Dark and obscure music blog/zine since 2006 [ Post-Industrial / Ambient / IDM ]
contact: woundsoftheearth@gmail.com

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Never Trust a Music Writer

So I have a few reviews coming up, and some of them will be tricky to write, because there is a whole mess of conflicts of interests I have to jump through in order to get the truth out. I felt it was necessary to start out with a little bit of background to give you the story behind music writing, and why you should take everything you read with a grain of salt.

Music writers work with labels, promoters, and bands. Sometimes they help these people by giving them good press that encourages people to buy their stuff and see their live shows. Sometimes they seemingly hurt these people by discouraging people from purchasing their stuff. This is however a superficial appearance. Negative criticism is always more helpful to get than the positive, because it offers suggestions for improvement. Thus, a bad review of a mediocre record can actually help a band in the long run to re-think how they do certain things, allowing them to come out with something better later. The same obviously goes for live shows.

The problem is that there are short term personal and financial negative consequences for bad reviews. If you give a label's product a bad review, the label will no longer want to send you things to review. If a promoter or a band puts you on the press list to wave your cover at a show, if you give the show a bad review you're unlikely to get on future guest lists. If you give a bad review to the record of a friend of yours, that person may take it personally and no longer want to hang out with you.

Having music writers who are musicians can help in a lot of ways, because they can generally offer a smarter, more experienced perspective into the goings on of a live show, and when they review a record they're listening more for production quality and originality than any random listener you pick out of a hat might. Yet it can also open the door for further conflicts of interest, because generally whatever negative thing such a writer might say will only tend to make it harder for them later on to do remix projects with people, work on their own project with a certain label, get a gig from a certain promoter, or even have smooth, professional shows with other bands.

Thus you get a tendency in the press where you get far more good reviews than bad, because that makes everyone happy and helps the money flow as smooth as it can. The people who suffer, of course, are the consumers, listeners, and club patrons, as well as the bands themselves in the long run.

WOTE has a reputation for frankness that makes it one of the fresher, more origional and generally honest and thus helpful scene publications out there. We are proud of this and will continue as best we can to live up to this standard. But there is still that obnoxious, incessant mix of egos, ambition, personalism and short term focus on the bottom line that can from time to time bring up problems for even us.

It is thus for the benefit of all that I shall present for you the lyrics to a certain, controversial song, written by rather controversial artists, who may be as vice ridden or misunderstood as anyone else but who at least in these words reveal a refreshing honesty and critical self-examination from which all can certainly benefit:

Get used to saying no
Turn your back on the deceiver
Whose whispers in your ear complicate your life
Willpower, energy, example
What has to be done is done
Without wavering
Without worrying about what others think

Let obstacles only make you bigger
Get rid of those useless thoughts
Which are at best a waste of time
Don't waste your energy and your time
Throwing stones at the dogs that bark at you on the way
Ignore them
Don't put off your work until tomorrow
Don't succumb to that disease of character
Whose symptoms are a general lack of seriousness
Unsteadiness in action and speech
In a word: frivolity

If you clash with the character of one person or another
It has to be that way
You're not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone
If your character and that of those around you
Were soft and sweet like marshmallows
You would never become the person destiny's ordained
Don't stop to think about excuses
Get rid of them, and do what you should

You say you can't do more?
Couldn't it be, that you can't do less?
You never want to get to the bottom of things
At times because of politeness
Other times -- most times -- because you fear hurting yourself
Sometimes, again, because you fear hurting others
But always because of fear
With that fear of digging for the truth
You'll never be a man of good judgment
Don't be afraid of the truth
Even though the truth may mean your death

("Get Used to Saying No", from Alarm Agents by Death in June and Boyd Rice)



Headphone Commute said...

I think that it's all a matter of a perspective. First, let me be clear and state that _none_ of the below are aimed towards WOTE. This is mostly my observation from being an independent reviewer myself, as well as following other "more prominent" review sites.

First comes the question for the reasons behind the review. If the reviewer chooses to writeup recommendations of good music, then why bother wasting time on a detailed writeup, if the writer has nothing positive to say. The entire negative writeup defeats the original purpose.

Have some constructive feedback? Then offer it directly to the artist with a humble "no, thank you, not my thing," and I'm sure the artist or the label will reciprocate with a positive response.

I think some review sites are more out for the quantity rather than quality. You see, quantity drives search engine positioning, and traffic, which in turn drives advertising revenue. It's a simple business model. In return they are spraying the received promos across an array of reviewers. Never mind of their qualifications or whether the genre is their cup of tea.

The reviewers want to continue and receive free promos (hence some of the above mentioned conflicts of interests) and will end up reviewing the album, sticking to specific structure, trashing in the process some one's hard work.

I think the main issue I have with such an approach is the qualifications of the reviewer. Who is this person, and why should his words have such an influence on music, just because he's part of a collective that is deriving revenue from published content.

This is music - it is something very interpretive - it is a message from one to another sent via an auditory communication channel. It may get garbled in the transmission or just not properly received.

My 2 cents

Unknown said...

That's some good insight. Thanks for the comment :)

woundsoftheearth said...

1. we receive no revenue from this site. none. the only thing we get is music to review.

2. people send US their music. we don't go out and review random albums because we are looking for something to trash to masturbate our own egos. if people don't want the possibility of getting a negative review/negative opinions of their album, than maybe they shouldn't be releasing it to the public.

3. our qualifications? we are listeners and avid fans of music. doesn't that entitle us to be worthy to review something? i mean yes we went to college and have degrees in writing or some such, but the main thing is that we are merely listeners. if we don't have the right to an opinion, who does?

4. why waste time on a negative write up? because that is OUR JOB as REVIEWERS. if the album is bad than it is our job to point that out, and to point out why it fails. we try to be objective, but to be honest there is just a lot of music in this scene that fucking sucks, or could be significantly better. the fact that most zines are so willing to praise everything only contributes to this, by validating that which sucks.