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Working as a music journalist can be your backstage pass to the best gigs, the biggest festivals, and the most spectacular club nights on the planet. But how do you get into it… and how do you do it? Is this a skill that writers - both of parties past and gigs yet to happen – are born with, or is it something that can, for instance, be taught at university?

To debate this subject, a panel was recently convened and chaired by Dr Simon A. Morrison, Programme Leader for Music Journalism at the University of Chester. Simon was once a columnist for DJmagazine and author of a collection of journalism entitled Discombobulated, now swapping the dancefloors of Ibiza for the lecture theatres of Chester University. The panel considered a famous comment (mistakenly attributed to Elvis Costello) that suggested writing about music is like ‘dancing about architecture’, in other words… a tricky, abstract thing to even attempt. However, many careers have been forged by those interested in working in the worlds of music and writing, and in doing just that, many of those writers were within the walls of Manchester’s Principal Hotel, where the seventh Louder Than Words festival of music writing took place last month. 

Simon’s panel welcomed Dr Lucy O’Brien, author of She Bop, the acclaimed history of women in popular music and the recent Madonna: Like An Icon; the Course Leader for Music Journalism at BIMM Manchester, John McCready, veteran writer for publications such as NME and The Face; and from an industry perspective, the Editor-in-Chief of Liverpool print music magazine Bido Lito, Chris Torpey, and ex-editor of The Wire, Mark Sinker. Adding an important voice from the student perspective was second year Music Journalism student Jon-Paul Berry.

Whether aspiring Tony Parsons or Julie Burchills, current music journalism students, lecturers or merely interested parties, added their spin to this question, with important contributions from the floor, including the leading light of popular music scholarship, Professor Simon Frith, as the panel pirouetted around the baroque walls of the Principal Hotel and, in fact, attempted to dance about architecture.

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