Friday, June 01, 2018

The ridiculous rush to review albums within hours after their release, and a few possible alternatives.

Photo by Don Linville
O.K., I've been guilty of reviewing albums minutes after their release. But that was, like, eleven years ago! And I'm pretty sure if you dig you can probably find a couple rush reviews in my own past besides that, but it was something I fought pretty hard against during my time at Chicagoist.

I realize part of this problem is that now we live in a time where many major artists no longer send out preview copies of their new albums, and many are launching surprise releases. But that's still no excuse to rush a review just to grab pageviews.

Rush reviews are even more pointless because with streaming, the general public are going to be able to listen to the entire album a few times before the first hastily types review even comes out, so what is even the point?

Plus, they all read almost exactly the same. I follow a LOT of music websites in the RSS feeds and it's almost laughable how the exact same posts from different sites pop up within seconds on each other saying the exact same thing. We're moving past the days where maximum eyes matter and the quality of the readers are more appealing to advertisers (if that's your focus which, gasp!, of course it's not (it is, there's no way around it since someone has to pay the bills since readers, for the most part, aren't doing so)).

Here are a few alternative ideas. Consider these thought-starters, and not ultimate solutions. But there's gotta be a better way.

  • The easiest? Follow the Consequence of Sound model and immediately post a quick blurb with a link to the stream. (Though I have issues with CoS constantly embedding Apple Music players since they are pointless unless you're a subscriber to that service. And, of course, CoS is also guilty of the rush review. But I have always liked their practice of that initial, "here's the stream" post. Again, don't embed a subscriber service though. Ugh.)
  • When you know something is coming, like Kanye West's release this week, have a package ready to go that ranks all his previous albums. Once the review is written you can both run the review and republish the ranking article with the new album's place in the oeuvre. No, this isn't perfect since you probably can't accurately rank where an album falls without the benefit of more time, and of course "ranking posts" are always dubious, but at least it's kinda fun and buys you some time.
  • Run a writer's roundtable of first impressions so you get various viewpoints, but don't have to pretend it's a comprehensive critical review. I like this because you're not granting the piece the validity of a single critical eye and are admitting, "Hey, we're all hearing different things this first time around. Get back to us in a week!"
  • Just refuse to run a review until you've had a few days to digest the album. Period.

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