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Notion’s Managing Director on the future of music journalism

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Nicholas Douglas visible from shoulders up wearing a white t-shirt
Photo of Nicholas Douglas

Written by Lydia Greatrix as part of Youth Music NextGen

Before Billie Eilish became the worldwide sensation she is today, Nicholas Douglas, Managing Director of Notion magazine, attended one of her first UK press photoshoots in LA. With a background in talent management, the Glasgow born MD joined Notion in 2015, shaping their strategy of pioneering new talent and recognising that it’s important to “not just feature the biggest people, but feature the best people instead”. 

I sat down with Nicholas over Zoom to talk about the changing face of music journalism and hear his advice for young journalists starting out.

What do you think has changed in the music industry, and the music journalism industry, since you started at Notion in 2015?

It’s gone a lot more digital and because of that, it’s more fast-paced. For journalists specifically, it offers an exciting opportunity for more space to write. When the music industry was print-focussed, a magazine would come out once a month or once a quarter, or whatever their frequency was. There’d only be so many pages that you would need words on. Whereas, with digital, you’re capability to publish content is unlimited. So the way in which journalists can cover music and write about music has changed in that landscape. It’s not just reviews now, it’s full-scale features, opinion pieces and industry type pieces that are all moving to digital.

With no live music events to cover, how have your journalists had to adapt during the Coronavirus pandemic?

At the start of the pandemic, it was difficult. We try to make all our content unique and exclusive to us, so it was difficult because everyone stopped making music. We had to repurpose a lot of our old content, become more creative and change how frequently we published. At the start of the pandemic we were only publishing about 14 articles a week compared with our usual 50. But now, as the world has adapted, we have been able to hold live streamed events.

Our journalists have been doing their interviews remotely, so they have had to find new ways to connect with their interviewees, as it can be harder to connect with someone over Zoom than in person. I would like to think that we will go back to doing detailed sit-down interviews with big artists, but I think it’s unlikely because it’s logistically easier for an artist to do lots of interviews remotely than travelling to lots of media offices. It does worry me that journalists may no longer be able to make special connections with artists like they did pre-covid. 

photo of a hand holding Notion Magazine, a women kneeling down on a road is on thefront cover
Notion Magazine

What advice would you give to a young music journalist who is trying to break into the industry during this difficult time?

Continue to write about what you like. If you’re passionate about reviewing, you can still review albums, music videos, even the artist’s outfits. Whilst Notion and other music platforms continue to adapt and may struggle to gather content, I think they’ll be more susceptible to being approached with ideas. Be bold and approach people with good ideas and you will get picked up in some capacity. At Notion, we work with so many writers, from those who have been writing for many years to those where it’s their first commission. Don’t be disheartened by the fact that there’s no live music to review, because there’s a lot more to write about. 

Where do you see the future of music journalism going?

I think that music journalism will, unfortunately, continue to go digital. In ten years time, there will still be a place for print magazines but the opportunity will be far less, whilst the digital side will be buzzing. I think a lot of journalism will not only turn digital, but it’ll be social-specific. There are a lot of publishers now who only exist on social media, and I think journalism is heading in this direction.  

How can young music journalists get involved with Notion?

This sounds really cliched, but the easiest way to get involved with us is to email us an idea. Whilst we have an in-house team of writers, we externalise certain pieces like cover features or pieces about specialist genres of music. It really is as simple as reaching out to us with an idea and letting us know how much writing experience you have. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you will find that the more experience you get, the easier it’ll be to gain confidence in yourself and for the publications to gain confidence in you.

The Higher Frequency Podcast

In November 2020 Notion magazine joined Youth Music as the official media partner of our new podcast, The Higher Frequency, produced and presented by the next generation of creators across the UK. The podcast delves into the social and political themes behind the music they love. This six-part series features special guests GIRLI, Zoka the Author, [K S R], Lavz, Estee Blu, Nadia Khan and more.

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