My final assignment as a journalism grad student was to write a series of articles of some length on some topic. At the time, that was an overwhelming charge: What can I write about? Anything? Really, anything? How many stories should I write? How long should they run? I had lots of questions. But in retrospect, I understand why the guidelines for the master’s project were so open ended. Those are the types of questions I answer every day. Reporting and the publication itself determine the answers. I just start with the topic.
My master’s project was a series of three articles about independent musicians. I was fascinated by these people who built careers apart from the music industry marketing machines, and some of my sources had experience both on major labels and off.
Six years after I walked across the stage at Coleman Coliseum, I’m still able to explore music and its industry changes, sometimes through reviewing new albums (self-released, indie releases, major label releases–there’s a lot of great stuff coming from all directions), sometimes through interviewing national and local musicians. On Friday, a couple of Birmingham musicians promoted their evening gig with surprise lunchtime performances at local restaurants. I was there with video camera in hand, and it was such an adrenaline rush to see music performed in an unexpected context. That master’s project was more than a semester-long assignment necessary for my degree; it was the first step toward writing about an art form and business that continues to move me every day.
(The subject line comes from “The Glass Ceiling” by another Birmingham-based musician, Jon Black.)