Passionate journalist shares her journey to success
Rachel Brodsky captures the minds of readers with her passion for music and entertainment
By Jessica Leydet
Aspiring journalists are notorious for buckling under the pressure of deadlines and swanky news executives, but Rachel Brodsky never let that interfere with her desire to write about the things she loves most, music and entertainment.
Brodsky is a music writer for Paste magazine in New York. She writes features and reviews, plus opinion pieces about upcoming music. In the beginning she had a rough time finding a journalism job. She began her career at Davler Media, as an assistant editor.
“My first full-time journalism job was actually not in music at all. I took an assistant editor job with a company called Davler Media. They publish city guides for tourists and parents, mostly,” Brodsky said, “I remember just cold-applying and being hired after two rounds of interviews. It was not by any means a dream job, but it did connect me with some great former co-workers with whom I still keep in touch today,” she said.
Brodsky also worked at a publication called, Time Out Kids, as an associate web editor, and she would write for a lot of other music websites that would take anyone looking to build up their media presence.
She began her career as a full-time music writer when she landed a job at MTV, for a now-defunct blog called Buzzworthy.
“While I was at Buzzworthy, I wrote and edited blog posts that would come in from freelance writers. I wrote about a ton of song and video premieres and helped maintain the editorial calendar. I’d also work a lot of late nights in order to cover a lot of award shows like the VMAs and the Grammys. It was a fairly exhaustive job that I left about a year and a half in because I could feel myself burning out, and fast,” Brodsky said.
After MTV, she worked at SiriusXM Radio for about ten months as the music editor for their digital content.
“I had to wrangle radio talent into contributing written content for the SiriusXM blog and update each individual music page. It was a tedious job, so I left pretty quickly. Not a great fit,” she said.
From there, she went to SPIN.com. She started there two years ago as an assistant editor and later as an associate editor.
“I did a lot while I was there, I wrote and edited news, features and reviews as well as interviewed high profile and up-and-coming talent,” Brodsky said. “I oversaw a weekly franchise that featured the site’s Favorite Songs of the Week. I hired and oversaw the intern staff. I developed relationships with music publicists.”
Brodsky made lots of connections at SPIN. Anna Gaca, a staff writer for SPIN shared her experience working with Brodsky.
“In the fast paced world of journalism, especially in entertainment, you meet a lot of strong characters along the way and many journalists are cynical or hardened by their career but I find that Rachel never let that change her openhearted, friendly and approachable personality,” Gaca said.
Gaca shared a particular time Brodsky had inspired her during their time working together.
Brodsky was interviewing a band called The Last Shadow Puppets and one of the singers, Miles Kane, made a sexual harassment comment at her. Anna referred to it being such a tough situation but she Brodsky stuck through the interview because it was an in person, band profile.
“When an interview goes of the rails, the piece goes off the rails and you can’t really prevent that from happening all of the time but she is such a strong woman especially for being a journalist that does rock n’ roll writing and I find that the rock n’ roll world is still struggling with giving women the respect they deserve, but Rachel still does it because she is passionate about it,” she said.
Two years into her time at SPIN she was laid off, but she took that as an opportunity to do freelance writing for places like Rolling Stone, Stereogum, the Observer, and CLRVYNT. She did all of that right before she started at Paste a few weeks ago as a full-time music writer.
New York city life definitely brought Brodsky out of her comfort zone. She was born in Baltimore, but she grew up in Harrisburg, Pa. and also Central New Jersey around the Princeton area.
“I guess you could say I’m a bit of an East Coast mutt,” Brodsky said, “When I was a teenager, I’d visit the local used record store a lot to buy cheap punk CDs and classic rock albums on vinyl. I always had friends, but I was still kind of a lonely kid and I was used to spending a lot of time by myself because I didn’t go to very many parties, and I didn’t play sports or belong to any teams or clubs.”
Although she wasn’t a social kid, she has always been interested in writing and used it as a creative outlet. She would make up stories or draw comics on sheets of paper, and found inspiration in music and television.
“I was always a glutton for entertainment and media. I was obsessed with music and TV as a kid. I couldn’t get enough screen time. My parents used to refer to it as my drug,” Brodsky said.
When she entered high school she joined the school newspaper and took journalism classes as electives.
“It was there where I guess you could say I found my calling. I wrote so many album reviews and opinion pieces for example, after 9/11, my high school had an annoying habit of playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” over the loudspeaker. I wrote a heated op-ed about why they shouldn’t, as it’s not a patriotic song. The school paper was one of the only places I felt useful and actually good at something—a feeling that didn’t show up often in my young life,” Brodsky said.
She explains that journalism is a way to combine all of the things she loves, music, movies, TV, writing, and her need to understand how people function and what drives them to do what they do.
“If you want to do this for a living, you have to be OK with paying your dues. That means transcribing other people’s interviews, taking jobs with low salaries, doing menial tasks, or even writing for free in some cases,” Brodsky said.
She says the key is to be open to criticism.
“ I see a lot of young writers burn out quickly because things don’t happen fast enough for them. I can empathize because I used to feel that way myself. On the other hand, I also meet would-be writers who chose fields like marketing and publicity because they were “easier” and regret it down the line,” Brodsky said.
Brodsky also offers a piece of advice to aspiring journalists.
“Be a total sponge for knowledge and wisdom, read constantly, develop your own opinions on things, don’t be afraid to express them. Develop your social-media profiles. Follow writers and editors you like on Twitter. If you land an internship, ask an editor if they have time to get a coffee so you can pick their brain. When you meet other writers and editors, ask them how they got to where they are. Everyone has to start somewhere,” she said.