Music journalism

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Music journalism is a specialized branch of entertainment journalism--especially criticism and reportage about music, usually rock, but also hip hop, classical, and electronica, among other forms. Ranging from lengthy profiles of singers and bands to brief album reviews, music journalism is at least several decades old. Magazines such as Rolling Stone, Urb, New Musical Express, and The Source are well known for their musical journalism.

History of Musical Journalism

Before the 1840s or so, reporting on music was either done by musical journals, like (in the areas that later became Germany) Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (published by Breitkopf & Hartel and then by Rieter-Biederman, from 17981882) or the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (founded by Robert Schumann); in London such journals as the Musical Times as of 1844 (Musical Times and singing-class circular until 1906), and so on; which was its major competitor in Germany*, and which gradually supplanted it, or else by reporters at newspapers whose main interest was in politics, and which gave only slight attention to music. Several changes — possibly education, the Romantic movement generally and in music, popularization (including what some referred to as Lisztomania), among others, led to an increasing interest in music among the general papers, and an increase in the number of critics by profession (and of varying degrees of competence and integrity, of course. The situation here was distinguished from that before the 1840s, in that the critics now — on the whole — were not also musicians; and so this could be considered a turning‐point of a kind.)

The main source for the claim that music criticism underwent a fundamental change in the 1840s50s, is a letter by Liszt, and admittedly, given the time and the context— the beginnings of the War of the Romantics, the contrast he describes may be produced by nostalgia for a time when artists critiqued artists (his own ideal, as his writings are interpreted by Alan Walker; of course, such a situation runs a risk of creating a guild mentality, though in that same context this might have seemed less true) However, the contemporary situation he describes can be independently confirmed.

* I use "Germany" as a convenient shorthand here for German‐speaking regions in a certain geographical radius, since Germany under a single government, though the goal of a movement for quite some time in the 19th century, only began with Bismarck.

Modern Music Journalism

The profession of music journalism, which started off without precedents, direction, or ground rules, found its feet in less than a century. The world of modern music journalism can be partially divided into — on the magazines’ side — recording and concert reviewers, interviewers, the usual magazine staff of publisher editor &cie keeping its body and soul together, and editorialists and other writers. A record label or musician’s promoters will often send free recordings, or demonstration copy to the magazine to be passed on to its reviewers for audition. Announcements of future expected recordings might be made available by some recording companies and published by some magazines (by Gramophone in classical music, for example).

In a reversal of situation from the 19th century, a primarily music magazine such as Rolling Stone covers politics and is the place where several journalists, including Hunter S. Thompson are regarded as having gotten their serious start.


The following book was referred to in the text -

La Mara (Lipsius, Marie), ed. Franz Liszts Briefe. 8 vols. (Volume 1, Von Paris bis Rom, quoted.) Leipzig, 1893–1905. Translation by Constance Bache published by New York: Greenwood Press, 1969 (again 1995). ISBN 0837111048.

Walker, Alan. Franz Liszt: The Weimar Years, 1848–1861. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1989, paperback (c) 1993. Pages 395–7. ISBN 0801497213.


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