Don’t click on things that look like they just exist for you to click on them
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One goal of this site is to engender better listeners and readers. (Whether it succeeds is another matter.) By “better”, I mean more “more aware” in terms of listening and reading between the lines. In the same way that one should be able to detect biases in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, one should be able to see through the marketing that music listeners undergo – even at the underground level. Just because it’s pressed on 180g black vinyl doesn’t mean it’s good; just because it’s on a big label doesn’t mean it’s bad. If more listeners actively questioned what they listened to, mediocrity wouldn’t thrive in the marketplace.
Christopher Weingarten came at this issue from the music critic side in a recent talk called “Twitter & The Death of Rock Criticism II: Music Is Math”. (Music critics are fond of colons in their talks.) He’s talking mostly about indie rock, but his arguments definitely apply to metal. His basic point is that the Internet is ruining music criticism by emphasizing quantity over quality. Three salient quotes:
When clicks are your lifeblood, it doesn’t matter if the writing is any good, and that fucking sucks.
Good writing dies at the hands of search engine optimization.
Don’t click on things that look like they just exist for you to click on them.
Now, it’s disingenuous for Weingarten to make these arguments, since last year he undertook a highly publicized campaign to review 1000 albums on Twitter. Reducing albums to 140-character assessments doesn’t do music criticism any favors.
But ad hominem objections aside, he makes good points. I’ve been guilty of the sins he identifies. It’s tough negotiating these issues; for every post that I put up, I have to wear multiple hats. At some point, I put down my writer hat and put on my “site manager” hat. I have to worry about graphics, layout, and timing of posts.
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These things matter. The best writing in the world doesn’t matter if no one reads it. And, sadly, getting people to read things requires snappy headlines and eye-catching graphics. It doesn’t help that people prefer to read about things with which they’re already familiar (which skews coverage to music with the most marketing behind it). And it doesn’t help that analytics show that the number of readers of this site is basically in direct proportion to the number of posts I put up daily. The more frequently I post, the more readers I get – and the worse my writing gets.
“More readers” isn’t a goal so much as a means for this site. If a band deserves exposure, it should be exposed to as many eyeballs as possible. This site is really just a fancy venue for saying, “Check this band out”. That’s marketing, too – and you should be as skeptical of it as you are with any media outlet. I’m not sure if music criticism is worth defending (one of Weingarten’s implicit assumptions). I get a lot more out of music itself. But if it does its job as an antidote to marketing, music criticism can be worthwhile. It’s a two-way street. It needs smart readers and listeners as much as it needs smart writers.
Thanks to Chunklet for the tip