Streaming Spotlight: Music Journalism with Louise Mason
A dip in to Louise’s IG Live with shesaid.so, as she shares her experience and advice [Interview by Clare Everson]
Louise Mason is a radio and podcast producer and presenter, music journalist and writer. You can hear her on BBC Radio 6 Music interviewing artists for music news and reporting from festivals such as SXSW, as well as regularly presenting ‘This Week In Music’ on Radcliffe and Maconie. Louise has reported from the red carpet of the Hyundai Mercury Prize 2019 interviewing the nominees including Foals and IDLES.
Louise tells us a bit more about her multifaceted career and shares her advice for anyone pursuing a path in a similar area of the industry.
shesaid.so: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your work and why you enjoy what you do?
Hi, I’m Louise Mason — I am a freelance music journalist and radio and audio producer (I currently produce Annie Mac’s podcast ‘Changes’ and Angela Scanlon’s podcast ‘Thanks A Million’). I also present a monthly new music show on Reform Radio. As a music journalist, I report for BBC Radio 6 music regularly presenting ‘This Week In Music’ on Radcliffe and Maconie on a Saturday morning. This covers the latest music news from the week just gone. My role for BBC Radio 6 Music as a reporter also includes, in normal times, attending festivals and gigs to get interviews with artists. In the past, I have reported from the red carpet of the Hyundai Mercury Music Prize in 2019, been to SXSW in Austin Texas, the Great Escape in Brighton and NOS Alive in Portugal, as well as covering 6 Music Festival in Camden in 2020 just before lockdown. In Camden, I interviewed some of the artists such as Nadine Shah, the Orielles and Sports Team plus presented some live reports about the weekends events on Chris Hawkins and Tom Ravenscroft. Notable interviews I’ve done to date include Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Beth Ditto, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, Sampa The Great and Sharon Van Etten. I really enjoy this aspect of my job because I love music and I love people so combining the two, meeting artists that I admire and getting the chance to talk to them about their stories and music, all whilst getting the opportunity to broadcast on such an amazing music station is something that I will never take for granted.
shesaid.so: What do you hope to achieve with your talk on Music Journalism and who do you hope to reach or relate to?
My talk that I did for SheSaidSo in 2020 on instagram live was aimed at helping people with an interest in music journalism with some insights into how to get started and how to get your music covered or story heard if you are an artist. I often get asked about my journey into radio and broadcasting, particularly because previously I was a city lawyer with a completely different career. So I wanted to demonstrate that anything is possible if you have enough passion and determination to do it. At the same time, I wanted to be real and completely honest about how much determination you need and that like most things in life, there are ups and downs but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! If it’s your passion you will always find rewarding moments.
shesaid.so: How would you describe the reality of being a freelance music journalist?
The reality, especially in a covid world, is that it isn’t my everything and I know other music journalists who, like me, do it as one aspect of their work. Even prior to covid, being freelance means that there are very busy periods and very quiet periods. The highs are very high and the lows are just quiet periods when you can do something else. In terms of the job itself, unpredictable would be the main word, but that is what makes it exciting too! You never know what is going to happen. I was meant to interview Michael Kiwanuka at 6 music festival as he was a headliner but he had to drop out at the last minute due to illness which meant scrapping all my questions and last minute doing an interview with Nadine Shah. Luckily, I am a fan and had brought notes on the other artists performing so I was able to do the interview confidently, but you do have to be prepared for things to change and be thrown into interviews last minute, especially in a festival environment. You also have to be patient and be prepared to work hard. At festivals you are often working long hours, waiting for artists who can be late or move interview times at the last minute and sometimes working to tight deadlines; for example, at the Mercury Prize in 2019 we had to do the interviews and then cut the audio and send clips with a brief script to the shows that were covering the awards. It means being prepared and efficient. You need a good memory for picking the best bits. Often you are on your own and so you also need to be confident in your kit and organised — have spare batteries, make sure your memory card has been reformatted or used before and be on time!
shesaid.so: What would be your key piece of advice for someone starting their career and wanting to work in music journalism?
My main advice would be just start. Like anything you can do things yourself without waiting for someone to hand you an opportunity. Get yourself to a gig (when they are back) or, right now, approach an emerging artist who you want to champion and ask if you can interview them. Write a blog, pitch your own radio show, approach online blogs or magazines and ask if you can submit an album review. You’re unlikely to get paid but it shows your passion and builds a portfolio to then allow you to move on to maybe getting paid in future. My talk was full of detailed stories of how I started, breaking down my journey so far. So if you want to know more I would go back and listen to that.
shesaid.so: In your experience, what are your tips specifically for interviewing artists in order to get the best outcome from the interview?
Listen. Always listen. Don’t stick to a script. The best interviews, in my opinion, are when people respond to what the artist is saying and don’t stick rigidly to their questions. Prepare, be clear what you want to cover and the direction that you would like to take the interview but know that things can change and you have to be willing to adapt. I am still learning but I always think having a short friendly chat before you start recording helps to put them at ease, if you have any common ground I find mentioning this can help with rapport too which helps to get the best out of them.
Check out Louise’s shesaid.so IG Live session on Music Journalism here.