Reflections - Research and Communication


How did you research a piece?

For the features portfolio, much of the research was based entirely around the subject of the feature. For example, with my piece on James Vyner, I researched his career with previous band Seachange, as well as current band Grave Architects, and looked in to the various companies that he now runs online. The majority of this was internet research. During my interview with him, I touched on these subjects as well as getting some personal information about his life/anecdotes etc that could only be obtained in this way.
For the reviews, much of the research was done on the artist, label, and scene surrounding the music in question. For example, for the African Soul Rebels live review, I researched all of the acts that were performing beforehand, listening to a lot of their music and reading up on career biographies. I also looked in to previous acts that had feautured on this tour to get an idea of what to expect. Again, this was mostly done online. During the performance I took many notes on everything from the performances to the reaction of the crowd.

What was the most effective way of getting interviews?

The subjects I needed for interviews were either people that I have worked with in the past or friends, so I had little difficulty in obtaining their time. If I were required to set up an interview with someone slightly more high profile, I would first contact their PR/press office or someone at their label, as I believe this would be more succesful than attempting to contact the artist directly.


A couple of pieces I wrote didn't make it in to my portfolio for various reasons. For example, I originally wrote my Massive Attack review as a sarcastic take on the cliched ways in which the group are always reviewed, with a step-by-step approach (this can be found as an earlier post further down the page). I decided that, although this would appeal to the sarcastic nature of the target audience, it did not fully utilise the review writing methods that had been covered in the various lectures, and would therefore not follow the assignment brief. I also wrote an in-class review of a Kaiser Chiefs live performance from a DVD. I was not particularly happy with the outcome, as not being at the gig myself I couldn't fully get a feel for the performance. It also turned out at a word length that would have exceeded my given limit, and I was not prepared to sacrifice any of my other pieces to fit it in.

The editorial focus/philosophy of our group magazine, 'Blag', was aimed at the university, both students and staff. This was taken in to consideration when designing the layout, content etc. Many of the pieces included in it were based around music genres that would appeal to this audience. Genres are an important consideration in music journalism as they give the reader a guide to the pieces they are reading; whether they like this genre or that etc may determine whether they chose to read the piece.

How do magazines like NME and Mojo reflect
a) subcultures
b) gender
Does 'Blag' reflect these areas in the same way?

Magazines such as these, especially with the older audience-targeted Mojo, tend to pick up on subcultures after they have fully arrived in the mainstream conciousness. NME will very rarely be at the forefront of a new subcultural movement and will tend to play it safe, whereas Mojo is definately more focussed on the heritage acts and 'classic' rock, perhaps featuring subcultures within smaller sections of their reviews section.
In terms of gender, NME recently ran a cover feature on Lady Gaga, but as with most features on female artists, it was largely based on style over substance. Mojo is a very classic rock orientated publication, a very male-dominated genre, and features female artists in a secondary role.

'Blag' is put together by a very mixed gender group, and its style reflects this. However, many of the features are based around the local band scene, which is very male-dominated. In terms of subcultural representation, as it is written by students who are involved within subcultures such as the various dance music scenes (dubstep, drum and bass etc) as well as the more niche rock areas, this comes across in the content and design of the magazine. The constraints of the brief did not allow much alteration of the content, or change of focus, and maybe this is something that could have been developed more. During the design process the editorial focus was fairly fragmented, and the completed magazine is not available to view at the time of writing this.