Become a Music Critic: Training and Career Roadmap

Learn about the steps involved in becoming a music critic. Find information about the educational requirements and the training and experience you'll need to start a career as a music critic. View article »

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  • 0:03 Music Critics
  • 0:39 Career Information
  • 1:31 Step 1: Obtain a Degree
  • 2:31 Step 2: Find Work
  • 3:33 Step 3: Consider a…
  • 4:01 Step 4: Build a…

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Video Transcript

Music Critics

As a music critic, you'll write about live and recorded musical performances, offering your audience news, reviews and features about musicians, their work and the music industry. The job requires a wealth of knowledge about music history and current trends. Music critics can work in many mediums: print, broadcast, online, or academic setting - or as freelancers. While freelancing provides the opportunity to set your own schedule, it also means finding your own work, and even working on several projects at once.

Career Information

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some critics go on to receive a master's degree
Degree Field(s) Music; music theory; journalism
Experience Some experience is typically required
Key Skills Knowledge of music; organization and writing abilities
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 9% decline (for reporters, correspondents, and broadcast new analysts)
Median Salary (2015)* $37,720 (for reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

If you're ready, let's take a look at some steps you can follow to pursue your dream of becoming a music critic:

Step 1: Obtain a Degree

According to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2005, over two-thirds of the metropolitan music critics in the United States were music majors in college. Taking courses in music history, theory, and performance can develop a solid knowledge base. Since music critics must have strong writing skills and knowledge of music, coursework in creative writing or other English classes may help develop knowledge of writing structure, style, and grammar. Some universities have classes or special programs set up to encourage the development of young music critics.

Begin Writing While in College

Aspiring music critics should begin to develop a portfolio of music reviews and commentary while still in college. Music critics attempting to gain experience may be able to find opportunities writing for local newspapers, magazines, access television, college newspapers, or city guides.

Step 2: Find Work

There are many local print magazines and newspapers that publish work by music critics. Increasingly, online journals and newspapers, websites, and blogs also offer opportunities for freelance music critics. Self-discipline and the ability to work under pressure are important attributes for freelance writers. Articles, such as music or concert reviews and artist interviews, should be submitted according to a publication's style requirements. Some freelance music critics publish on their own blogs or websites.

Join the Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA)

Music critics specializing in classical music may consider becoming a member of this association, which provides news about the classical music world and facilitates networking between music professionals. MCANA also offers educational seminars designed to make critics more knowledgeable and to increase the quality of music criticism in the United States.

Step 3: Consider a Master's Degree

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke also reported that almost half of the critics covering classical music have a master's degree in music. Students in master's degree programs may take additional coursework in such areas as music history, music theory, ethnomusicology, music librarianship, performance, and composition. Advanced expertise in the music field may enhance a critic's credibility and improve his or her professional prospects.

Step 4: Build a Portfolio & Network

The surest way to advance a career in music criticism is to write, write, write. Commissioning editors and publications look for prior work that demonstrates your knowledge of music, accuracy, and writing voice. Keep your writing clips organized and archived in a portfolio to show prospective clients. Additionally, creating a personal website or blog that showcases your work to bolster your visibility and increase the chances for employment. Attend industry conferences and seminars to establish contacts with editors and agents as well.

Remember, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in a music-related major or journalism and writing experience to start a career as a music critic. In May 2015, reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts in general earned a median annual salary of $37,720.

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