March 10, 2011

Week 25: Reviewing the Role of a Reviewer

Reviewing the Role of a Reviewer

Why did you get into music?
Was it for the love of playing?
Are you proud of what you’ve done thus far in your music career?
Does it make you happy?

If you answered “yes” to most of thee things, hold on to that thought.

Good reasons!

Here’s the deal. You are a musician. You’ve chosen to be in a position of scrutiny. There are people whose job it is to listen to your music and let people know if it’s worth hearing or not. Yes, I’m talking about the music critic.

I am one. But, unlike the stereotypical critic, I only review the music I enjoy. I do this for two reasons.
  1. I don't think it does anyone any good to pan a record.
  2. If I spend time telling you who NOT to listen to, I’m stealing time and space away from bands you SHOULD listen to.

But some people who call themselves music critics think their job it to cut people down. Some of these folks have made a lot of money doing this. Why? My guess is people like to read negative things about others… negativity sells, sadly. I just can’t subscribe to that thought. Call me a hippie, but there’s too many GOOD things happening in the world of entertainment to focus on the negative.

But I digress, we’re talking about music critics. Some will try and extract deep personal meaning to your music. Many times it’s not the same meaning you intended when you wrote it.

Also, critics will take something that may be near and dear to your heart, and call it a worthless piece of trash (Think Tommy Lee’s “Brandon”).

Another thing critics do is compare your recent release to EVERYTHING else you’ve released in the past. Music is the one of the only professions I know where the thing you did 20+ years ago is still brought up and scrutinized. Don’t believe me? Wait until KISS, U2, Metallica, or Pearl Jam release another album and read the reviews.
Can Pearl Jam top Ten twenty years later? 
Where’s the Destroyer vibe in KISS’ newest release? 
The Kill 'Em All Metallica is dead.
Here’s something you may NOT have thought about. Just like the fact that just about ANYONE can cut an album, a lot of times, the qualifications of the people who are scrutinizing your music are non-existent. That’s right. There is no prerequisite to becoming a music reviewer. All you need to do is set up a blog and you’re there.

Don’t believe me? I made an OFFICIAL MUSIC REVIEWER blog in about 10 minutes -

 Go ahead and look. I’ll wait… and watch this funny video.

Ah... it's funny because it's an interpretation of.... oh... hey! You back? Let's move on.

I’m not saying that all music reviewers are worthless. There are a good amount of folks out there that are wonderful and have a real ear for finding some great music. All I’m saying here is when you get a negative review written about your music, check the source. See if this writer is an “actual” journalist or simply a dude with a chip on his shoulder and access to a computer.

Now, here comes the advice.
  1. 1. When you decided to record your music for public consumption, you released all rights to define the meaning. Meaning, everyone hears something different and as an artist you HAVE to let the music speak for itself. Unless you’re putting together a “Story behind the song” show or are pointedly asked by an interviewer, just let people interpret what they want.

  2. So, the song that you wrote about your kid is called crap. Is it? Does the deep meaning you feel for it lessen when someone doesn’t like it? You must have liked it enough to record it and put it on an album. Let it go.

  3. Do not write an e-mail or letter or make a phone call or visit the reviewer. There is no reason to do this. If they don’t like the music… will yelling at them change their mind? Nope. What it WILL do is make sure you don’t EVER get publicity through them or their affiliate magazine/newspaper/Website.

    Example: I won’t drop her name, but as owner of INsite Magazine, I have had plenty of contributors write for me over the years. At one point I had a DVD/Video reviewer. He once wrote a video review of a female guitar goddess that still performs today. It was about 75% positive but it did have some little snarky comments that I thought were fine. Well, her manager BLASTED me in an e-mail. This was about 6 years ago. Guess who’s knocking on my E-mail inbox for some press right now? Guess who’s not going to answer?

  4. Negative press happens. Let it go. Instruct anyone and everyone who is involved in representing your band to let it go. Seriously.

  5. If you feel you MUST respond. Do it a different way. THANK them for the review. Any press is good press. What is the saying? “As long as they spell your name right.”

I think that about covers it for this one.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

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