Diversify and survive

A music writer offers tips for staying in business in the current challenging climate by trying new markets.

Diversifying is one of the keys to survival in the current recession. Some of us got into music writing not because there was money in it - I don’t recall ever being over-awed by an NME cheque - but because we had a passion for it, and I can’t believe people who are passionate and knowledgeable about music don’t also have other interests.

I’m finding there’s still decent money in books, and rates are not being cut in the US yet - but expenses are, so US publications are using me more to do interviews in Europe rather than flying staff writers over. There’s never been a better time to start sending ideas over to features editors over there.

If, say, Vanity Fair in Italy or Germany pick up on an interview I’ve done, I can often charge more than I got for the original piece; even if only a small women’s mag like Mindfood in New Zealand takes it, it’s a couple of hundred quid more for very little extra work. The key is always keeping your copyright. Finding editors who speak English and are receptive and reply to emails is hard, though. If anyone else sells their work abroad in this way, we should pool contacts. With everyone cutting back on costs, more publications will be buying in interviews.

When it comes to the US, many publications will require a full transcript of your interview after you’ve filed copy, and that the quote and fact checking process afterwards is quite laborious. But all writers have to go through this process, every time. The New York Post recently paid me four months late for a Katy Perry interview, by which time the value of the dollar cheque in sterling had nearly doubled!

In my experience, publications in Russia and Korea are particularly bad at honouring invoices, for instance, and I no longer sell there.

I’ve tried independent syndication agencies too, and would love to know if anyone has found a good one. In my experience even when they do place a feature, it’s for pitiful amounts. I don’t mind them taking a 50 per cent cut, but I do mind them giving a 3500-word piece to a publication with a healthy circulation for £300.

Last modified: 12 Apr 2009 - © 2009 contributors
The Freelance editor is elected by London Freelance Branch and responsibility for content lies solely with the editor of the time
Send comments to the editor: editor@londonfreelance.org