Right or Wrong

… And Other Sites Like It.

This question came up today due to a simple Tweet we sent out asking if anyone would like to write for Silent Radio, which we do from time to time. The way we see it is the more writers we have, the more music will get written about. Simple you might think, but apparently not.

After our Tweet went out one of our contributors (once the gigs editor at SR) also Tweeted that we would like some more writers and this seemed to rile someone.

Here’s a bit of background about SR: In 2006-ish I sent a text into a BBC radio station after the presenter apologised on air for not being up to date on all the new music he’d been sent. I offered (quite flippantly) to help out. My text was read out on air and I thought that was that. Later that evening I received a text back from the presenter asking if I’d like to give it a go. In the first few emails I explained I had never done anything within the music world apart from a bit of DJing and band promotion, but that was in the late 80s. Since then I would only ever say I’ve been an avid consumer of music.

A couple weeks later I’m in London to meet said presenter, we go for something to eat, have a chat and then I get to sit in on his radio show. Afterwards I come back to Salford with a sack full of CDs to listen to and pick out my favourite tracks. A job I had never done before, but did my best, and you know what I bloody loved every minute/hour of the task. Loads of new bands hoping to get their music played on the radio. Two weeks later I met up with the presenter again and hand over my 10 favourites. Later that morning I got a message from him saying I’d picked some great music, and that night he plays 3 of them on his show. All of them were new bands and I’d sifted through hundreds of CDs and found them. To say I was chuffed is an understatement, and then when I thought about how these bands must have reacted to get their music on a really prominent radio show, it made it even better. From then on I would help out regularly with finding new music.

As all these bands were pretty new I noticed that a lot of them were gigging in Manchester, but not getting any reviews. This irked me, especially as a lot of them deserved to be heard. I approached the Manchester Evening News to tell them I knew of all these new bands that were playing in Manchester but weren’t getting reviewed and suggested I give it a go. I got some tips from a work colleague who wrote for the same publication, sent in my test review and it was good enough for me to then go on and review more gigs for them. Again I was more than chuffed that I was getting to see these new acts play live in the small venues and give them some much deserved/needed publicity.

A little later down the line the Manchester Evening News was being sold off so for some businessy reason they sacked off all the writers like myself who weren’t proper employees. By this time I enjoyed writing. Still in touch with the guy from the BBC he persuaded me I should continue reviewing and start my own blog. His persuasion worked and a handful of the other writers wanted to write/edit for the blog too. It didn’t take us long to realise that there was too much new music being released and gigs happening for the few of us to cover alone. Other people came along and joined in too. More and more came along and I decided to beg borrow and steal to fund the blog to become the website you see today.


Through all of these stages there was never an intention to treat SR as a business as the way we saw it was that everyone involved was already benefiting. The SR team and writers got to find loads of new music and got free gig tickets in return for a few hundred words, the smaller venues were written about, the acts playing in those venues were getting reviewed and readers of the website were possibly finding their new favourite bands. So that’s where we still are today, and not for any financial gain, we have no ads and don’t sell anything. Writers aren’t sent to gigs or told which new album they have to review. It’s all done in everyone’s spare time outside of what they do to pay the bills. It’s a hobby, but a hobby we give a lot of time to and really enjoy. Not only that, some lifetime friendships have been made. We encourage non-writers to give it a go, we have journalism students writing for us, journalism lecturers that write for us, published authors write for us, anyone who loves music and wants to share that love.

Anyway back to the Tweet. A reply came back to the Tweet asking if we pay our writers and the answer was no and it went on, and on from there.

Our aim is to help anyone and everyone who loves music. The internet is a big place and we’re just trying to make it a bit easier for music to get heard and for people to get into writing at whatever level they like. According to our new Twitter friend “Using unpaid amateurs is unethical” and we’re asking people to write for our unviable business for free. And probably the best of them all, if you write for free you are a mug.

You can see the conversations here, here and here.

We have a radio show every week that a team of SR people work very hard on. The show is great, has great guests, but do we expect to make money from it? No. Should we be taken off air because we’re not ‘professional’ radio producers/presenters? No, because we play some amazing music.

So here’s the question, is what we are doing at Silent Radio (and other similar sites) unethical?

I don’t think it is, our writers don’t think it is and I’m guessing all these new bands we cover don’t think we are either, but we’ll let you decide. Please feel free to leave your comments below.

PS I am going to Chester University again this week to talk with the music journalism students and share all the things I have discovered over the years since starting the site. I’m not getting paid in money for this, the only payment I’ll get is to know I may have helped some young writers in their quest in the music business and that for me is priceless. It won’t pay the bills, but that’s what my day job is for.

Simon Zaccagni

‘Accidental Editor’ None of this was planned; I’ve never been in a band, never been part of the ‘music scene’ and never expected to be the gaffer of a music website with loads of dedicated music loving writers. I bought my first record when I was 8 and haven’t stopped buying since. I love crate digging for bizarre and weird stuff, but equally happy ploughing through press releases looking/listening for something I’ve never heard before.