Do music reviews still matter?

By: Zackary Kephart

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- What was a critic’s role in a pre-streaming world? Was it to dictate what music was good and bad? Was it to offer an insight into the music so consumers could make their own choices and spend their money wisely? It seems like a combination of both, yet both reasons seem irrelevant in 2018. Consumers can now either hear their favorite music for free on streaming services or else pay a certain amount of money for additional benefits on select services. The days of having to pay for each individual song or album to hear it are gone.

Considering the risk has been eliminated, why do consumers need to know beforehand what’s good or bad? They’ll figure it out themselves.

The role of a critic is not what it once was, and any definition it once carried was simply delusions of grandeur. With that said, criticism is still relevant, wanted and perhaps even needed in 2018.

Reviews themselves are art forms. At worst, much like music, they can run on much longer than needed and lose any sort of coherent point anywhere throughout. However, the best reviews, much like the best music, say something that makes people think.

No, there aren’t as many notable critics as there are artists throughout history, and there shouldn’t be. Music critics don’t exist without music. This doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience for reviews. The best evidence of this is Youtube, a home to many music critics who have little to no professional experience at all.

“The Needle Drop” has over one million subscribers. “Lost In Vegas,” a reaction channel that only launched last year, sits at over six hundred thousand. Normal, everyday music fans are offering recommendations to a multitude of fellow music fans. Listeners have their choices, but they have too many sometimes. This is called the tyranny of choice, and it exists because listeners are overwhelmed by their options.

Critics therefore help navigate through this endless stream of music. Who better to help with this navigation than music fans? There’s a trustworthiness established between music fans that didn’t exist with the older model. No professional training is required here.

Youtube is not the future for music criticism. Well-written reviews are still highly valued. It does however show viewers how music criticism operates now, and as evidenced already, there’s an audience for new school reviews.

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