BY AARON STREATFEILD @slazanom
Avid gig goer, musician, podcaster and one of a select few journalists in Australia that write about music for a living – David James Young discusses the journey that led to his career in music journalism.
With a list of publishers, including the likes of the BRAG, Fasterlouder, Blunt Magazine, Music Feeds, Beat Magazine, Xpress Magazine, Scenestr Magazine, SameSame and Hysteria Magazine, there is a chance you have come across David’s work. Since his early beginnings in 2007, David has solidified himself as one of Australia’a go-to music journalists. Taking time out of his busy schedule, David lends advice to those looking for a career in music journalism.
AS: What made you to want to be a music journalist?
DJY: The fact that I wasn’t aware that you could combine the two things that I was even remotely good at – knowing things about music and writing. As soon as that became a clear interest, that’s all I ever wanted to do. I’ve been chasing it since I was a kid.
How did you get your start in music journalism?
I timidly became a volunteer contributor at a then-blossoming website called FasterLouder. I tried my hand at writing album reviews as far back as 2007; I started doing interviews and live reviews as far back as 2008. In 2009 I helped out on a friend’s website and joined up with SameSame, a sister site of FasterLouder. It kind of built up gradually from there – my uni degree definitely helped in this regard.
What formal education did you undergo?
I completed a Bachelor of Journalism degree at the University of Wollongong from 2009 to 2011.
How has your formal education aided your journalism career?
It helped me learn a lot about other kinds of reporting, newswriting and media work that I was formerly unqualified to do. I now see myself as a fully-qualified journalist with a specific focus on music.
What advice would you offer someone who is interested in studying journalism/communications?
You have to take the good with the bad. You will have to learn about things that you may never use again. You might get stuck in group assignments with the worst people imaginable. Think of it as high school with fancier certificates. Also, remember: It’s not for everyone. If it doesn’t work for you, so be it. Don’t feel like you have to jump through hoops in order to make it happen for you. If you love it, more power to you as well. Everyone’s going to approach these things differently.
How did you make the transition from contributing to various music media outlets to full-time music journalist?
That’s still essentially what I do. I just get paid to do it now! I’m a freelancer, so I’m not contracted anywhere on a 9-to-5 basis. I work when I can and how I want to.
What does a typical workweek consist of for you?
Answering emails, transcribing interviews, doing interviews over the phone, editing down and selecting quotes for my feature articles, listening to new music, making lists, swearing at deadlines and downing a V/Mother/Monster or three.
What would you say contributed to your success as becoming a full-time music journalist?
I guess it depends how you measure success. I work hard and I love what I do and I think the places I work for have started to reflect that more in the last few years. I’ve gotten to do some major feature articles and interview some of my heroes in the process, so I’m pretty grateful for that. I credit that to building up a trust with my editors and by constantly improving on my writing.
What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to make a living off music journalism?
Be willing to put a lot of work in. Be willing to sometimes have polite conversations with people whose music you don’t particularly care for. Be willing to listen to music you wouldn’t normally listen to. Be willing to risk a low income, stress over finishing your work, sub-editing like a crazy person. Keep your passion and your love for music in-tact. Write every damn day. Adapt. Learn.
What would be a brief checklist you would assemble to prepare anyone who was looking to chase music journalism as a career?
Must like: Deadlines, being pedantic over word counts, occasionally doing things for free to help someone out, listening to the sound of your own voice recorded, music.
Must dislike: Money. I kid. Or do I?
Who are you biggest influences?
I was inspired to sign up to FL in the first place by a writer named Giselle Nguyen who sadly no longer does music journalism but is still a remarkably-talented woman. I try not to get too influenced by other writers, as I like to have my own voice. I do have some of my favourite rock critics/writers, though – Rob Sheffield, kc orcutt, Jessica Hopper, Everett True, Andrew P Street, Jake Cleland.