Re-think reviewing.


Before I got into radio, I started writing for a music magazine called Substream. It was the first real music journalism that I got into, and I loved it. I still do! I’ve been writing for Substream for almost 3 years and I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some of my favorite musicians and bands, and reviewing some of my (now) favorite records.  As a music journalist, I like to try and stay on top of whats going on in my music scene, so on Twitter I follow a whole bunch of music news sites, writers, bloggers, interviewers, bands, musicians, and other people involved in the scene. You would think that all of these sources and people would be working together and would be in good company, right? I mean, they all help each other out. Bands create the music, music news sites promote them. It’s a cycle that could work very nicely, but of course, it doesn’t always go so smoothly.

I was recently talking with my friend, a fellow music journalist, about some comments we saw a musician making on Twitter. We’ve both seen countless other musicians make similar comments, which mostly boil down to not respecting music reviewers who give a band’s album a bad review. They don’t understand why a reviewer should be able to tear an album apart, and the band shouldn’t get upset about it. They don’t understand why they are supposed to just accept that the bad review is just the writers opinion.

The conversation with my friend really got me thinking, and I agree with these musicians. Why should they have to sit back while a person who is completely detached from their music, and has probably been listening to their new album for like a week, sits at a computer and posts a horrible review of this piece of work that took the band months and months to create? Well, they don’t have to sit back. Twitter and other social media give them the platform to fire back, and I don’t blame them for doing so. In fact, I’d almost be more displeased if they weren’t standing up for their work.

I think that some people are writers for the wrong reason. I think some writers like to have the ego and think that they are epically important. Well, you probably aren’t. Realistically, bands would exist without music news sources. But music news sources would not exist without bands. So why would you want to disrespect a band that gave you the opportunity to listen to and review their new album (which they worked tremendously hard on)? What gives you the right to do that? Are you really that knowledgable on music that you think your opinion of an album holds enough weight for you to give it a bad review if you don’t like it? I kind of highly, highly doubt it.

That is why I never give bad reviews. Ever. I can’t even count how many album or live concert reviews I’ve written over the last 3 years, but I know that they all put the artist in good light. But, I’ve also never lied when writing a review. All my reviews were my genuine and honest opinion, and that’s because I only review albums or shows of bands that I like. That might sound biased, but if you really think about it, it makes sense. Who is going to read my review? Most likely someone who already knows of that band. So instead of bashing a band’s album, I highlight how it’s different from their past work, I highlight what has gotten better or the growth that they show. I give an honest summary of what to expect from that album, and I always find good things to say.

I believe that music journalists, reviewers to be specific, should be using their privilege to promote bands, not tear them down. Reviews should inspire people to check that album out, not disregard an artists work before they’ve ever even given it a chance. I don’t review music because I want someone to read it and think that my opinion is so important that they should either listen or not listen to an album. My opinion is not that important. I review music because I want people to be intrigued and excited to check out new music.

As a music news source, you should want the best possible relationship you can have with bands and artists. I’ll stand by my statement that music news sources should exist to promote bands and music. You don’t want to alienate that relationship by giving a bad review to an album that you probably, in all honesty, didn’t even give enough listens to to justify your bad review. If you respect the musicians art, they will respect your art, too.


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