There is little doubt the music industry has drastically changed in this age of technology. Besides new sounds, there is the endless debate about downloading music as evidenced by the government’s recent efforts to stop it with acts like PIPA and SOPA. The internet has definitely altered several facets of the industry. One of these more notable changes is simply how people discover music. Music is far more accessible than it has ever been in the past. When the common listener can find music without leaving their own home and easily be their own critic, what place do journalistic music reviews have in this time period?
Before the internet, how someone discovered a new band or musician was a different process. A lot of these outlets – the radio, flyers, word of mouth, periodicals – still exist, but they were people’s only option. No one had the privilege to boot up a computer and do some music research on their own. There wasn’t any SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Purevolume, Spotify, or other sites that offered music streaming. A trip to the record store or going to a band’s live gig was the only way to experience most of a musician’s catalog. What you could access was limited. Today, it is almost infinite.
With the ability to access music so easily and form one’s own opinion, people don’t have to be so dependent on the opinion of a “professional critic.” The fact that Rolling Stone gave a record four stars seems to make less of an impact. Reading reviews used to be a more convenient way to figure out which music to buy before heading to a music store. But with so much of it available a few mouse clicks away, it’s not as helpful to read about what Joe Doe of some music magazine thinks of some new band’s first record. Of course, some people still care about these reviews and they can still be worthwhile reads. It’s not a “useless” medium. But the common person can now become a reviewer. You don’t have to be a member of the Associated Press to start a blog about the music you like.
The internet has created a revolution of giving music fans their own voice while seemingly creating more “independent” music fans. People will always look towards the opinions of others, but the internet gives a person more options of opinions. It no longer has to be a journalist or from the mouth of someone you know personally. There is an entire blogosphere of music out there. You find ones that suit you. Some of it is lacking in quality and there is a lot to search through, but the end result is finding more of what you love. It’s less about being fed an opinion from a critic and more “Hey, check out this band and see if you like them.”
As someone who has never quite been a fan of music reviews and rating albums with stars, I couldn’t be more thrilled by this shift in music discovery. People have unique tastes and unless you care a lot about what other people think, what a journalist thinks about an album has little bearing on your taste. I myself write music reviews for my college paper, but over the years I’ve come to realize that the more objective I am the better. I also never bother to write negative reviews. If I don’t like it, I don’t write about it. I want people to be aware of certain music, but I want people to figure out how much they like it on their own. The negative review serves no purpose to me.
The internet puts the entire world of music at people’s fingertips. So go and discover new bands. Become a critic. Be opinionated. The most important opinion when it comes to the music you listen is your own.