Thoughts on Music Reviewers and Bloggers in General

Posted by Jason Petros on September 24, 2009
Reviews

I’m a consistent blog reader, and I try my best to keep in touch with what’s new and exciting in the industry, Chicago-land or otherwise – and what I’ve been noticing is that there are three types of music reviews.  I’m doing this to show how I choose to critique your music – and to diagnose issues that I have with the ever increasing amateur writer out there.  My ultimate goal, with independent music is critique using two points: 1. Present it to readers explaining what is good about it or what’s bad about it – regardless of genre or personal taste and 2.  Give my opinion on why I do or do not like it.  These things are important – cuz maybe I’m not into industrial funk – but I can tell my readers what it sounds like, and then offer up my opinion on what works on the album and what doesn’t work on the album – it’s a fine line, but I do my best to straddle it. Now, obviously there are different opinions to be had, I’m just trying to give you all an idea of what I do and why I choose to do it this way. 

The track by track listing

This is a review that goes through an album track by individual track and expounds a sentence or two on the sound, but more often than not is just a summary of each song – ie; what it’s about, where it falls on the album, and sometimes, if the reviewer has done their homework – how each song fits the overall theme and/or mood of the artistic piece.  This last portion has the distinction of sometimes seeking out meaning where it does not lie.

Argument For/Against

With an established artist, this can sometimes work well – giving people an idea of the songs they may want to buy or download before going out and spending the money on a full album; unfortunately though, to me, this type of review is incredibly boring.  I don’t want a plot summary of the album, I want to know why I should listen to it – what is the appeal?  Plus, for the independent artist – track listing is sometimes last on their mind – more important is showing off their sound, the presentation of their cultivated baby.  So for me, this makes me want to describe them with a broad brush –which brings me to my next type:

The Repeat Review

Believe it or not, reviewers receive dozens, if not hundreds of emails a day from artists seeking some type of exposure.  If the artist is smart, they’ll also send a quick descriptor of themselves/their album so the reviewer knows what they are getting into.  The lazier critic will take these biographies and summaries, switch a few words out, and voila, there you go – it’s a home spun review from somebody too busy to listen, or too lazy to write.  Of course there are a multitude of reasons this may happen, but a true independent music critic will give the music an unbiased listen – and report what they heard.  

Argument For/Against

Well, this can save a lot of time – and we are all guilty of it at one point or another in our careers but it does a dis-service to the artist and to the reader.  If I reprinted everything I’ve been sent – you would think every single band reviewed has played the biggest venues for the biggest crowds and they are like totally super awesome and I can’t believe you haven’t heard of them!!!  Unfortunately, every band is not “embryonic and soulful on stage” and a lot of times it definitely doesn’t follow through on the album.  The biography is nice – it gives me a base line to start with.  For example, if it’s a DIY record – ok, I’m not going to expect it to sound like John Mayer’s new release – I’ll give it some leeway on the sound and I’ll concentrate on another selling point.  Point is, bios are great – but they aren’t reviews. 

Finally – The Broad Summary

My favorite type – and the kind I find most useful for critiquing independent music that’s never been heard before.  See, lots of times the artists I review are not yet established – maybe they have a bio, maybe not – sometimes I just get a list of 3 songs on a burnt CD.  I don’t usually get a ton of stuff to work with – so I concentrate on the sound – maybe the lyrics – possibly the recording technique – the musicianship/performance on the album.  It gives me a multitude of options to sell the independent musician’s music for them; good or bad.   It gives me an opportunity, as a writer, to push myself and come up with inventive descriptors and innovative techniques to give a reader the feel of the music – without even hearing it.   

So, what do you all think?  Am I right here?  Wrong?  Do you even care?

5 Comments to Thoughts on Music Reviewers and Bloggers in General

  • Hello CIMR,

    My name is Snap Johnson and I am part of music group Na Style Jaa(nostalgia). We are a hip hop group that, through our music, focuses on counteracting the stereotypes and negative images associated with hip hop. We try to do this by centering each one of our songs around a particular theme or subject matter, usually with subtle comedy and sometimes history related(thus the name nostalgia).

    We take a lot of pride in putting on exciting live shows that people enjoying watching as much as listening to. We use props and costumes to delve into each song, creating an environment that is as visually entertaining as it is musically developed.

    We produced and master all our own music and would love it if you took a listen. We recently moved out to chicago in order for us to more seriously focus on our music. Currently our official website which hosts our songs is under construction but please take a second and check out our music at our reverb nation page at reverbnation.com/nastylejaa.Thanks for your time!

    Yours,
    Snap Johnson(517)881-1077

    Facebook.com/nastylejaa

  • I think that bloggers reviewing independent music is a great thing for artist. I know some bloggers for what ever reason do tend to give hollow reviews but even that can bring awareness of the artist to music fans. The listener will just have to put in more effort on their part.

    Raimone
    http://www.indiebychoice.com/mone

  • Totally agree with ya here! And it’s sometimes difficult to do that last kind, the broad review, but so very worth it! Thanks for calling us out, xoxo

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