Wiki -> Writers -> Interview Guidelines

    1250-1500 words for interview (everything below 750 and above 2000 will be sent back)

   Always include basic info about the artist/band you are covering. Such as artist’s origin, music played and few words about the career. These should be grouped in the first paragraph as introduction to the interview.

   In the intro, you should also try to explain why you are interviewing the artist and why the interview is happening at that moment e.g.: The artist just released the new album/the artist is on tour/the artist is celebrating an anniversary, …

   In fact, you’ll have to write an introductory paragraph to your feature that will be posted to Facebook with a link back to the full interview. Make sure that it’s enticing and includes the basic info mentioned earlier (artists name, country of origin, style of music and reason why you interviewed her/him). Put this in bold at the bottom of your preview when you submit to the website.  This text can be the same as your first paragraph.

   Try and give a little background to the artist, mentioning his/her career, life and/or the music from where they are from so that the reader will learn something about the artist or style of music. Keep in mind you have to show to be knowledgeable for the people who read this, and they are giving you their time so they should come away with something.

   At the same time, Rhythm Passport is not an academic journal, so keep this info accessible and try to use a lively language.

   Don’t just copy and paste from other sources (for artist or genre info), if you are using information from other places re-write it and make it your own.

   Don’t just rewrite from one source: look around for other references to make sure that what you are writing is true and not another writers mistake. Don’t just trust Wikipedia, but use more reliable sources like artists’ official websites, billboard, allmusic.com, artistdirect.com, …

   Feel free to use metaphors and be creative with your writing; we also encourage you to try to invoke imagery with your own words. But keep in mind that, at the end of the day, you’ve got to sound clear and understandable.

   Keep the number of superlatives to a bare minimum, e.g: “it was amazing/awesome/the best thing ever…” This tells the reader nothing other than the fact you thought it was good, if you thought something amazing your words should communicate that in a way that the reader thinks “that sounds amazing”.

Don’t be afraid to be critical with the artist, but always be constructive (how could it be better), motivating and explaining your reasons.  You have a responsibly to justify your reasons as what you write can have a very negative impact on an artist or label.

   Pay attention to spelling and grammar and make sure your sentences read fluidly. Read and re-read through your work before sending it and use a vocabulary, thesaurus and grammar/spelling check website if you’re not confident.  Double check spelling for artist names, countries, genres and instruments.

   Even if you really like her/his music, try not to sound like a fan of the artist/band.  Try to remember that even if we’re promoting him/her with an interview, we’re not an artist fan-page.

How to Prepare an Interview

   Remember that your feature should be between 1250/1500 words. So try to prepare an interview longer than 10 minutes and shorter than 15. There’s no rule about how many questions you should ask. However, try to prepare around 10 questions.

   Some artists are chatty, other answer in monosyllables, some are funny, others grumpy; The challenge is getting the best out of the artist, whatever happens you need to go back home with enough material to produce an interesting interview.

   Be prepared. Recharge your recorder or change the batteries. Check if the memory is empty. Have a spare sd-card with you. Be on site 10/15 minutes before the time you arranged the interview.

   Be flexible. Maybe the artist is doing the sound check, maybe he/she in the dressing room/backstage, maybe he/she’s drunk/high…maybe you’ll have to wait 30min-1h to interview him/her. Sometimes you need to be flexible, other times they will have you waiting around and take the piss.  If the former is the case, feel free to be firm with them, just think…is the interview/artist important enough can he/she take the liberty to let you wait?  

   Try to write down your questions on a notebook and have it always next to you during the interview. Even if you feel confident, still write down a draft or an outline about the subjects you would bring up during your chat.

   Ok…you have prepared your questions…but it’s unlikely you will get a chance to ask all of them. On the contrary, most of the times the discussion will go off at a tangent and you can’t do anything to avoid it. You just need to be lucid and have clear in mind the direction you want to take and steps you have to do next.

   That’s why you need to have always clear what you want from the interview and the goal you want to reach. It will need practice, but after a while (and many interviews) you will be finally able to lead the conversation. Introduce your interview to your interviewee stating what’s the interview about and its purpose. This won’t change the situation drastically, but will help you and the artist to be more focused.

   Try to make the artist at ease. Always introduce yourself, explain why you’re there and you wanted to interview him/her. Try to build a link with the artist, be friendly but keep it professional. Also make it clear with the artist how long the interview will be.

   Always listen carefully to the answer the artist gives you and watch his/her moves and expressions. You’re not just the interviewer, but also a psychologist and you need to understand and interpret the artist’ emphasis, tones and pauses to have a successful interview.

   Remember the best interviews are not Q&A in which you ask your questions and the artist answer his/her answers. The best interviews are conversations, discussions, chat in which you and the artist talk freely. Just pay attention not digress you are aiming to write 1500 words and a long interview will be demanding and laborious to transcribe.

   Prepare your interview carefully. Spend at least half an hour/one hour researching and reading the background of the artist: his/her life and career. Try to unearth all the details (works, side-projects, passions, commitments, …): go beyond his/her music.

   Read the artist’s previous interviews, this can help you to have an idea of what you can talk about, what he/she likes to discuss and about what subjects you can delve deeper. At the same time, never copy the questions someone else has already asked him/her: artists and readers don’t like dejà-vu.  Artists will give them answers to the same questions over and over, to them it’s boring and to our readers who may have already read some of their other interviews it’s boring if the same ground is covered, try and find a different angle.

   Give thanks. It can be Bob Dylan or your neighbor, but they deserve the same respect. They are giving you their time; so try to be grateful with them.

   Don’t be scared. Even if you’re interviewing Bob Dylan and he is giving you his precious time, you’re doing him a favour promoting him. He needs the interview as much as you. Maybe you won’t have the upper hand, but try not to be overwhelmed by his/her ego/reputation/popularity.

   Keep it Professional. Be thankful, don’t be scared and…don’t act like a fan! He/she could even be your favourite artist and even the one you’ve always dreamt to meet and talk with, but it is a form of respect and competence not to adulate him/her. So keep some distance, don’t “jump” on him/her and don’t reveal to him/her your figurative love (well…at least not before or during the interview, please). Remember that you need to go back home with an interview, not an autographed poster to hang up in your bedroom.

How to Transcribe, Structure and Write an Interview

    The process of preparing, performing, transcribing and writing an interview is a long one as you’d or will know. So take your time. After your first interview you’ll also find out that transcribing one interview can take ages, usually three times the length of the interview. Be patient.

   When you prepare your interview try to start thinking about the typology of feature you want to write. There are indeed many types of interview, but we try to keep it simple and use only three of them:

  • Q&A. That’s the most basic, impersonal, quickest and in a way unimaginative interview you can make. It is just a transcription of your questions and artist’s answers. You don’t even have to develop a relation with the interviewee. You can use this style for email interviews or if you are in a rush.  We don’t discourage them, they can easily be interesting for the readers if the questions and answers are interesting, but if you want to have fun and get satisfaction doing an interview, you have to look somewhere else. 
  • Discoursive. They are half way between Q&A and narrative interviews. We like this style and recommend it because you can easily show your engagement with the artist and depict him/her through your writing. They’re usually engaging, giving the reader a portrait of the artist, but also an image of the writer. To write a good discoursive feature you need to prepare and carry out a good interview, you need to build a sort of relationship with the artist or create one from scratch once writing and finally you have to show your competence on the subject/s. Remember that you are not the subject: keep your parts at a bare minimum and leave the most of the action to the artist. 
  • Narrative. It’s all about you and your writing talent. You can write a narrative interview if you’re totally confident in your style and want to narrate a story, depict a profile or introduce a character through a mix between your and his/her words. You can also use this style if the interview was really bad and you got back home with some monosyllabic answers. Keep in mind that, even if your writing becomes the main actor, the reader still want to know about the artist you have interviewed and not about yourself.

    Don’t be over ambitions with the number of questions/topics. If your interview is a written one, keep the number of questions at the minimum. You’ll constantly experience the moment, after an interview, when you will reorganize your ideas and discover to have forgotten to ask some crucial questions. You have limited time and limited words for your feature; bring out the best from those.