Rutgers Students Get the Scoop from a Music Journalist

Jenn Pelly talks the ins and outs of music journalism


Jenn Pelly talks with students at the Rutgers School of Communications and Information

by Michelle Kim

New York native, Jenn Pelly, 25, has been a full-time staff editor at Pitchfork since 2011. She began to freelance, email pitches to multiple publications, and plant herself at different venues for music shows when she was 16.

“When I was in college, I used to work at shows bartending, working the doors, and mopping the floor,” said Pelly. “In retrospect, being embedded in the local music scene did a lot more for me in terms of meeting people and discovering bands that I would write about.”

Hoping to gain insight on pursuing a career in music journalism, several students majoring Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University joined Pelly for a meet-and-greet at the School of Communication and Information building on April 3.

Pelly graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in literature and journalism. Prior to writing for Pitchfork, her work has appeared in SPIN, Nylon, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. Her passion for pursuing a career in writing about the punk-rock scene began with her dissatisfaction of living in the Long Island suburbs.

“I started getting into music because I didn’t like the suburbs,” said Pelly. “Going to shows and discovering alternative music made me realize that the world is different and it was life-changing.”

Pelly discovered college radio at New York University and became a host for WNYU, where she was able to delve into the ins and outs of the music industry and expand her general knowledge of music.

She continued to freelance after graduating from NYU. Her living conditions at 21 in New York City were terrible without the stability of a well-paying job.

“I lived in a shitty apartment with the view of the subway cars going across my window,” said Pelly.

Although she dealt with poor living conditions, she came to a realization that she would rather have financial issues when she was 21 than when she grew older.

“There’s not that many jobs and I never imagined myself getting a job after college,” said Pelly. “Being a journalist isn’t a steady job, which is why a lot of publications rely on freelancers.”

With years spent on freelancing and rejected pitches, she was contacted by Pitchfork in 2011 to join them as a staff writer.

Although freelancing is hard, especially without pay, Pelly believes that it is the single most important factor in pursuing a career in music journalism.

“Having to be known is to be actively writing,” said Pelly. “I would suggest freelancing as much as you can and developing a clip file.”

She enjoys reading the news as a form of meditation because it keeps herself refreshed during her 10 a.m.-6 p.m. shifts.

“It keeps me actively thinking and keeping my brain to stay sharp,” said Pelly. Pelly encouraged students to read multiple outlets in order to gain a broader perspective on the music industry.

“Media literacy is really important and if you really want to know what something is about, you have to read different sources,” said Pelly. “It’s important to get your news and criticism from as many places as you can.”