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.

Aneesa Ahmed
Aneesa Ahmed

Write. Just start writing, start a blog, even if only five people read it. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Aneesa Ahmed

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.

I realised that many 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.

Aneesa Ahmed

Do you feel responsible for covering more female artists?

Yes. And as a queer person and person of colour, I feel even more responsible to cover other marginalised people and artists in general. I’m very lucky with my editors Patrick and Megan – who always make sure we tell stories that platform and highlight the talent and skill of those from marginalised backgrounds. If there is a lineup in a festival and we’re covering that festival, chances are it’s going to be 70% men at least, but in our article, we try and include as many of the female names as possible.

On a personal level, I definitely try and seek out women artists, South Asian artists, Black artists or people of colour artists and queer artists. The intersectionality of my background gives me lived experiences. If we go down the gender route, a lot of men don’t think about that actively, but because we’re always thinking about it, it happens naturally.

With some PRs and people who manage lineups at events, festivals or club nights, I sense that it’s an afterthought for them, whereas for me it’s the first thing I look out for. I ask myself: where are the other people who represent me on the lineup?

Do you have any tips for aspiring female music journalists?

I know this is really cheesy, but to put yourself out there, you just need to just do it. The second thing is to read. I feel like I’ve found a lot of the music I like through other articles. Try and read articles by other female journalists to gain a broader music taste. And do it from your heart.

A lot of people see it as this really thrilling thing, which it is, but at the end of the day, your best work will stem from your compassion, when you caring about something. The last point is to write. Just start writing, start a blog, even if only five people read it. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Follow Aneesa Ahmed on Twitter.

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Author Clara Löffler
13th April, 2022

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