere a little less exotic, the Maidenhead Advertiser.”
And while this move may have lacked the glamour of Central American gangsters, it was a vital step in establishing herself as a serious journalist.
“I loved writing about village life, but I also reviewed albums and films when I was there and realised I was much more interested in that side of things than straight news. After six months the paper sent me to do an NCTJ course. It was helpful to learn media law and shorthand, and it's a good qualification for any journalist to have on their CV.
“After that I started doing evening shifts at the Telegraph on the Comment desk, and a staff job followed a few months later.”
So, varied experience - check, qualifications - check. But what else does Lucy have that sets her apart in the desperately overcrowded music journalism job market?
“Eek. Um. That's a hard question. I'm passionate about music and committed to creating content that's going to entertain and inform. I’ve also studied music and learnt quite a few instruments, so I have quite a lot of knowledge on music theory, genres and instruments, which maybe makes it easier to deconstruct stuff. My skin's pretty tough as well so it doesn't knock me if pitches are rejected or someone writes that I'm a ruby-lipped monkey whore on the internet.”
Lucy preempts a later question by directly addressing the trolls, and the less said about them the better. So, other than being called a ruby-lipped monkey whore, what have been the highlights of Lucy’s career to date? And is the music journalism game all it’s cracked up to be?
“Getting a job at NME was pretty cool. I've also loved covering SXSW in Austin for the last couple of years. Interviewing Bryan Harvey? Just kidding. Tori Amos, E from Eels, Bjork, Bobby Womack and Graham Coxon have all been cool interviewees.
“Interviewing musicians and artists I was in awe of and spending my time listening to music and going to gigs rocks. Also I love the idea of introducing a song or artist to someone that'll flip their wig.”
Despite Lucy’s nonchalant “pretty cool” remark about her move to the NME in 2012, and my previous interviewee and former NME writer Laura Snapes’ branding of it as a “normal place”, the fanboy in me has to ask what the move there was like.
“I try not to think ahead as much as possible, so I'm not sure I had expectations really. I didn't expect to walk in and see Liam and Noel and people shooting up in the stationary cupboard. It's been amazing working with a team who just absolutely love music and are excited about it. It's a really nice vibe, there are a lot of LOLs. It's also nice to write for a massive readership who really care about new music.”
Lucy's favourite song of 2012
So, having made the “pretty cool” move to the NME, what else does someone who tries not to think ahead still want to achieve?
“I'd like to write a book. Maybe fictional, maybe about a band I like. I want to travel and study more too, and possibly move to the States for a bit. And to meet my dream interviewee, Prince.”
For those who haven’t been with this blog from the start, the reason I started interviewing writers whilst still at university was not only to tell their great untold stories, but to get their advice too. Lucy’s advice? Be polite. Be bold. Be yourself.
“Write to everyone you want to work for and send them an article tailored to their style. Stop waffling. Cut your prose down by at least half. Wake up every morning at 6am to write. Read all the books about music you can find. Make notes and keep them. Read other books too. Go to gigs even if you don't know who's playing. Crate-dig. Put your best work on a blog. Tweet journalists but don't be too pushy. Get an NCTJ or masters if you can. Work for a local paper. Look for local papers that offer scholarships for training. And don't be offended if someone says your writing needs a lot of work.”
Tweet but don’t be too pushy. Lucy subsequently assures me that was not an answer tailored for me, but I will now remember it nonetheless. Thanks to Lucy for her time, and for sharing her story. She can be found in the links throughout this blog, and on NME.com.