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See Concerts, Plays, Movies or Sports Events for Free as a Reviewer

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for January, 2003
Vol. 6, No. 8: See Concerts, Plays, Movies or Sports Events for Free as a Reviewer

This tip is not for everybody, but it works really well if you can write, or if you can speak comfortably on radio or TV: Go to concerts, plays, movies or sports events as a reviewer.

I'm going to focus on music reviewing, but the sample principles apply to other types of reviewing or sportscasting.

Small-town newspapers, public access cable TV shows, college radio stations and other "just-below-the-radar" media often are open to new reviewers. If you know enough about your favorite entertainments to talk intelligently about them, and if you're reliable enough to turn in clean work, on time, and at the right length, there's no reason why you can't find a market for your reviews.

I will write music reviews for much less than I'd normally get paid to do an article--because even if the check is only $25 or $50, or even if there's no pay at all, it sure beats paying that much or more to see a show--and it sometimes has the added benefits of getting to meet and interview the performers, receiving their CDs and press kits, and VIP treatment at the concert hall.

And usually it only takes me 30-50 minutes to write a review.

Because I've been a reviewer, I've actually gotten paid to see concerts by such artists as Joan Baez, Holly Near, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Chubby Checker, Warren Zevon, and countless others.

Here are some tips to get started as a reviewer:
* Offer to do the first three shows for free, with the understanding that once you've proven yourself, you'll get the publication's usual pay scale for reviews
* Bring in some samples of your reviewing, either in print or (for radio/TV) on tape
* Find out if you're supposed to arrange for "comps" (complimentary tickets) or if the newspaper or station will do that for you. If it's on you, call up the promoter and explain that you have an assignment to review the event. And if you want backstage access for an interview, now is the time to set that up (in general, the bigger the act, the harder it is to get backstage--so don't be disappointed if your review assignment from the Podunk Herald doesn't get you backstage to interview Mick Jagger). And if you're offered a phone interview before the show, that's fine too.
* Bring equipment that will let you do your job unobtrusively, such as a tiny pen-size flashlight that can shine a beam on your notebook without disturbing other people. NEVER type into a computer or talk into a tape recorder during a show!

* Be familiar with the artist, the genre, and the artist's fan culture
* Treat everyone with courtesy and respect: the producer, performers, security, fans, roadies... If you make enemies, you'll wear out your welcome very quickly
* Accept the rules of the venue. For instance, if there's a no photos rule and they won't make an exception for the press, ask the promoter to get you a publicity photo.
* If you like a certain genre, cultivate the producers who bring those events. If you have given them great coverage in the past, they will be happy to see you the next time. (This does not mean you should give a lousy show a good review, however).
* The sound board operator will often have a song list. Makes it much easier to write a review if you have the correct titles, so go ask if you can copy it down.

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