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glueman Writing folk music reviews (124* d) RE: Writing folk music reviews 21 Jul 11

"For my money, the professional critic has a different or additional function that of entertainer."

Indeed. Music is not consumed objectively, there's no yardstick that makes genre A better than genre B, or performance X inspiring and performance Y schmaltzy. If there were The Birdy Song wouldn't be close to achieving folk status. What a print review normally consists of is the critic showing his background knowledge and indulging in a humorous (or not so humorous) polemic based whether he liked the thing. If you don't like shanties (I do) there's nothing I can say to make you believe they're more than 'Captain Birdseye impersonators' having a good, well lubricated shout. The moral problem would arise if I wrote a review for publication that claimed shanties were the only valuable form of artistic enterprise and inferred those who didn't appreciate 'Now That's What I Call Shanties, Volume 7' were fools.

In the end reviews are pure entertainment for people who are most unlikely to buy the product, let alone research the merits or otherwise of the competition. So far as the influence of critics and reviewers goes I can offer one anecdote. A friend of mine had a novel reviewed in The Sunday Times (IIRC) in which the reviewer heaped praise upon it (it was book of the week) favourably comparing it to masters of the genre and encouraging everyone to go out and buy it. When my friend checked the figures some time later he reckoned the review may have contributed seven copies to the sales figures. When a different novel was reviewed less favourably by another critic he was forced to look for a different publisher. If there's any conclusion to be drawn it's that published critics have a negative net effect on artistic enterprise as a whole and word of mouth is a more reliable index of worth, if only to its intended market.

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