Be a part of it
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[Queue the trumpets].
We’re looking for a couple of different things, so if you’re turned on by audio gear and a ton of work, all with little or no reward, you’ve come to the right place.
The biggest pet peeve I have with “journalists” as a whole is quite simple: boredom. A dry, fact-filled recitation is fine when I’m reading about root canals or text-based Biblical criticism (shudder). But for God’s sake, high-end audio is supposed to be fun — so reading about it should be, too.
It’s a fine line, of course. No one likes the awkward over-reach. Negativity? Grating. Manic enthusiasm is extraordinarily tiring. And there is simply nothing more off-putting than a cock-sure asshole. A humble approach, laced through with insight and wit, is like dropping Mentos into Coke bottles. That is, it’s unexpected. And audio’s high-end needs more of that.
You don’t need to be an expert. You’ll learn what you can and what you need to, and quite frankly, that process is interesting to read. That’s why it helps to have an open mind and a willingness to wander down dark alleys.
What I’m looking for is young, new, and interesting writers. Honestly, there are too many of us old white guys scribbling in this corner of the industry, so I’m keeping my eyes open for the rest of humanity that deviates a bit from that norm.
What I need
There’s a couple of categories that I’m always on the hunt to fill, so let’s explore that here.
Audio shows are amazing opportunities to see and hear some of the coolest audio gear on the planet, and chat up the experts that make that stuff happen. As the popularity of shows grows, so does the difficulty in covering a show. Wanna be a foot soldier in the war of audio information? Awesome. I could use the help.
So, what am I looking for? Quite simple. You walk into a demo room. You say “hello” (or whatever the equivalent is in your language/mode of communication of choice — I usually grunt and fart), and then ask after the what’s what. This is about as close to journalism as I’m willing to flirt with, but the point is — find out why they’re there. Is there a new widget? Get details and photo. A new brand? Learn more! A new, freshly scrubbed and still smiling face? Take a picture. A new … anything? No? Then, capture what else is in the room — speakers, amp, pre, digital, analog, cables, rack, room treatments. Get prices. Get availability, especially if a widget happens to be new or “coming soon”.
I’ll want photos. Lots of them. And that means focus and proper lighting, interesting angles, and yes, even some action shots. Expect at least 5 usable shots of the gear per room (more is better), with a mix of close-ups and whole-system, and some shots of the purveyors “doing their thing” (or just posing adroitly — or better, with limbs akimbo). Make us feel like we’re there.
Expect to visit and and write up 30 or so rooms at about 300 words each, with everything submitted to me over the course of the 2 weeks following the show’s close.
Don’t be misled — this is a lot of work. I know it is. I do it regularly. But it’s also insanely fun.
I should note is that there’s no per diem or expense account, and no, I don’t usually cover travel expenses. This is audio, not auto, and it’s certainly not The Robb Report. There is a stipend, but it’s nominal so don’t get too excited; figuring out your logistics is all up to you. This is why most first-timers generally volunteer for a local show, or a show they’re planning to go to anyway. Think of it as “another way to experience a show” more than “I’m going to make money” and you’re in the right ballpark.
Not ideal; I hear you, but that’s the deal. Unfortunately, no one is getting rich on this side of the journalistic fence. Well, not rich in terms of money. But the wealth of cachet, access, my personal gratitude, and of course the adulation of your fans, well, perhaps that will be some small consolation.
Yes, I am always looking for folks interested in reviewing gear. I like gear! Chances are, you do too. So, if you have an ear for nuance and a fetish for exploring the ins and outs of things with grooves and blinky lights — and you fit the profile above — you might be a good fit.
For me, a good review is — first and foremost — a good read. I should, by the end of it, have a sense that the time taken was well-spent. Sounds kinda silly, maybe, but I wish I could say that I felt that way after most of the stuff I’ve read. Again, not saying I’m any particular gem in this arena, but this sense of well-spent-ed-ness is what I’m looking for.
What does that mean? Well, I’m kinda open. Every writer really ought to have a voice, that is, some one thing (or set thereof) that makes them special or different or unique. Some writers are extremely visual, and seem to paint or weave with words. Some are more Hemingway than Melville — short, sharp sentences versus wandering, page-length digressions. Some are poetic. Some are incisive. Me? I don’t care where your approach falls on any stylistic schema, I just care that it works.
What I do want to see, however, is personality. This is most emphatically not journalism. I cannot stress this enough. We have enough “journalists” in high-end audio and it’s boring the snot right out of me. Pulling yourself out of the picture is not what I want — I need to see you in there, somewhere. A review is a story, an epic struggle of you against the forces of entropy and despair! Okay, maybe not, but it is experiential and if we don’t know who it is that’s having the experience, then you’re just a placeholder. That is, replaceable. Be you. Failing that, be Batman. Can’t manage that? Then — please God — please be someone interesting.
[insert the requisite weeping and gnashing of teeth, here]
A review, for me — just trying to loop back — is at root a judgment. That is, it’s not a recitation of the manual, or an explication of a circuit diagram. This is filler, and trust me, no one gives a shit. Above and beyond your take on how to make this particular experience the best that it can be, and where you succeeded and where you failed at that task, the most valuable thing you can do also happens to be what a reader is really looking for: whether or not you liked that something. You must be clear. If that’s impossible, well, then so is a review.
… And this is where things get tricky: we don’t do negative reviews. It’s right there in the policy. To sum: if something is broken, or thoroughly craptastic, why waste anyone’s time? Public service announcements can be handled by ambulance chasers — the job of PTA isn’t to “save anyone”. We’re here to celebrate.
A quick aside about negativity. “Going negative” is both easy to write and fun to read — but it is also cheap and lazy, and the writers that do are indulgent at best, narcissistic at worst, and invariably hiding a grotesque bias to boot. Now, this isn’t to say I won’t publish reviews that have cutting critiques. Not at all. But it’s a very fine line between criticism and axe-grinding. There must be a balance.
For those that cannot write well, I invite them to consider a career as a forum troll.
So, let’s get real.
Most folks that get into reviewing do it for one reason — all the free stuff. So, lemme pop that one off the top. We don’t do free over here. You want that, go check with some of those other outlets. My policies are published and violators will be excommunicated.
So, barring “free”, there’s the dream of “massive discounting”. Again, I refer you to my policies page.
Lastly, there’s the illusion of access. This may be a bit more realistic, but honestly, I’m not going to be much help at first. If I don’t know you, I’m most definitely not going to help you get your hands on $50k worth of gear and have to worry about you just going dark.
We need to find out what you can handle, what fits your tastes and your system, and start learning what the manufacturers will be willing to let you have. If you have prior relationships, great. If not, expect this to go slow.
Best place to start? Show coverage — it gets your name and face out there.
Anyway, once manufacturers know who you are and how you write, they’re far more likely to trust you with their babies. And yes, it’s probably a good idea to think of reviewing as if you’re a would-be nanny, with a sleep-deprived, knuckle-biting parent constantly looking over your shoulder. If that makes you squirm, there’s always show coverage!
Generally, what I want to see from prospects is a writing sample. It can be about anything at all (audio is preferred), but the goal is to get a sense of your writing style, your thought process and approach, and your sense of humor. I like humor! Your sample doesn’t need to be funny, per se, it just needs to be entertaining. In fact, it must be entertaining. Samples should be no less than 1,000 words.
This is new, but it’s something I’ve been looking at and thinking about for a long while now. Video is very relevant, and I think vids in audio’s high-end — whether it’s interviews, monologues, or reviews — would be very welcome.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new idea. Happily, very few are doing this very well, so I think there’s still a lot of room to do good work here. So, what I want is something different. Someone different. If you think you’d make a fantastic spokesperson-slash-talking-head, then this would be something to explore. Got a great voice? A striking visage? A penchant for impersonation? And know something about Vine or Youtube? And have the gear and skill to make great short videos about various topics in audio’s high-end? Send me a link!
That’s all, folks!
Looking forward to hearing from you, soon.