One month after Maura (and others) took apart Avail Intelligence’s spurious study that 80 percent of music fans “are turning away from professional music reviews and looking online for guidance when buying CDs or downloads”–because more than 20 percent of music fans actually read criticism to begin with, yep–people are still claiming it as actual information. For example, Hypebot guest poster Ethan Stanislawski, who utilizes the “data” while proposing that critics concentrate more on tracks than albums.
If editorial motivation isn’t enough, try financial motivation. I’ve worked on music blogs for 2 years, and have put considerable toil into my music reviews and up-to-the-minute news posts. But very few of my posts have taken off as consistently as my posts of new audio tracks or video streams. This should be no surprise, as mp3 and video blog aggregators like the Hype Machine and el.bo.ws have gotten some of the best traffic on the web despite the relative paucity of their actual content. Here on Hypebot, Bruce recently reported on a study that says 80% of music fans don’t read professional reviews. A significantly larger fraction, even as many as recommendations by friends, is turning to online recommendations from websites like Facebook and iLike. This is the area where music criticism has a lot of room to grow.
We’re a long way from the days when there were only a handful of bands to consider, and when a handful of people could tell us if a certain band was cool or not. Nowadays, there are too many bands, and too many people judging them, for traditional methods of criticism to stay prominent. Combine that with fans who barely listen to whole albums anymore, and you can see how track reviews become more important. Of course, old-fashioned knowledge is still crucial for making a name for oneself. But in the future, maybe instead of saying this sounds like band X, critics will include a link to something by band X. Thus, the critic can use new media to inform fans in nontraditional ways. Rather than destroying the critic, new media has the power to make the critic a crucial, unprecedentedly effective educator.
As someone who writes about singles a lot (here and elsewhere), I’m certainly on dude’s side, at least in theory. But urging folks to do this because it’s a good move financially does make you wonder what his priorities are regarding music writing per se.