I didn’t watch the Grammy’s last night, and over the years I rarely have, even though I have worked for over 25 years in the music industry. I don’t like awards shows for art. I love art for its passion when it touches me, not for its perceived value.
The general public’s ability to be negatively opinionated and affect others buying choices of music has grown with the Internet age. TV shows like American Idol where the lead, “Simon” is the most negative person on the show, also don’t help. In the age of Blogs, forums and product reviews on sites, the filtering process, usually handled by an editor has virtually disappeared and anyone without vetting can be a published critic.
So why is music reviewed?
If you look up the word “review” in a dictionary it is defined as “an evaluation”, an evaluation is defined as “to affix a value or worth of” this purports something quantifiable. If anyone wants to post a review saying that a “Dishwasher” is really hard to use, that is an opinion, but it also can be somewhat quantified. The influence these reviews can have on other prospective buyers is not to be underestimated. The reviewer may have no real expertise in the field they are criticizing but because of the reviews being displayed together their opinion in context carries virtually as much weight as another reviewer with expertise.
Music, like all art is not something that is quantifiable, its evaluation is purely personal opinion. For instance, I detest the Dixie Chicks, but they have sold more records than most artists I do like. So why should a negative review of them, from me, be permitted to color other people in a personal assessment of their music. We the buying public have more ability to assess music with free downloads, 30 second clips and different media exposure than we ever have before. So why do we now need the personal opinion of someone who we don’t know?
Go onto amazon.com or iTunes and read some of the mostly negative reviews, “I hate this!” or “This sucks!” is published, then “Yeah, I agree they do blow” is added, piling on the negativity, the reviewers may never have even heard the music, let alone purchase it. This tells us next to nothing other than someone’s personal opinion; so why should that remain as a published public review? It serves no purpose! I would say similar about many other artists, but who cares? The trouble is that negative reviews spurn more negative reviews, people love to pile on and for the industry that leads to less overall music sales.
To me it is no surprise that when the public at large finally came around to digital downloading of music, leaving their negative reviews in their wake that music sales started to fall, why would you want to buy something that everyone else pans? And the greater trouble is that it is becoming pervasive of music overall. It is a human trait that it is far easier to be negative than be positive. Negativity is also something that spreads like a disease; it hits a tipping point and floods the environment.
If you look at early season American Idol shows they basks in the negative cutting people down in public. Those are some of the most watched shows. The Grammy’s and other awards shows don’t help music shake the public critics as they reinforce that music can be somewhat quantified or else how could there be winners and losers?
So, I implore all music sales and download sites especially the bright spots like Amazon.com and iTunes, (the saviors of the music business – that put a 24/7 music store in every home) to do away with reviews or hire full time editors to really get a grip on this epidemic. Itunes saw a sharp decline last year in downloads, I am sure it coincided with a sharp rise in the amount of negative reviews. Let the public choose what music they buy with their ears and emotions, not influenced by the personal opinions of malcontents. The infection of negativity is growing and the choking music business is being throttled even faster by the noose of negativity.