As part of a new mini-series, “Behind The Pen” we’re speaking to electronic music writers we admire. To kick things off we spoke with Aneesa Ahmed, a journalist currently writing for MixMag. Aneesa caught up with Clara Löffler, where she shares her experience being a junior music journalist and passes on a few tips for aspiring female music journalists.
Attack: How did you become a music journalist?
Aneesa: I started working at Mixmag full-time in September after I had graduated from university. I got the job after being very kindly approached by Patrick, the digital editor, who shared that they have an upcoming vacancy if I would like to interview for it.
I know Patrick from freelancing for Mixmag back in January, February and March 2021. It was kind of an accident.
My first ever article for Mixmag was about student drug use, written in the context of lockdown. At the time, I was the editor of my university newspaper and I really wanted to publish there, but the contents had the potential to tarnish the reputation of those involved, and it just didn’t align. However, I didn’t want the idea to go to waste.
I’ve been a fan of Mixmag for a long time because they cover club and drug culture, as well as music, and I thought they might be interested in my article. I just shot my shot – I knew that I was capable of handling it sensitively – and it worked. I got a reply within a few hours and that was my first journalism paycheck.
That really gave me the push to keep going and while I was still in university, I kept writing in my free time about music and whatnot. Before that, I was doing music blog posts, but they weren’t paid. No one read them. I checked the statistics and like five people read them.
Is it more difficult to be a female than a male writer in this industry?
A lot of people who are currently in the industry, especially at my level, are women.
I’ve met a lot of entry-level writers and lower-level editors who are all women, which is why I was not intimidated at first. But the more I looked into it, the more I realised that none of them had any senior positions. This was quite a shock to me as I had only read articles from other music journalists on Twitter. I had never experienced being on the inside and seeing how male-dominated senior management was, not just in music, but in all sectors.
I think I had got myself into a little echo chamber by following a lot of women and queer people because they were my people before I realised the real world is not like this.
Once I started getting into the swing of things, I also realised that there are many individuals who value men’s opinions more, not at Mixmag, but a lot of industry managers, PRs, and event coordinators. They always go by the men in the company and not straight to me. It took me months of being in the job for them to even realise that I work there.
How did that make you feel?
A little bit disheartened.
In a weird way, it motivated me to put myself out there even more, but I shouldn’t have to be doing that. I shouldn’t have to be going out of my way and almost begging to get the recognition that I deserve for work that I have done. If I’ve spent eight hours on a project, why do I then need to spend an extra two hours emailing around, making sure everyone knows that it should be credited to me?
There was one instance where my partner, who is a man and also works in music and culture journalism, got tagged in something that I wrote, even though the music PR had been emailing me… It’s just small things like that, that men don’t experience as much. I’ve spoken to my female colleagues at Mixmag and they’ve all heard of it happening.