For many young people, a career in music journalism is highly desirable. Whether tempted by the promise of free records and gig tickets, or the possibility of meeting an idol, seeing your own work published can be one of the most exciting experiences. But what's the reality of working as a hack? Tim Clark investigates.
As with many aspects of the music industry, humble origins can lead anywhere. Student publications and fanzines are a particularly good starting point, as they're usually more than happy to receive contributions.
Noel Gardner, music and listings editor for South Wales listings magazine Buzz, recalls his first steps on the road to writing: "I started out in Devon, and from there joined Cardiff University's Gair Rhydd, where I hung around the office being annoyingly keen and getting more and more stuff to do.
"After about a year of this - incorporating a few extraneous things like a webzine and some terrible DJing on a couple of radio stations - I felt confident enough to submit some reviews to the NME. There began four years of often fun, often frustrating freelancing for that publication."
Go to as many gigs as your budget allows, write practice reviews of them plus ones of CDs you buy, read a wide spectrum of music publications, and don't get annoyed if Close quotation markeditors don't reply immediately.Noel Gardner
Many major magazines and newspapers rely on freelance writers for a substantial part of their material, and confidence in your own ability can be an important factor in getting work published. It's often easier to convince someone else that you have talent if you believe it yourself.
"Be incredibly keen," says Noel. "And be prepared to write about stuff you're not actually that interested in. The NME these days is more advertising-led than ever before and this has contributed to a narrower agenda, with fewer bands getting big features.
"With that in mind, go to as many gigs as your budget allows, write practice reviews of them plus ones of CDs you buy; read a wide spectrum of music publications on the newsstand and online; and don't get annoyed if you send stuff to editors and they don't reply immediately. They probably have a ton of stuff to wade through."
In Wales, the prospects of finding a dream job in print media can be frustratingly elusive. There are a number of development agencies which provide employment for people, yet there's not a great deal of money to go round and keep things afloat.
But this shouldn't be too much of a disincentive. The growth of online media has picked up the diversity that the magazines have dropped. Many webzines and web-magazines rely on user-generated content. There's nothing stopping you from sending unsolicited articles to online publications.