For as long as we can remember, there has always been some form of negativity in music journalism and the stigma of being viewed as ‘the devil’ among the artist community only elongates as time goes on. While opinions are often subjective, there comes a time when the lines are often blurred between constructive criticism and unwarranted cruelty.
I’ve been fighting against negativity in music journalism before I ever stepped foot in this business. As a teen, I’d read tons of music magazines, hopeful for some thoughtful anecdote on my favorite albums only to be met with snark and a bad feeling in my stomach. Once I started writing about music, I questioned (and let’s be honest, I still do) whether I belong in this community when all I would witness was the heartless takedown of band after band. I knew I never wanted to be a part of that. I then realized that I had to do this – not only to show every scorned musician that journalists aren’t all the same, but to be the change that I wanted to see in this industry. It has to start with someone. Why not let it be me? Of course (thankfully) I’m not the only one who feels this way and that makes my mission all the more foreseeable.
When you don’t like a type of food, you usually avoid it, right? It’s not likely you’ll write a condescending article on it and share it with the world, so why do that with an artist’s work? I can’t even begin to tell you how many publications I’ve lost respect for because of nasty reviews. It is one thing to share an honest, thought-provoking critique of an album, but to completely annihilate something you probably just don’t understand while using snarky fillers such as, “This sounds like a sick cat that would probably be better off dead,” isn’t something you should be putting your name on let alone sharing as an analysis of a piece of work. Sounds more like something you’d read in the comments section if you ask me.
There’s a quote that I adore by the late advertising creative director, Bill Bernbach that eloquently echoes my sentiments on this issue. I have it placed on my site’s policy page. “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society, we can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it to a higher level.”
I strongly believe that if you are a member of the media, no matter how big or small your publication, you have a reputation to uphold. What you put out there is how people are going to view you and the publication you work for. You should associate your name with things that are honorable, that accurately represent the environment you work for and the type of person that you are.
I’ve heard a ton of horror stories from my fellow writers, publicists and musicians I’ve covered and they all just made me realize that this fight will probably be a long one but I’m ready for it. It’s not hard to be kind but I think some are under the impression that it costs extra. Kindness isn’t guacamole, folks, and it feels a lot better going down.
While some may say that this is how it’s always been, that doesn’t mean that is the way it has to stay. That kind of closed-mindedness is exactly why this issue has been going on for so long. There are small steps we can all take to end this once and for all. Take initiative action by not visiting sites with a low morale. Most of them do it for attention and page views, so by going against what they’re really after, you’ll be doing yourself and that publication a favor by ignoring them completely. Stick to the ones who genuinely care about music and who want to lift people up rather than tear them down.
I’ve witnessed too many rants by musicians I admire over something that could be avoided if everyone had some common decency and respect. Even if I’m not a fan of an artist’s work, I feel for them. As a writer and creative myself, I understand the struggle of not having people who appreciate and understand what you are trying to achieve. Artists put their heart and soul into creating a piece of work they and their listeners can be proud of. Though every review is subjective, think before you post.
Be kind to the people you work with and who want to work with you, i.e. publicists, bands, managers, etc. They’re the ones who trust you with their music/clients and if it weren’t for them, your site probably wouldn’t flourish. Cultivate a relationship with them. If you don’t like something, politely decline. Instill a sense of integrity into your work. Remember Blockbuster’s video slogan? “Be Kind. Rewind?” Utilize it!
We all have opinions. Opinions are great. But leave the snark and self-righteousness at the curb with your superior rating system. Remember that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Promote what you love or don’t cover it at all.