Death Watch: The Editorial Review

Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far

Yesterday, I shared Rolling Stone‘s Top Albums of 2008 on Twitter, and this was my Tweet: “so Rolling Stone has their top Albums of 2008 up. This is why editorial reviews are a thing of the past.”  A Tweetmate suggested I write a blog post and expand on my comment.  So here goes…

I made it clear when I started my blog that I work in marketing, and much of my job revolves around Word of Mouth Marketing.  When we pitch clients, one of the first things we say is that people are turning to friends, family members, and co-workers for recommendations when they need advice about what to purchase.  I frequently hear social media “experts,” which is a subject for a different blog, commenting about how traditional marketing is a “thing of the past.”

The advent of social media and the ability to share a collective consciousness and collaborate on what’s good, bad, and worthy of glory has lessoned the impact of editorial reviews.  For decades, we the public have depended on a select group of professionals to provide recommendations about what movies to watch, what music to buy, what games to play, and the list could go on.  Now that we can turn to each other and add our own feedback into a gigantic pot of reaction, the collective is carrying more weight than any editorial review.

Why?  Ask yourself this question: What opinion do you value more; the single professional editor’s opinion that gives a poor rating or 100 people that give it praise?  “It” can be just about anything.  Next time you pay a visit to, try buying something without looking at the reviews.  Does a product mean something different if 10 or 1,000 people give it 5 stars or ½ a star?

It is one of the largest reasons I rarely recommend albums.  Honestly, when I first thought about creating this blog my first reaction was to in fact write reviews and offer my recommendations.  Instead, I decided to share my musical experience and tap into something deeper about the music business, our listening habits, and offer insights about how music impacts our daily life. That is story not many people are willing to tell.

Moving on…

The music industry needs to find a balance between advancing artistry, while serving as entertainment. We all know that the music industry is in shambles.  I attribute their failures because music executives love to shove mediocrity down our throat.  Take a closer look at Rolling Stone’s list. It isn’t based on what is really good. Instead, it is “inspired” by who had larger sales, or they are the bigger, better more publicized musical acts. What happened to the guys that really deserve it?  What happened to the balance between musical genres?  Where are the little, lesser known acts that might be the big artist of tomorrow? Isn’t that the purpose of an editorial review or recommendation, to suggest artists we should be paying attention to?

One album I think belongs on this year’s best of list is Opeth‘s Watershed.  Is Opeth for everyone? No, but that isn’t the objective of a “best of” list. The objective should be to highlight albums and artists that pushed the envelope, in this case for 2008, that don’t necessarily appeal to the masses.  Furthermore, last time I checked my calendar, 2008 isn’t over yet either.

If Rolling Stone actually made an attempt to offer a list that isn’t based on mediocrity or popularity, then I might have been able to give it a little more credit.  They didn’t, so instead I will depend on our collective opinions and others with similar tastes like mine to decide what deserves a “best of” label.

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One comment on “Death Watch: The Editorial Review
  1. This is incredibly true. I’ve been telling unemployed and underemployed classical musicians that if they’re truly wanting to be musicians, they need to take charge of their careers rather than waiting to be discovered.

    If the renfaires are full of crap, audition and bring their own expertise to the setting, and sing real madrigals, rather than just complaining that there’s nothing to be done. If Oktoberfests have only polka music, bring on the Strauss. And so on.

    If the schools are cutting music, let’s organize and put it back in. This is the time for community activism and social networking, both online and off, is the way to find similarly-minded people. Let’s all fight for better music rather than the industry average. We all need to push the envelope and bring back quality into our lives because mediocrity, at the moment, is king. If a small coffee shop in Seattle can revolutionize the way people perceive coffee, then we, working together, can revolutionize the way people perceive music.

    Sorry, I’ve never heard of any of the groups on the Rolling Stone list, so for someone who doesn’t read Rolling Stone, I guess those bands are pushing the envelope. But the recording industry as we know it is dead, and good riddance to them.

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