So, I often ask people who want to write, what are you an expert at? That’s the most important thing, because that’s the thing you’re going to have the most fun writing about.
— Martin Popoff
IntroductionEvery single day I feel grateful for having a paying side hustle in music journalism. Writing is never an easy dollar, and writing about music is an even harder dollar that most. So, after years of doing this, I still get a kick at every cent I earn. Martin Popoff, however, takes the whole thing to an entirely different level. He’s forged a path many would (and many probably do) envy. You wouldn’t know that from talking to him, though.
For nearly two decades, Toronto, Canada’s Martin Popoff hasn’t just made a full-time living with music journalism. He’s managed to do it almost entirely his way. He’s not out there scrapping for paid freelance gigs or staff jobs. Instead, he’s built a business foundation that allows him to make his daily bread writing about the music he wants to write about, in the way that he wants to write it.
Along the way, he’s met his heroes, seen his books in print, and collected a whole lot of autographs. He’s won those coveted publishing deals so many of us writers hear legends about, and he’s constructed a viable self-publishing platform that provides the majority of his earnings.
Millions of wage slaves would kill for a life writing about music, but Popoff doesn’t come across as arrogant or entitled whatsoever in conversation. He’s honest and straightforward about how hard he has to work to make it happen, and about how art often has to be sacrificed for efficiency. He doesn’t talk about his craft like some hoity toity artiste, as you might expect. He talks more like a mechanic — practical, no-nonsense, and humble.
I’m probably something of an anomaly in that I didn’t get into music journalism because of musicians or even music, necessarily. I got into music journalism because of music journalists. Namely, the great crawdaddy himself Paul Williams showed me the kind of quality writing that could be done in this field.
I’m a writer at heart, not a musician, so I’ve always looked up to writers first and foremost. That may be why I actually got a bit nervous for this interview. I stopped getting nervous talking to musicians a long time ago. This one, though, zapped me a little bit. It caught me off guard, and I felt like I flubbed a golden opportunity.
Luckily, Popoff was easy going and happy to share his wisdom. I actually interviewed him once before, for his release of Rush: Album by Album. That one was a written interview, though. This time, I scheduled our talk entirely too early in an attempt to accommodate the time difference (one more reason things didn’t go exactly as planned) and chatted with him one-on-one on the phone.
Luckily, Popoff picked up the slack and dropped some useful wisdom for all those looking to make their way with music journalism.
Continued at https://medium.com/p/c6c5e1e5d577/edit
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