With music industry experts providing thoughtful discussions from insightful queries, we take a deeper look into how it all works.
Christian Gillett – Music Journalist at South China Morning Post
Next up in the series, I decided to look into someone who ventured onto a different path – on a different continent.
For three consecutive years since 2017, Christian was in Hong Kong writing music articles for an international newspaper.
With no degree or an ability to speak the local dialect, Christian really had to lean into his strengths within music to combat the problems he faced in South China.
For someone looking to venture into similar fields, it was a nice change to ask a few questions about not only journalism but working in such a country that is so unknown to us.
Short and sweet with this one – I felt it was needed after our most in-depth discussion on the last instalment. With this one, it is truly impressive to learn that the barriers that are spoken about below, are ultimately broken down to simply fixate on the drive to succeed in such a challenging environment.
Not having a relevant degree, not speaking the local language? No problem.
What made you want to fall into music journalism?
Prior to this, did you need any academic experience at all?
It wasn’t anything I was particularly working towards.
I’d been an active musician for almost a decade and loved going to gigs. I’d just moved to Hong Kong with no job to go into, so while I was applying for various positions, I asked a local blog and promoter if I could do some live reviews for their shows – just to give me something to do.
I felt with my experience as a musician, it gave me an insight on how to cover live shows in great detail […] and I really enjoyed the process.
I’d had no academic experience at all other than an English Language A Level, and was simply doing it for fun.
What was your best bit of advice that you got about the music industry / journalism?
The best advice I’d got was just to finish things. Whether it’s a song or writing a piece, you get into the mind-set of just doing, whether it’s good or not. And through continual practice you will just get better and more consistent in whatever you do.
And I think that applies really well to journalism.
This wasn’t advice, but I would advise that being punctual and very responsive to your contacts (PR’s/acts) is the most important part of it.
I’ve managed to build up great working relationships with people I’ve never met in person […] and they can introduce you to new contacts which can give you new story leads.
So time-management is imperative.
Give us a lowdown into your day-to-day activities – what part of your job do you enjoy most?
As you can imagine, each day is slightly different, but I have it quite structured now.
I tend to spend Fridays now […] listening to new music and making notes, which allows me to develop a vague structure together for reviews to release the following week.
Then during the week is when I’ll schedule, interview and transcribe a feature on an act.
Then I work through the collated pieces over the weekend […] and submit a few days ahead of deadline in case there are any queries that need clearing up from the editors/sub-editors.
I see you moved to Hong Kong a while back, what was that like – how important was it for you?
It was a great experience.
After doing predominantly gig reviews for about 4 months, someone told me to pitch my skills to a section of a newspaper […] that they worked at as they had no designated music writer.
So I sent my CV and writing samples from my live reviews and they hired me as a freelancer […] which was nice!
I’ve been in the role for the past 3 and half years now and still really enjoying writing album reviews and […] interviewing different artists and bands every week, which really spices it up for me.
Moving to Hong Kong, I didn’t have a degree, and couldn’t speak Cantonese […] so it meant I had to really lean into my strengths and knowledge of music which coincidentally led to the journalist position.
As it goes, I also built up a big clientele of guitar students as well, so the experience really forced me to network and ultimately pushed myself to succeed, which is all you really need to do.