“I want your life!” I get this from people I’ve never met all the time. Maybe once a week, I’ll get a tweet like, “Your job is so glamorous” or “Can I be your intern?” in my Instagram comments. My personal favorite, “You’re just like Carrie Bradshaw!” The gist is the same: I follow you on social media and I want to be you—or, at least hang out with you long enough to get a selfie.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my life. As a music journalist living in New York City, I get to interview rappers and singers like J. Cole, Common, Ariana Grande and A$AP Rocky, listen to albums before everyone else and travel around the world. I get to be on TV or the radio to talk about pop culture and celebrities. Free swag? Yep, all the time. Sneakers, clothes, hotel hookups, invites to clubs and restaurants. I have more pairs of expensive $400 headphones than one person needs in her lifetime. It’s a dream job and I’m thankful every day.
BUT, the dream doesn’t come for free. It’s a never-ending hustle. If you want to become a music journalist or get into “the industry,” be prepared to work. Everything you see doesn’t come easy. Here’s a social media reality check.
"You Know EVERYONE!"
Me and Kanye West! Me and The Weeknd! Me and Sam Smith! I have lots of photos with celebrities that I’ve interviewed. A long time ago, a mentor told me to take photos to capture important career moments. It’s something I’ve done even before selfies were invented (by Kim Kardashian, apparently). It’s definitely cool to have these—and makes for great Instagram bragging—but what you don’t see is the work that happened before the shot. Hours of research, stalking publicists and managers to get an interview and then, waiting around for usually-late artists to show up. We joke about “hip hop time” in the industry, and it’s not uncommon for artists to be anywhere from 30 minutes late to an hour late. Some artists are so notorious for being late—or straight canceling minutes before—that you know not to bother scheduling anything for the rest of the day.
"You’re Like, Famous"
I’ve been professionally writing (in other words, getting paid to write) since high school. Still, it’s a cool feeling to see my byline with every completed article—even cooler when it’s a print piece that I can send home for my mom to put up on the fridge. This is the completed article. What you don’t see is the horribly tedious process of writing. There’s transcribing, which is typing out everything the artist said in the interview (including all the uhs and you know what I means) and then actually writing the piece. I’m not a fast writer so this can take hours. Based on how much I know about the artist already, there may be additional research and fact checking involved. Until you’ve written 2,000 words about some rapper no one’s ever heard of until 5:00am, don’t talk to me.
The Carrie Bradshaw Myth
Sex and the City is a great, fictional TV show. I repeat, FICTIONAL TV SHOW. Unfortunately, the character of Carrie Bradshaw has created a myth of what it’s like to be a female journalist. After living it, I’ll tell you that her depiction is as wrong as breaking up with someone on a Post-it.
Like Carrie, I definitely get to go to cool events-- concerts, games, private dinners. Except where she got to hook up with some different hottie afterwards, I have to go home and write. Writers get awesome access because we’re usually expected to cover the event. You’re not just there to eat the free chicken wings and drink Ciroc.
The biggest lie about the Carrie Bradshaw myth is financial. Carrie works whenever she feels like it. With one column—riddled with annoying puns--she’s able to live in Manhattan. She lived on 245 E 73rd Street and paid $700 on the show in rent. $700. I live in Manhattan too and I probably spend twice as much on iced lattes. Seriously, I’ve lived all over this borough and have never spent under $1100 per month on rent. By the way, $1100 was about 10 years ago for a room in another person’s dilapidated apartment with no air conditioner and bed bugs eating up the mattress.
Personally I don’t do this, but a lot of people in the entertainment industry—people you and I all know from social media--live with roommates well into their 30s. Sexy, huh? Since she lives in a magical fairyland of stabilized rent, Carrie has the means to spend her money like a ditzy, teenage girl. Cosmos, eating out always, designer outfits and a shoe game that would put Imelda Marcos to shame. I have yet to meet a journalist wearing Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos. Then again, most of us walk or take the subway while homegirl took taxis or stood around until Mr. Big pulled up in his chauffeured car for her.
The Hustle Is Real
I love being a freelance writer. I make my own hours, write for whichever publications that I want and often, spend the entire day in my jammy jams. I’m not at the mercy of the corporate ladder; I get to chart my own career and when I get bored, I shift gears. Total #GirlBoss. However, the thing about working for yourself is that you never stop working.
Most people, even writers with full-time staff jobs, get to go home. I don’t work a standard 40-hour work week. Sure, I may spend this afternoon getting my nails done or napping but I’m up until vampire hours and usually work every day, even holidays. When I’m not writing, I’m pitching (Translation: chasing down) future opportunities. TV, radio and other fun stuff doesn’t just happen...I make it happen. Did I also mention that I have to pay more into taxes and cover my own health insurance and retirement savings?
On days that you don’t secure an interview or your editor shreds your story to smithereens, there’s no one to cry to at the water cooler. So add motivational speaker to my resume.
Every day is a hustle. I love it but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.