How ‘The Music Writer’s Lab’ Seeks to Nourish, Uplift and Fill a Void in Media (Op-Ed)
At BIGSOUND 2022, a new initiative will be launched with a specific focus on enhancing the development of music journalists and the environment in which they create.
The Music Writer’s Lab is a joint project spearheaded by MusicNT and the Australia Council For The Arts. The idea for an initiative such as this has been in the works for a number of years, starting as most do: a conversation on how things can improve and ultimately, benefit a new generation of creatives.
By the time I was approached to help, the central idea of The Music Writer’s Lab was in place – established and emerging music journalists would be brought together across a number of one on one development sessions to exchange knowledge and, for the emerging writers, potentially offer some early industry pathways.
Further, The Music Writer’s Lab would be built on a desire to encourage new and fresh critical perspectives and drive the importance of critical and informed review within our media landscape.
It would come as no surprise to any music journalist that presently, the professional climate has been suffering from a lack of new voices; voices that should be amplified and elevated. And in many respects, music journalism has lost a layer of edge. Not ‘edge’ in the sense of controversy, but ‘edge’ in the sense of the style of writing and review that makes widespread audiences want to actively follow specific writers for specific content. It’s a proper shame too, because in Australia, there does exist an extremely talented community of writers – both established and emerging – who, given the right platforms and support, can really achieve a cultural shift.
So with these things in mind, The Music Writer’s Lab moved forward into its more definitive stages of planning and execution. The response from the industry approached to be part of the pilot season was all the encouragement needed in those early stages, to reinforce that this type of initiative was needed.
Applications from emerging writers around the country provided an additional sense of validation that the industry needs more of these sorts of initiatives so that, not only can new crops of writers find their community, but they can also be learning and receiving feedback from their peers in real-time.
Today, six writers who have been selected to participate in the pilot season of The Music Writer’s Lab, have been announced.
Three are Naarm-based writers: Selin Ruby Kaya, Aidan Williams and Lillian Phillips; both Sisi Sparkle and Levi Kohler are Meanjin-based. Completing our first cohort of The Music Writer’s Lab is Kaurna-based writer Melissa Griffin.
Their applications were striking and full of personality but moreover, the passion these writers have for the actual craft; and the investment they have put into their own evolution as writers, were key contributors to their eventual selection.
Against the backdrop of BIGSOUND, these writers will participate in a full-day intensive on ground in Brisbane, where they will meet and learn from our three mentors: Marcus Teague, Rhianna Patrick and Tait McGregor. Participants will also be treated to guest presentations from author, musician and veteran music journalist Noel Mengel, and Yorta Yorta/Kaieltheban musician, songwriter, poet and producer Neil Morris (DRMNGNOW).
Their perspectives, incorporated with those of The Music Writer’s Lab mentors, make for an incredibly strong pilot season of conversation and learning.
Throughout the duration of BIGSOUND’s series of showcases and conference sessions, the emerging writers will put their learnings and natural skills into practice, documenting their experiences across a number of editorial tasks. The original content created as a result of their time at The Music Writer’s Lab will be published with a range of Australian media outlets; offering not simply an opportunity to gain new bylines, but to gain invaluable experience in dealing with the media, different style guides, professional standards and more importantly, build a foundation for themselves as working industry members.
Along with the closed-door development sessions, The Music Writer’s Lab has also curated a BIGSOUND conference panel focusing on Critical Discourse and the Australian Music Industry. Featuring Teague, Patrick and TMN/Billboard journalist Lars Brandle, we will be discussing the current state of play when it comes to music journalism in Australia; where the industry is failing its writers, the spaces where new voices are being nurtured, and how a healthy environment for critical discourse can potentially be reintroduced to the Australian music industry.
It has been a truly enriching experience to have been part of the development of an initiative such as this, though I hope it is not the only event of its kind that we see emerge as the industry forges forward into a new era, spurred on by ‘change’.
To have a music industry and community without the elevation of critical review, healthy discourse and independent voices is a dangerous one to exist and work in. Music journalists still provide an integral role in the wider music industry economy and it’s our hope with the debut of an initiative such as The Music Writer’s Lab, that we can highlight this and provide a space where new voices can thrive and overall, the wider community of journalists can see that the work is being done to ensure they are supported and uplifted where, a lot of times, that support can feel lacking.
For more information about The Music Writer’s Lab, visit the official website here.