A Week In The Life Of… A Music Journalist, Lars Brandle

Lars Brandle
Lars Brandle, international correspondent for Billboard and overnight editor for Billboard.com & Billboard.biz.

Lars Brandle quietly reached a rather crazy career milestone in the month of March 2015. It was in this month, 15 years ago, that he joined the team at America’s music industry “bible”, Billboard. It’s been some ride, and Lars has had a box seat for the astonishing drama that has unfolded as the global record biz entered the Internet age. A University of Queensland graduate with a double-major in journalism, Lars had a two-year stint at the Financial Times in London before he landed a job with Billboard’s now-shuttered U.K. Bureau, where he led the international coverage of Billboard’s award-winning daily product, Billboard Bulletin. A new opportunity came in 2004, with the launch of Billboard.biz. Soon after, Lars was promoted to global news editor, a role which branched across Billboard’s flagship magazine and two websites, Billboard.biz and Billboard.com.

In 2008, Lars came home and served in the new role of Australian correspondent. At the start of 2013, Lars took on another new role with Billboard as the overnight editor for its two websites. Lars is the first and only non-U.S. based journalist to have editing duties for Billboard.com, one of the world’s widely read entertainment websites with more than 20 million monthly unique readers and upwards of four million ‘likes’ for its Facebook account. In the music news world, Billboard.com and Billboard.biz are true giants. Lars also finds time to work as a freelance writer, and he holds down a monthly music news slot on ABC Radio.

We followed Lars as he knuckled down for a week of work.

Saturday, 21 March
I’m usually up by 7am. I’m a firm believer that nothing good happens at 7am, and I’m certainly in no good shape at that time. My two kids make sure the day always starts right. My Saturday morning is Friday afternoon in New York City, so my colleagues are still hard at work in the office trying to climb a mountain of pre-weekend work. I check emails first thing, just in case I’m needed for something. There’s nothing urgent this time. I’m traveling twice this coming week, so I’ve got a lot of my plate. I’ve two other tasks demanding my attention this weekend: complete some long-format writing for Human Nature’s upcoming tour program and finish a press biog and track-by-track to accompany Dallas Frasca’s new album release. Both projects are on a deadline, and I need to crack on.

Athletes talk about a magical, ethereal “zone.” It’s a special place for hacks, too. And I manage to find it today. I crank out a few thousand good quality words on Human Nature. Their music might not be your thing, but they’re good lads who’ve done exceptionally well scoring a residency in Las Vegas. No other Aussie music group has done what they’re doing right now. I’m a huge fan of Dallas Frasca. I’ve been friends with Dallas since we connected in Alice Springs a few years back for a mentoring program with the local music community. Dallas is on tour in Europe right now. I cast my ‘editing’ eyes over the Dallas copy and send it back to the band and its reps. It’s 4pm, beer o’clock.

Sunday, 22 March
Working in ‘news’ has a high burn-out factor, so I typically keep Sunday unplugged. I won’t even check emails on an average Sunday. Today’s a little different. Copy needs to be proofed. Dallas has asked me overnight to read through another file, today. No biggie. It’s a 15 minute job, and I’m done for the weekend.

Monday, 23 March
I work from home. It’s a blessing and a curse. My wife works full-time, so I’m damn lucky to have the flexibility to drop my kids off at school and pick them up in the afternoon. My mornings are basic chores, and then it’s down to work. I punch in when the clock strikes 10pm in New York City, which is midday here. The shift takes me to 8pm, but I’ve got school pick up at 3pm. The afternoons are tricky and often busy. Sometimes stressful. I study the sales charts that come in from the U.K. and Australia from the weekend, and pour through my RSS feed. I wade through hundreds of emails and newsletters each day. It’s essential to know what stories we’ve already published on the websites. No-one wants to waste time writing stuff that’s already been handled. I build my own list of stories to pursue. If any good story ideas are left over, I’ll hand them on to my handover colleague. Our team is inclusive and we’re all looped in on what’s happening. News doesn’t wait. Each day I scan the overnight music performances on the late night U.S. talk shows. If there’s a noteworthy show, I’m well placed to report the story first. Ultimately I build and publish 10 stories during this shift. I also ‘socialise’ the stories: push them through our Facebook and Twitter accounts. I build and share a newsletter with some of my U.S. colleagues at the end of the day. It’s a little heads-up. I’m done at about 8.30pm.

Tuesday, 24 March
I’m up at 7am and I head to the airport. I take the train. A journalist who isn’t willing to use public transport is in the wrong job. I arrive in Sydney and head straight to the Redfern offices of a friend. I’ve already dealt with my emails on the train. I plug in and go through my routine: I absorb hundreds of headlines and stories with my RSS reader, pour over newsletters, read our sites. I’m always connected with my colleagues with a bespoke chatroom. I swear, some of them don’t sleep. I get away 8 stories during my shift.
Then we head to the APRA Awards. The drinks are flowing, the chat is good, the ceremony is fine. I’ve been to hundreds of awards ceremonies. If you can’t have fun at the APRAs, you’re a twit. I get a lot out of attending a show like this. I’m meeting with the industry, I’m interviewing artists, I’m covering the show and I’m getting themes (and trying to bag interviews) for subsequent stories. I wrote a story from wrote a story from meeting with 360 before the APRAs one year. And Gotye after the APRAs . And Kevin Parker after the APRAs .
This year has a good turnout. I catch up with Mushroom Music MD Ian James and Universal Publishing boss Bob Aird, Universal Music Australia president George Ash and Future Classic Founder Nathan McLay (the man who signed Flume and Chet Faker). I chat with Peter Garrett (he tells me he’s working on a book, and thinking of new music. But no, not with the Oils). And catch up with Hayley Mary from the Jezabels about their recent stint supporting Depeche Mode in Europe. I hit the hotel at about 2am. Not a bad effort.

Wednesday, 25 March
Up at 8am and out the door. Catch a train to the airport. I finish my story based on the notes I wrote on my phone. I embed a video from the night, and the story is live. I give it a push from our social accounts. Within 24 hours, my article has had more than 13,200 Facebook ‘likes’ and 320 re-Tweets. Wild. Back in Brisbane, it’s back to the old routine: RSS feeds, reading newsletters and our Websites. I build a ‘to-do’ list and get to work. I’ll check the RSS reader twice again through my shift. News never stops. I scan the overnight music performances on U.S. talk shows (Modest Mouse played the Late Late Show). I build and publish 10 stories during my shift, and I shut down at 8.30pm.

Thursday, 26 March
Another busy day with a lot of loose ends to tie up. Some early chores out of the way, and I’m back in work mode for the midday starting gun. I’ve been reading and responding to emails (and taking out the trash), checking the stories on our sites, reading newsletters, delving through hundreds of titles with my RSS reader. It’s another busy day, with record releases dropping during my shift, artists splitting with their management. The Zayn-leaves-One-Direction story broke overnight. Funny, I was thinking to myself just the other day who’d be the first to get off the 1D treadmill. I got my answer. I’ve published 8 stories by the time I send my newsletter and log out.

Friday, 27 March
Not your average day, this. I send some invoices, check and send email, pack my computer and head to the airport. The Brandles are off to Fiji for a hard-earned vacation. My work here is done, for this week anyway.

You can find some of Lars’ work here, and follow him here on Twitter .

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