1). Be punctual as well as professional. Most of the musicians you will review will keep time about as well as your old grandfather’s war watch. You, on the other hand, as it were, must be as consistent and regular as said grandfather’s post-Sunday-roast bowel movement.
2). Accentuate the positive when and wherever possible. If the nicest thing you can do is say how fine the cover artwork to an album is, then go with that. This may in itself become problematic. If the cover features a dwarf, in underpants, uncomfortably impaled on a sharpened road-cone – make it brief. And to the point.
3). Never say “it’s been done before”. It’s such a frightful bore of a phrase, there are better ways to say it if you must. Please adjust your tone to suit. Saying, “it’s been done before” has, itself, been done before. A hundred times or more.
4). Listen with your heart, but write with your brain. The same can be said for any style, after a while you’ll start to see that it’s not just music that must be dealt with in this way. Never reverse the ratio, and listen with your brain so as to write from the heart – you and your work will be doomed from the start. If that starts getting tricky then, just use your f*&%ing ears to listen. And write with your f*&%ing pen.
5). A free-jazz gig does not mean you don’t have to pay! (And that works on so many levels!)
6). It’s not often what they play but almost always how they play it. For you, the same is true, it’ll never be about what you say; always the way you say it.
7). You will probably not get published in Downbeat magazine if, in your review of a cutting-edge jazz gig, you say that the drummer pushed the swing more enthusiastically than a playground kiddy fiddler. (You will, however, get a laugh from me).
8). “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” – which in itself is a negative way of saying something. Consider it nothing. Delete that phrase and write what’s right about what plays. If the musical owner of an album you bagged says, “hey, we put a lot of work into that album, just for you to trash…” Please reply, “you wanna know about hard work? I had to listen to that piece of s**t. Certainly took its toll on me and I don’t exactly command a high fee for the things I write. Most of it's done for free – For The Love of Music – which turned, rather quickly, to hate as soon as I had to rate your recycled riffs and preachy poetic bollix”. But say it politely, I’m sure they’ll understand.
9). Write nice things about people you know. Always. That’s what a friend would do.
10). (The only thing you should hold in common with the musicians, about which you write – and therefore to which, you should both sing along): as soon as it feels like a job…you know you’ve been doing it too long.