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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dull Knives

A few months ago, while talking with a fellow music critic friend of mine, he bemoaned about how little of an impact we have on our readers. I didn't necessarily disagree with him, but I'd like to think what we write does matter to a certain extent. People do read our stuff, right? Those page view numbers aren't inflated, right?

Even at this point, I'm not really aware of how many people read my work. And I really don't know what kind of impact it makes on people. Since I always write alone in a room, usually with my dog sleeping nearby, it's impossible to gauge any sort of immediate reaction. I know I'm not talking to a wall when I publish something on the Internet, but it's normal to wonder if anything I write has any impact on people.

I know writers who are convinced their work either lives or dies by how many page views they get, how many comments they get, and what the commenters say. I don't think that way, but I don't think it's a far-fetched way of thinking. If a writer is trashed in the comments section for his or her review, usually that writer carries around that baggage for a long time. I won't lie, I do that as well. Yet at the end of the day, I express my feelings and stand by them, even if no one else agrees.

Truth to be told, critics are their own demographic. Depending on what they specialize in, they listen to way more music, read more books, or see more movies in one year than the average person does in three years. Of course critics have an informed opinion, but the clock is always ticking with a deadline to state something with authority. Add in the constant fear of being the last to cover something, which is a sin. So if you ever wonder how or why hype (or anti-hype) builds quickly around something, that's a major reason why.

Often I wonder if articles and reviews are written merely to impress other critics and the pickiest readers. Sure, there is a healthy drive to add something to the table that has yet to be said. Alas, when commenting on comments based on initial comments, most people get tired of hearing about something, be it a band, album, book, or movie.

What I enjoy about covering shows is how not everyone is trying to write the same story. I rarely see fellow critics at shows, other than the ones at large venues. I try to convey what the show was like from the band's performance, the vibe in the room, and the general feeling of the evening. Plus, I'm encouraged to take pictures of the band, something I've done off and on for many years. I try to give a you-are-there perspective sort of feeling, especially like the show I saw last Thursday.

Alas, at the core, critics acknowledge the existence of something. Is this something going to live or die by what critics say? Not necessarily because this something exists. You remember the show, record, book, or movie more than what the critics thought. But I think there is value in discussing, discovering, and sharing. That's why I stick with it.

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