Compared to the ebb and flow of the hordes of High-end Audio Manufacturers, the number of Dealers, and Journalists, is relatively stable. Today we look at possible reasons why this phenomena is occurring – and specifically at what it would take to be a successful journalist in this business.
The main thing that you have to consider is that most high-end audio journalists do not get paid.
Say what? Yep. At the lower, unknown starting journalists level, and even at the medium, been doing it for 10 years for a known blog level – journalists by-and-large do it for free. It’s largely a labor of love.
How refreshing! you might think. Well, hold on, there is more to the ‘story’.
There are many more kinds of equipment than there are journalists to cover them.
Manufacturers love journalists, especially ones that have written more than a couple of articles for a known publication. They want their gear to appear in these publications, it is largely ‘free’ advertising for them, and 99% of all reviews by journalists are positive for the manufacturer.
But wait. Why is ‘free’ in quotes?
To review a piece of gear, the journalist gets it delivered to their place of business [their home] for some amount of time [typically two to three months] in order to listen to and evaluate its performance.
- attach the piece of gear to the rest of the system, perhaps in several configurations
- take lots of nice photos of the gear
- listen, listen, listen to the gear
- describe the performance of the gear.
The hurdle hear is…
Describe the performance of the gear
This isn’t a two line Facebook post or 3/4 line Twitter tweet. Rightly or wrongly, and perhaps really only for SEO reasons, but certainly it is traditional, high-end audio reviews have to be long. This is actually a lot of work. It is like being back in school and having to write a 5-page essay. [yeah, show reports are different and are usually much, much shorter – maybe that is why I like doing them so much? :-)].
And worse, people do expect the review to make sense. Perhaps to accurately describe the technology. And, hopefully, but really not all that commonly, accurately describe the sound.
And no matter what you write, people will hate you
Especially if the review is not glowing. Then you are dead meat and some people will hate on you for the rest of your audiophile days. They will also still hate on you if the review is not quite glowing enough to suit their personal taste – but a milder ‘maybe the journalist is just clueless’ hate.
Where to Publish
Even though, these days, there are few outlets for a high-end audio journalist, these outlets being mostly online blogs / magazines, they are always hungry for new content.
New content gets indexed in search engines, increases the number of visitors from search engines, and helps drive advertising revenue, which is how all of them make a living.
But most of these sites are small, and don’t get a lot of traffic. You will NOT get famous this way. Even if you get to work for Stereophile some day, there is really only one or two famous journalists in our whole industry. Really just one per major publication:
- Mike Fremer – Stereophile
- John Atkinson – Stereophile
- Jonathan Valin – The Absolute Sound
- Roy Gregory – ex: Hi-Fi+
- David Robinson – Positive Feedback
- Constantine Soo – Dagogo
Most of these are the editors, if not the founders, of their respective magazines. It also helps if the publication, at least at one time, was in physical print.
But wait, don’t I get free gear to review?
Yes, in addition to writing a several page essay that will be closely scrutinized and criticized by people, many who will all know more about what you are writing about than you do, in addition to [you or a friend] having to take several hundred photos to get a couple that are publication-worthy, in addition to the risk that the gear might actually suck and having to send it back, or lie to 1000s about how great it sounds, in addition to trying to describe the indescribable, how something really sounds, using a nomenclature that has no fixed vocabulary, you get free gear in your system…
… if you can convince a manufacturer to send you their multi-thousand dollar gear.
Good luck with that if you are new.
So that’s it then. That is why there just aren’t enough reviewers out there – and why that is not going to change anytime soon.