10 May Confessions of a Music Journalist | How to Conduct a Great Interview
This is a music journalism – interview guide.
The following tips are the result of thought and contemplation. They are the actual tips that I share with my own team and they reflect my approach to conducting interviews. There is no right or wrong, each and everyone is entitled to their own unique style and we all have something to bring to the table.
Diversity is a good thing after all –otherwise, it would get too boring.
Do your homework.
So, you landed a great name! Congratulations. The first step is to do research and do it like you mean it. No shortcuts, no quick Wikipedia browsing, no time savers. Research is an unextractable part of music journalism so you gotta love it. Or learn to love it. Get very familiar with the artist you are interviewing and their band. Read all past interviews, check out their profiles on social media, and learn their background and history. Moreover, find out why they are doing interviews now. Are they promoting a new piece of work? Are they going on tour? Did they just release a new music video? In a nutshell, leave no stone unturned.
Work with bands you respect, only. That’s a rule I live by, and so far it’s working out well for me. Respect –not to be confused with likes and dislikes is crucial here. You don’t have to like the band, but you do have to be able to see why other people like them, what’s special about them, and understand their value regardless of your taste. If you don’t you might as well move on to the next band.
PERSONAL STORY: Once a music journalist came up to me and said:
“You know, I have conducted hundreds of interviews the past x years”. Which is impressive, indeed. But I prefer not to count heads, I find no satisfaction in that, whatsoever. Less but better is what I like.
For the love of satin, avoid clichés. Bands and artists do press releases to inform their audience and fans about their latest endeavours. So, that kind of information is already out there. They have already explained what the new concept is, what the inspiration behind their new album is, and how they feel about the upcoming tour. Hint: they are all very excited. Ask meaningful questions that will add value to your publication. Check previous interviews to avoid repeating the same Q&A. Go back to step one and do your research to find out interesting details about them then ask engaging questions about that. Think of it this way: If you were at the pub having a pint with that particular individual, how would the conversation go? What would you really like to know?
Keep in mind they are also humans.
I know right? You might have idolized your favourite artist and glorify their every move, but they are still humans and they are probably tired of having to answer the same questions over and over again. Have mercy. Think of what they would enjoy as well. After all, if they actually enjoy the interview, you have more chances of ending up with a fantastic outcome and establishing a good relationship with their PR. Everyone is happy.
Include the fans.
As a music journalist, you probably have your own fan base. Or some Facebook friends that have the same taste in music as you. Ask them what they would like to know. You might be surprised! People tend to filter information through their prism, so they interpret music in different ways. That diversity of opinions leads to some very gripping questions.
Knowledge is more powerful when shared. If you have acquired some experience throughout your career in music journalism, inspire others instead of developing a secretive behaviour. Are you worried that they might take over your tasks and replace you? Then get better at your job. And I’m saying this with love! See your colleagues as community not competition. We are all good at different aspects of the same industry and there’s room for all the good ones.
Give them enough time to answer, send them the questions beforehand if possible. Sense their tone. They might be tired or nervous or in a mood for a long chat. Go with the flow and be open to change. I always have a plan B in mind just in case things don’t go as planned. You might have a meeting with the vocalist and the drummer shows up. It could happen. Or you might have planned a short and sweet concept but the artist is in a sharing, chatty mood. It could happen. Or you might have 3 pages of talking points and the artist is having a bad day and wants to get over with it. Adapt to each situation and smile. It’s all part of the game.
Be respectful of the artist’s time and personal life. Don’t exceed the allowed timeframe, don’t be late and make sure you are all set up and prepared. Don’t act like a crazed fan, it’s not flattering, and it will just make them very uncomfortable. Having said that, you can, of course, express your admiration if that’s how you really feel.
Have fun with it.
Have a little esoteric interview with yourself. Why are you doing this? What is it that really attracts you to the music industry? I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a glamorous job where you get free press passes and hang out with rock stars. It’s hard work that requires dedication, commitment, consistency, original ideas, perseverance, and a hell lot of work ethics. So if your personality agrees with the above and you actually enjoy it, just let that energy guide you into a flow state and have a blast! You earned it!
Until the next one,
Disclaimer: This post was created with my own original photography. All rights reserved. This post contains affiliate links to bands, content and media platforms that I, personally endorse. All opinions are my own. This post is not a paid-for or sponsored advertorial. The Chelfdom will always be a place of freedom of speech and individuality.