Ethics is important for every job, not just journalism. One of the crucial parts of a journalist’s job is to be fair and impartial with their writings. Remaining unbiased is difficult. Many roadblocks exist in the music industry preventing writers from being fair and ethical. Free “swag” is one of the larger ethical pitfalls music journalists find themselves getting stuck in.
As a writer working for a larger publication, you will be given free merchandise. You will be given advance copies of albums, free tickets and even special access to stars nobody else receives. It can be tempting to let these free items to get to your head and affect your review or writing. Do not let that happen. Agents and publicists across all forms of entertainment do this. They hope that giving you free tickets and a nice hotel stay in exchange for covering their event might mean your article is a little more written to their favor. It cannot be stressed enough how important having a strong will is. Accepting these advance copies and tickets is certainly a gray area of its own. Advance copies are often seen as a necessary evil. As stated earlier, being first can often be the big break a journalist needs. That is why so many accept these free items in advance so they can get the first coverage of it.
Like any job, a strong will is required. Music journalism is no different. Remember it is always best to be open-minded, impartial and truthful. The best way to go about this is be upfront with your readers. Tell them that the recording label fronted you the copy. Mention that they paid for your ticket. Being upfront with your fans is never a bad idea.