Thursday, September 18, 2008

A new endangered species: music critics

I recently attended a forum about the future of (professional) critics that was held at the USC Annenberg school for Communication. A number of top critics were on the panel, including LA Times music writer Ann Powers and EW's Chris Willman. For the most part, the writers lamented the decline of readership in the Internet age and how the general devaluation of critics in print publications.

I recently wrote about this phenomenon and so David Browne, formerly head music critic for EW, and now a full-time author (most recently of the definitive Sonic Youth biography
"Goodbye Twentieth Century") sent along the following trenchant observation about the state of music criticism:
"Hey Stephen: Very interesting piece--I was wondering when someone
would write about the decline in music critics in the same way they've
covered the falloff of film and TV critics. Consider yourself a
pioneer! I bet lots of people will read this--and then write their own
versions. So good for you.

I would add one note to the piece: The problem with music criticism
isn't just the influx of Internet voices--it's the fact that those new
voices are actually opinionated. "Music criticism" in most print
publications is, to me, dead. It's over. Everything is three-stars and
up. Everyone champions everything. When was the last time you read a
mixed review of a major new release in RS, Blender, Spin, Paste, etc.
etc.,,etc.? It's very, very sad. At least the Stereogums and blogs
of the world will tell you if something is good or sucks. No one else
does anymore."

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