If you’ve been around the block a few times with RMR already, you spotted them. Those rankings that the RMR crew issues on full reviews, those markers that will give you an inkling of a record’s quality. A birdseye view for those who don’t have the time nor the patience to read 800 words of convoluted English phrases.
And for those who have the stomach for lengthy reviews, you’ll get treated to positive pieces, written in shiny and snazzy prose that
will should beautify the wares they depict. Or – failing that – a negative review will head your way that will either amuse you with vile language1) or simply fill you with black rage and dismay.
But should we issue negative reviews at all?
After all, it’s against those feel-good rulez that the greedy little hands of the social media world wrought upon us. And to add insult to injury, labels and the music industry at large want your free labor, but – of course – on a positive note only, or else.
But – should we have rankings at all?
I frankly toyed with the question to just toss them for some time. Let the written word stand and interpretations reign supreme. So that everybody can take away whatever they want from the fruit of RMR’s prolific artistic loins.2)
Yet, it’s interesting how many bands use those ranks as some sort of a badge of honor once they promote that free review in their favor. Meanwhile others, chiefly the ones with the negative numbers, hate on them like there is no tomorrow – and I understand that.
So, over time, the application of a rating has made its mark. It indeed doesn’t provide that final judgment of the almighty Lord of Darkness. But it surely adds perspective and – yes – granularity to what would otherwise be a nirvana of happy paraphrasing in a universe of alternative facts.
So, they’re here to stay. For now.
The thing with free marketing.
RMR gets promos, like any other music webzine or blog. An abundance of review requests with advance notice of new tunes, upcoming records, and – of course – the music itself. So much so that we can’t really look at them all.
Reviews indeed form part of a band’s marketing strategy. So, they’ll throw ye a bone, free music with the hope that you might send something positive. And at no cost to them.
Now, some labels or agencies will accept and amplify your releases through social media and other channels, regardless if you send a negative or positive review. And we appreciate that. After all, the critical domain should be the reviewer’s playground, not brownnosing the powers that be in the music industry.
Yet, some labels, agencies, and – indeed – bands will take exception to your negative wares, block you, or stop sending you stuff. So, it’s free marketing with a twist. Not only should you work for free, but you should also chime in and send positives at da master’s pleasure. Because – guess what – negative reviews are the stuff of nightmares and toxic to sales.
So, should we have negative reviews at all?
The short answer is yes. It goes with the territory.
What we call a review or recension3) in English, is called a critique in other languages. So, if our intent is to be critical, then the occasional negative piece will inevitably appear. Else, you end up with a webzine with a ton of ‘masterpieces’ on it and little else. And whilst this is far from honest, you’ll find a number of those websites out there doing exactly that.
Now, a negative feedback loop can be a marketing strategy, too. Fomenting anger, chaos, and distrust is widely used in politics. You know, these folks that bask in that firestorm of their own making, lie and cheat at their heart’s content, and love to throw the occasional flamer in to egg on their cronies. It gets them the attention and all the clicks and supporters they may ever want on social media.
And this, of course, also works well in music journalism. Now luckily, I haven’t detected music review sites that truly thrive on negativity. And that’s a good sign. So, it’s mainly music lovers after all that run those services, not psychopaths with bad streaks of narcissism and a hefty dose of good ol’ Macchiavelli.
And what about RMR?
Negative reviews are a fact of life. However, realpolitik and a severe lack of funds and manpower demand that we make choices. So, usually, RMR will cover the pieces that talk to us and leave hopeless cases to fall by the wayside. This means that you’ll find more positive-leaning reviews on our ‘zine than truly negative ones.
But make no mistake. The crew here will not be shy to write negative pieces, and sometimes in no uncertain terms. And we’ll take the consequences.
In fact, we know about several cases where RockmusicRaider has been blocked on social media, of campaigns run against the site out of spite, just because we had the gall to speak our minds. And we didn’t even make ad hominem attacks or would otherwise revile the band. Which would be very easy in this day and age of anonymous badgering.
The bands, labels, or agencies that only wish to see glowing reviews for the wares they peddle, need to ask themselves how to pay the piper. Sending freeware with a veiled threat to the writer for returning a negative review is neither good policy nor in the interest of their fans and clients.
Ultimately however, negative reviews are a part of a music blogger’s life – and that also applies to RMR. But they should never be a ‘zine’s sole purpose of existence. You’ll need to ask yourself a few questions, else.