An interesting read on the state of music criticism & the capitalist funnel
Loss of individual tone of voice is a huge one
Suggestion: Publications and platforms need to find better ways to mix top 1% with new discoveries they’re excited about. Like, imagine if every so often Bandcamp had a world exclusive interview with a Billie Eilish level artist rather than Vogue or Zane Lowe. Or imagine if Vogue had a heavily marketed Bandcamp mixtape to go with big fashion week shows.
There is an ever-expanding gap between the capital needed to make music and the capital needed to get that music out to anybody. There is so much music with zero reach because promoting music is almost impossible without hundreds of extra dollars a month for press that a lot of people just don’t have. I would argue that even if you have the money, that reality of needing a publicist in order to feel like you even have a chance to break through is still a negative. Theoretical easy accessibility of music that is promised by the internet is not the same as an even playing field.
This, I can’t remember the last time I read a review.
Why would I when I can read a one line description and then listen to it myself (and then buy if I like it).
Why would I want to read some sneering pitchfork review saying why something I like/might like is terrible and when you listen to it you find it actually good.
I do love to read people tell me why they love a band/album and that passion will often lead me to check something out more than ‘6.1 shite’ review.
Using film/tv criticism as the analogue, the very best writing/podcasts etc go in-depth with a shared agreement that you’ve seen the thing and are interested enough to hear proper, well-thought out opinions and interpretations of it. Music doesn’t seem to have an equivalent to that level of criticism beyond retrospectives at key anniversaries (or stuff like the Dissect podcast) it’s still very “here’s why you should go to Woolworth’s and buy this thing on CD” when that stopped being relevant years ago.
Find website reviews too wordy and like the writer is trying to show off how good they are at writing rather than the album. Magazines have it best - couple of sentences on the style of music, couple on the quality. End with a score and a ‘for fans of’
Bought Kerrang the other week for a train and they’ve binned off reviews entirely. Still got a full page for Pandora though
I do agree with this, but it makes me think, do I really need to read about music at all? I used to read music magazines cos they were cheaper than buying 10 albums. What am I wanting to read about now? I’ll just listen to the music.
Related point, having more music coverage that was dedicated to helping new or small artists break out would be really great, especially if it was easy to find and submit to as an artist, but the burden on such a provider would be immense because there’s tonnes of people making music. I think we almost have to view music writing nowadays as something that’s part of consolidating existing careers rather than permitting access for new artists, which is sad but I think unavoidable.
Yeah. We shifted some of the focus on DiS toward the end of it publishing all the time to covering things a few months after they were out rather than pre-released
I think valuing how people invest their time rather than money now is also key. Like, here’s 15 minutes of new music to hear this week, rather than just titling putting lots of posts up and hoping people end up clicking on all of them.
It’s why I love the rolling threads on here but also sort of wish they had monthly summaries for the ones I can’t keep up with
I do a bit of reviewing (not as much as I used to) and used to sometimes feel a bit self conscious that other writers are much better at arty writing and flowery language and mine are quite dry analysis, but when I think about it the latter is what I prefer reading.
People always bang on about like the classic NME writers from the 80s but when I see any of those old articles I find them really impenetrable and smug.
Correct me if I’m incorrect, but doesn’t Ireland also have something almost akin to the Canadian system of artist development? Can’t remember where I read that, but I’m sure there’s more infrastructure available than in the UK for developing artists from memory.
I don’t know a huge amount that side of it tbh - on a larger scale Ireland’s music scene infastructure is fairly non-existent compared to the UK I would say, so until a bit of a recent explosion it seemed very rare for bands quite popular in Ireland to break through anywhere else. Those outlets I mention are more on the DIY side of things, which is thriving
Hmm. Not sure about that. Irish radio is a disaster for promoting homegrown talent but you can get grants from local authorities and our Arts Council to fund your art. These grants are usually very hard to get but can provide an artist (in any field) with much needed funds. I know Pretty Happy (supported Pavement and toured with Kim Gordon) got Arts Council money to help them out.
So actually it’s just like the UK in that sense! Don’t know why I had it in mind that Ireland was an artistic utopia lol. From what I remember Canada (or some provinces) had a more porous arrangement where they could relatively easily access funding and stuff but it was also tied into promotion and preferential radio play and so on for local artists, but this was a while ago and Idk if it still happens. Don’t mind me! I think what I’m looking for is a linkage between funding, press, and promotion that actually functions to assist emerging artists, rather than being a whole shitload of paperwork that just takes you to another gatekeeper and so on.
The big issue is the time required to find 1 great new act can be days of going through emails and rabbit holes online.
For me it’s usually months and tbh I probably find 3 acts a year who I genuinely think are amazing that very few people have heard of and a lot more people might like… but I also probably find 3 things a week that I think people who are into new acts and whatever the mixture of bandspotting and cratedigging is would be into in niche genres (feel like I love so much drone and ambient music that probably has found the few thousand people who’d love it by the time I hear an Ekin Fil or Kate NV)
And do you wanna recommend 1 act every few days or really go big on 1 act a week or a month. And the fewer acts people recommend, the less of a sense of their taste or people being able to say they too spotted X massive star early on.
Then there’s the is supporting brand ‘new’ things as important as ‘great’ new to most people things. And I would mentioning say and EMA alongside s Paramore have more impact than bigging up EMA without as big a potential audience. And to most people here EMA is an established artist but in reality she probably isn’t half as well known as an Angel Olsen or Perfume Genius, who in turn aren’t at The National or Phoebe Bridgers levels.
Anyway, all that said, if I do spend the time and find 3 great new acts a year, how do I help them find an audience… that’s the bigger challenge that not even Apple or Spotify with all they money and resource aren’t managing to solve because unlike the way MySpace broke artists, it doesn’t have the same value to them. I’d love for Tidal or SoundCloud to shift in this direction a bit but doesn’t seem to have happened.
Instead we have all these offshore businesses like Spotify playlist pluggers or creators (and I put people who might be modern day music bloggers and podcasters in this box) having to use Patreon donations or doing pay to play SubmitHub to justify the time they invest. Imagine if it was easier to start an independent label and there was the return for the time investment.
Anyway that’s all stream of conciousness but hopefully makes sense kinda sense.
Yeah there are some good folks in Ireland but it’s quite linked to the live scene, like The Skinny was or London in Stereo. And I guess on a glocal level things like Resident Advisor can be? So many local mags, newsletters and fanzines have come and gone, and I wonder if in the Substack era there might be a value to bringing them back… but then how does that local knowledge turn into impact outside of their home city?