It’s been almost four months since Driftwood Magazine launched, or became shipwrecked, however you want to put it. Deep winter in my life is always a time for retrospection and re-examination. Recently I have turned my attention to a long-standing but slightly controversial topic in the review industry: negative reviews.
Since the beginning, Driftwood has been firm in its commitment that we simply don’t publish negative reviews, though we strive to always honest in our assessment and be constructive. We carried this policy over from Dirty Linen, who managed to go 30 years telling people only what was good in the world.
This goes a little beyond your mother’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Negative reviews can be constructive for the artists, and many critics see it as a duty to find the areas where an artist needs improvement — in the interest of helping the artist or the art as a whole.
The flip side, of course, is that writers often have little desire to put the time into writing a review of something unexciting, and such a review would take time and magazine “space” away from more exciting material. Driftwood Magazine, despite being online and thus afforded infinite page space, still has to contend with our readers’ attention spans.
One other argument for publishing negative reviews is that readers might want to be “warned away” from wasting their hard-earned money on a new CD, especially by a big name artist. I, for one, don’t buy this. In the internet age we can all find free samples of music in which we have an interested in mere seconds. And those big name artists probably didn’t get to where they were because of reviews of their recordings.
There’s one problem, though: If you like everything, it might sound like you’re just shilling for the industry. Everything’s a rave! Nine thumbs up? I hope we don’t come across this way. DriftwoodMagazine.com is run out of pocket by a handful of individuals, and our reviewers get a handful of CDs in the mail each month that they’re interested in writing a review about, which can take multiple hours. Given the present price of a CD, new or used, I hope everyone realizes that this is unglamourous work that is worth minimum wage at best. We do it because we find at least one thing a day that we thought was noteworthy or lovable. We want to hug most of the CDs we get a chance to write about. Some of the albums we review weren’t even submitted to the magazine — the writer bought it on their own but was excited enough about it that they wanted to tell other people.
But I’m interested in hearing what our readership thinks of this. Are you happy with the reviews that you read? What would improve your experience with Driftwood? Please take a moment to leave a comment; we’d love to hear from you.
p.s. Our regularly scheduled daily post, is, well, not regularly scheduled, and will arrive later in the morning.