This piece is from the newest Penny print issue, Penny 3.1 ft. Cherry Glazerr. Check out the spread as well as the full issue via this THIS LINK.
Written by Erin Christie
Whenever I’m asked how I “got into music journalism,” I have a fairly straight-forward answer: that I love music, and love writing, and wanted to merge my passions. Though that’s absolutely truthful, it goes a little deeper than that.
I’ve been experiencing one the worst creative dry spells I’ve ever encountered over the last few months, largely inspired by how much stress I’ve been under. In turn, my passion project, this website and publication, have tragically fallen to the wayside. I haven’t been writing at all for weeks, let alone for Penny, and it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that my life might be moving in a direction where my ability to stretch myself as thin as I have been (between work, life, and creative pursuits) is no longer feasible or mentally possible. It’s an extremely empty feeling, confronting the looming threat of change head-on, and acknowledging the extreme left-hand turn it would be to move on with my life without this integral part of my identity intact.
What kickstarted my “music journalism career” is a little more complicated than just being a band-obsessed teen with a computer and a slight inclination for writing prose. To put it bluntly, I felt very alone in my adolescence, and that’s where the timeline truly begins.
With my eyes glued to my screen during virtually every waking moment when I was in high school, I diverted my attention away from my loneliness by devouring any source of media I could get my hands on. Eventually, the Internet rabbit hole I found myself in led me to discover a few pivotal musicians that sparked joy in me and helped me find some form of structure when my left felt so directionless and empty. Aside from enjoying the music itself, I fell in love with the entire essence of being a “music fan,” from digging deep into the YouTube archives for old Nardwuar interviews and live performances from Warped Tours of years passed, to checking out Tumblr threads dedicated to the historical and fantastical lore behind certain artist’s evolving careers. Within that practice, I not only found entertainment, but also community, and it felt nice to know that I was part of something that spanned across thousands of similar minds, each searching for something that I was too: belonging, comfort, and overall, fun.
What’s blatantly unique about growing up in the “computer age” is that social media, even in the early 2010s, easily became a hub for a new type of interpersonal (and even intercontinental) interaction that those of generations past don’t have an equivalent to. Via words I typed out and sent into the ether via platforms such as Twitter, I eventually began making connections with people that jumped into real life, and I still know and keep in touch with many of these same individuals today (even if just via the occasional IG DM). In getting close with like-minded and similarly motivated people in this way, I also became exposed to new ways in which I could express and channel my budding passion for music, with my peers’ means of expression serving as a blueprint for my own.
I remember when a few “Internet friends” of mine started a little zine called Pop To It when I was maybe 16 or 17. The project came to be with a group of about a dozen different people, all of whom were connected solely via the Internet, each contributing different skillsets to the graphic design and illustration to poetry and writing. When I eventually became apart of the project too, I was unequivocally inspired by the initiative, and the fact that my friends, these people my age, possessed the wherewithal and ability to create something that seemed so complicated with such ease. I had never thought that it could be done.
Before this point, my only experience writing journalistically was within a position at my high school newspaper, where I would occasionally write op-eds and, if I got the chance, music review run-downs (I notably remember writing a review of Halsey’s Badlands the year it came out). Through Pop To It, I could truly write about almost anything I wanted, and it was a new feeling, to have the power to express myself through a medium I already loved and felt comfortable with, and to do so in a way where I could openly discuss my innermost thoughts, touch on my scarcely spoken-about adoration for music/fan culture.
This was just my first taste of writing about music with a dedicated purpose. Later, I noticed more and more friends I had made through our shared love of certain musicians were starting their own publications, too. And of course, I shot my hand up high when they asked if anyone wanted to contribute and help build their new projects. A handful of blogs I helped kick up during my high school years include Electric Daze Magazine, Uncover, Poptized, Lucky Archives, and Heart Eyes Magazine (where I served as managing editor for a time, as well). Here, I spent hours writing reviews of singles/albums I was enjoying, op-eds about music-related topics such as streaming platforms and music festivals, and even interviewing bands I looked up to. I fell in love with the ability to not only express my music-related opinions on a public forum, but additionally with the purpose my writing served for the artists I wrote about — I was ultimately helping bands get the word out on their new releases, and that was a truly gratfiyng feeling that continues to motivate me to write now.
Around this age, I also watched Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous for the first time, and got absolutely hooked on the idea of being one of the cogs in the touring machine, writing articles and documenting a band’s life on the road like the protagonist William did in the film. Leaving that watching experience with a takeaway that gaining experience in the journalism field was as easy being a music-loving teeanger with a dedicated spirit and a little bit of elbow grease, beginning to write for these DIY blogs pushed me to keep striving toward the not-so-fantastical idea of following in the lead’s footsteps.
As my portfolio grew and my love for music journalism expanded to a point where I knew I wanted to pursue it more seriously, I succeeded in begging my parents to allow me to attend Emerson College, where I later completed a Bachelor’s in Journalism in 2021. During my time there, I spent essentially every class I took looking for a way to direct my coursework toward music in an effort to essentially kill two birds with one stone. Outside of participating in extracurriculars where I could also exercise my music-writing chops (including writing for the two radio stations on campus, in addition to a culture and fashion magazine), I additionally picked up music-focused internships on the side, writing for entities such as Bandsintown (who recently shuttered their blog), Brooklyn Vegan, and local radio promoter Do617. These efforts all culminated in my Multimedia Journalism Capstone project, for which I produced a video essay, audio piece, and written final story that each discussed effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on different sectors of the music landscape. Throwing all of these separate pieces into a website led to what Penny Magazine is today, a publication that started in the classroom but became a real-life project of its own.
I think it’s fair to say that I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge in journalism in my journey from Pop To It to Penny, and that Penny would not exist without the guiding light my peers shone when pursuing music journalism wasn’t even an idea swimming in my head. And while I’m wholeheartedly grateful for all of the creative opportunities I’ve been given in the interim between then and now, with Penny, I’ve finally been able to take the reigns and prove to myself that not only am I capable and talented enough to get my writing out there within the parameters of a team outside of myself, but that I can do the very same within the frame of something I created myself. It’s incredibly empowering, knowing that I can say that an idea I crafted on my own, and wanted to make real, truly is, and that it’s somewhat successful.
Within the past year, it’s been really challenging to admit that I’m burnt out to the extent that my passion for writing has diminished and that the status of Penny has become less of a priority for me. At the same time that I have big ideas for the publication and want to be writing at the same pace that I have in the past, I haven’t found myself actively jumping at the opportunity to work on said plans when I’m utterly exhausted and unmotivated after a long week at my day job. That said, in taking the time to document my journey in music journalism and reflect on my successes and hard work via this essay, the thought of throwing in the towel has become truly obscured — though it might logically make sense to take a break for awhile to recharge, what would feel worse is letting something I’ve worked on for the better part of a fall to the wayside. And I hope that in sharing this stream-of-consciousness, that I can possibly push myself to keep up the good fight, for the sake of Penny and for myself.