He who writes first will determine success or failure of a particular album. This has become a common complaint among promoters. Whichever publication is first to review an album will trigger a series of similar reviews, which could either bury the record, or turn it into the new ‘must download.’ This fear of the domino effect has left many promoters holding on much tighter to advances, careful to leak earliest to those who will have a favorable opinion because of past reviews, personal opinions, or a love of free t-shirts. Why does this happen? Simple- there is no integrity left in music journalism.
KOAR posted an article in June of last year discussing the breakdown between the label and press due to the volume of material and shortage of employees/respectable outlets. The problems discussed in that piece have only gotten worse. Everyone involved is still overwhelmed with material, and there are even fewer places with credibility. Add the issue of every album being a virtual roll of the dice, quality-wise, and a population of artists who are quickly losing hope, and I think it would be fair to say we are at the end. How long we wait here for a new beginning and how dark it gets is yet to be determined.
The new Black Crowes album Warpaint received a less than stellar review by writer David Peisner in March’s issue of Maxim, who wrote, â€œThey sound pretty much like they always have.â€ One problem- he’s never even heard it. The label isn’t making advance copies available. If that’s not startling enough, the editor essentially responded with â€œWe either make stuff up about you or you aren’t gonna be in our magazine.â€ The Crowes were pissed. As they well should be. They can now expect 30 more ‘it’s more of the same’ reviews, as more bloggers and writers plagiarize the original fake review, because that’s faster than listening to the album and forming an original thought.
This level of unprofessionalism is common these days, and writing a review without actually listening to it is a skill that many writers have down to an art form. Some choose to review other people’s reviews, and some simply project their prejudices based on their critical assessment of the band’s name, song titles, myspace/website and photo. I am sure this Black Crowes review is not the first bullshit article to make it into the magazine, and Maxim is far from the only publication willing to print fluffy fabrications. How much does this hurt the artist? Is the Black Crowes new album doomed to obscurity, coveted by only the most hardcore of existing Black Crowes fans? Will there be no single, no video, no world tour…no future, all because of one bad writer poisoning the well?
I have no idea. I haven’t heard the album. Maybe they wouldn’t have had those things even with a string of excited, positive press. Or maybe it will be the album that changes the course of modern music, despite the bad press. Perhaps you cannot stop an album from fulfilling it’s destiny. Greatness always rises to the top, right? I think that’s a romantic notion, and as a firm believer in the cosmic power of music, I’d like to believe it. However, it seems artists today have a lot of forces working against them. This industry has broken, and that doesn’t only affect the major labels. It affects every facet of the music world, from how it is distributed, to how it is promoted, to how it is performed, to how it is received by the public to, ultimately, the artists themselves.
Artists have conceded the labels. They watched radio and television eliminate themselves from the opportunities list. They gave up the money in the name of ‘freedom’. They bounce around the disorganized distribution systems, waiting to see who wins; and now press, in its transition period, has tuned out to them completely, finding plagiarism and pure fabrication preferable to listening to their music or finding out anything about them. Musicians have been quite passive in these turbulent times. Maybe the dissolution of press will be the catalyst they need to become more involved, but it will probably just be another nail in their coffin. Strap on your aprons and ready your name tags.
-Angela ‘AJ’ Jenson