Most critics have a love-hate relationship with album reviews. On the one hand, they’re an absurdly limiting format, forcing you to find things to say about albums you don’t care about, limiting your thoughts on albums you do care about, and requiring a bottom-line consumer reccomendation that might not really encapsulate your honest feelings. On the other hand, in these hard times for music scribes, record reviews are the one unique service we can provide that the public always seems to want. Which is why it seems crazy that Alernative Press was considering removing album reviews from its print edition.
After noting that “The reviews section is consistently one of the top three most-read sections of AP,” music editor Scott Heisel mentions that Vibe has cut its album reviews and now runs them only on the mag’s Web site, on the logic that “…in 2008, the most passionate conversations about music revolve around singles and remixes and playlists and who’s downloading what from where and how.” This, he says, raises the question of if “Rolling Stone, Spin and Blender [will] follow suit,” and discussions have been taking place at AP as to whether they should do the same. He then opens the question up to readers, who overwhelmingly come out against the idea:
An essential to any MUSIC MAG is a record review section. I carry my AP around with me for a few days and comb through every page, and I read every review for every CD. If the reviews were moved to the website, I honestly would not even read them. I don’t have the time to scroll through your website for something that I thought I paid to have sent to me so that I could cart it around with me. To even consider getting rid of a section that is one of the top three features in AP is ludicrous.
the internet would definitely be more convenient, however, I’d be less likely to read because I’m hardly on the website. it takes a lot for me to check updates on a website frequently.. unless I’m sent an e-mail or something. I prefer the reviews in the magazine, I’m much more prone to actually read them. I like the exclusivity of getting my info from the physical magazine before everyone else rather than a website that every single person with internet connection has access to in three clicks of the mouse
Taking it out of the magazine is absolutely crazy. What is a music magazine without a section to let readers know about the cd before making the purchase? I for one would like an opinion on a cd I like or may not like. If it HAS to changed, then take albums that are popular among readers and review some in depth, quality not quantity, right?
This is heartening to anyone dismayed by the diminishing prominence of reviews in non-music mags, and there are some pretty serious flaws in Heisel’s logic, mainly in the idea of comparing Vibe and AP. Vibe has sections that focus on non-music topics like style, and the musical logic about the current emphasis on singles, mix tapes, and online interactions applies almost exclusively to rap at this point. AP, on the other hand, consists almost entirely of music content, and there aren’t a lot of Thursday fans talking about mix tapes online.
Ultimately, it’s hard to understand the logic behind AP cutting its reviews section, since they’re such an integral part of the current readers’ perception of what the magazine should be–which is another reason why it’s hard to see how that move would result in a net gain of readers. The only benefit would be the money saved by an overall decrease in the magazine’s page count, and while that’s understandable, it’s also a little depressing.
43% blogged. [Scott Heisel of Alternative Press]