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Maxim Apologies To Black Crowes: Reviews, Reviewers and the Age of Bloggers
Have you ever read a music review and felt that the reviewer didn't even listen to the album because they were so off base? I certainly have, even from some very big name music magazines that shall remain nameless. It has not only been one of my major reasons for avoiding reading reviews, but also writing a few of my own. I understand that the major reviewers probably listen to a few hundred albums every day and they're under some major pressure to meet their deadlines, but I've always felt it takes multiple listens to really get a grasp of a new album and finalize my feelings about it. Apparently some major magazines feel otherwise as they've recently had to apologize for some of their reviews being a little preemptive.
Maybe you missed this story in the music world, I almost did, but it caught my eye luckily and really sheds some light on just how much stock us music enthusiasts should put in some mainstream album reviews. The band involved was the Black Crowes (and a few other artists I believe) and the review in Maxim Magazine was of their new album, the band's first in 7 years: Warpaint.
The rating for the album wasn't all that positive, but that wasn't why the band received an apology from Maxim. Instead it was the fact that because previews of the album were not made available, there is no way the Maxim writers could have heard the entire album... and yet they reviewed it anyways. Apparently there were some issues of whether it was published as a "preview" or a "review" and other magazines chimed in saying they're hitting some roadblocks because labels are holding back preview copies to prevent piracy, but the facts are that a review was published about an album without said album even being listened to in it's entirety.
I don't know about you, but I find that pretty upsetting because of the ethics (or lack there of) behind it and what it means for the music industry. When I first read the story I was even a little shocked because, like I said, I've often thought that some reviews sounded like the writer hadn't really listened to it at all, but never thought that was literally what was happening. This has really confirmed for me that mainstream music reviews are really not the place to look to hear what new albums are all about. Although there are some really good reviewers on the internet and working for major media outlets, this seems like something where consulting multiple sources if possible might be a good thing. Like I've said before, music is subjective, so why not get multiple opinions and see what different people think about a new album before deciding on checking it out or not.
This lends itself perfectly to the age of bloggers where sites like maybe... the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll, can provide reviews from people who are passionate about their music and reviewing albums because they like them, not because they're paid to review them. I think bloggers provide better reviews anyways because when people are passionate enough about something to write about it even when they aren't getting paid, then the quality is usually better. That's not to say that paid reviewers are not passionate, I'm sure they are and I don't mean to knock it's just that often times the quality of their reviews is a little more varied simply because they're looking at so many different albums every day, where as bloggers don't deal with that kind of volume.
In the end, I'm glad that the band received an apology and I seriously hope that this kind of practice is not common place in the music industry. It's another good reason to not put too much stock in major media album reviews. I also encourage people who are passionate about music to start blogging and getting their opinions out there where people can read a few reviews for multiple opinions and then make up their own mind.