Spearheaded by a certain goofy, baldheaded online enthusiast, music criticism has taken on new and interesting forms in the modern day. Gemma Cockrell takes a probe to the evolving landscape, asking whether there’s still a need for these so called ‘tastemakers’.
The internet has had an immense and democratising effect on music criticism. Reviewing music is no longer confined to only the mainstream media and specialist publications, and the rise of blogging and independent critics has opened up opportunities for opinion-making and debate like never before. In this neoliberal, internet age, the question rises of whether there is still the need for the traditional music critic. However, on the other side of the debate questions also surface, as people doubt the validity of the opinions of online music blogger who have no professional experience when it comes to analysing music.
Prior to the internet, music journalism faced constraints such as word limits and space in print magazines. Now, in the online realm, these traditional issues no longer harm the reviewer’s creativity. The internet has the ability to diminish these previous limitations, meaning that anyone can express their opinions on music as extensively and frequently as they wish. This freedom of expression has been made possible by social media, and the most popular site for posting music content has proven to be YouTube.
Being an online independent content creator provides the freedom to cover niche genres and artists galore
The most well-known music reviewer on the platform is theneedledrop (Anthony Fantano) who has amassed over two million subscribers in the past eleven years since starting his channel. His popularity has increased due to the wide diversity of genres and artists that he reviews – unlike traditional magazines where certain genres are left uncovered in favour of the more mainstream ones, being an online independent content creator provides the freedom to cover niche genres and artists galore.
Some have blamed the rise of these online reviewers for the recent decline in traditional print journalism. People can now express their opinions on music without needing any professional training, experience or specialist knowledge, and it has been questioned whether these so called ‘amateur’ reviewers have the same value as the reviews written by traditional critics. Online music bloggers are able to challenge the norms of professional criticism and reviewing, and when people are beginning to question whether traditional music critics are still necessary, it is no surprise that professional journalists are starting to become defensive.
However, just because someone has not gone down the traditional route doesn’t mean that their views are any less valid. Those who run music blogs may not often have official journalism qualifications or training, but many of them have wide knowledge of music and they often bring an innovative and refreshing viewpoint to the table.
Music critics of both traditional and online backgrounds have earned equal power within the music industry. All reviewers have the ability to determine the success (or failure) of a song or an album by sharing their opinions, whether these opinions are being shared in print for a respected and established magazine, or on their own independent online blog or YouTube channel. What matters most is that their writing is of high quality, and as long as their opinions are fair, unbiased, balanced and insightful, all reviews and opinions are of great value to the music industry, regardless of who is sharing them. Traditional music critics are still important and valuable, but the internet has opened up a modern and progressive realm of music reviews which simply can’t be ignored or silenced.
You should be open to listening to and appreciating the views of music critics from all backgrounds
However, it must ultimately be remembered that all music critics exist to share their personal and subjective opinion. As a fan of music, it is important to form your own opinions without being swayed or led by others. It’s often interesting to read other people’s opinions on your favourite artist’s new album, but in no way should these reviews be taken as objective guidance. So, you should be open to listening to and appreciating the views of music critics from all backgrounds, but what is most important is that you remain unafraid to disagree with them, and that you keep the subjectivity of their opinions in the back of your mind at all times.