Part of my job as a music journalist involves reviewing albums. Some of the albums that I review are by Irish artists, some are by international artists. Some reviews are positive, some are good, some are middling, some are negative. The range of positive-to-negative album quality is vast, and I certainly don’t discriminate based on where an act or band is from (I don’t buy into the ‘treating Irish artists with kid gloves’ debate, but that’s a blog post for another day).
I occasionally get amusing hate-tweets/emails from disgruntled fans who have a bone to pick with my negative review, but rarely the actual bands themselves. Recently, I happened to review two Irish albums for The Ticket in relatively quick succession. I didn’t like either album for different reasons, and said so in my two-star reviews of both. What inspired this blog post was the reaction from both acts (who I’m not going to name, because it’s irrelevant).
Act One sent me an email:
I was really impressed by this act’s attitude and told them so. I’m definitely open to being won over by whatever they do in the future, and am much more likely to make an effort to see them the next time they play Dublin.
After reading the two-star review of their own album, Act Two sent me a series of tweets, beginning with:
“Your review is a cluttered mess: you spell [song title that I'd admittedly made a slight error with] wrong twice! Get off yer throne and go back to school pet”
My first reaction to this was amusement, then utter bafflement. Why would someone a) publicly take a journalist up on a bad review b) draw attention to the fact that they got a bad review with such a public confrontation and c) continue to tweet me with more patronising comments (‘pet’ cropped up again – never mind the fact that I doubt they would have used the same term for a male journalist, but again, that’s another blog post) and bizarre accusations of a personal vendetta, despite the fact that I had never heard of them or their music before I reviewed their album?
Don’t get me wrong: I know that it must hurt to get a bad review of something that you’ve poured no small amount of blood, sweat and tears into. I completely understand that. On the other hand, it is my job to be honest about something. I wouldn’t pull punches with an international act like Mumford and Sons or Justin Bieber, or even a British or American independent act – so why would I do it with an Irish act? More importantly, if you’re going to be so thin-skinned about a bad review, why on earth are you in the music business – an industry that revolves around people (critics and fans alike) giving their opinion on your creative output?
The same act had been fairly gung-ho in retweeting positive reviews of their album, which got me thinking: do bands and artists suit themselves by only believing the good reviews and ignore the bad ones completely? Would they prefer that their album is ignored by the press, rather than risk it being slated?
I am quite sure that a sizeable degree of success in the music business can be attributed to the same positive attitude that Act One displayed. Bad review? Brush yourself off, chalk it down to experience and plan to win the journalist over the next time, if it matters that much to you. I can’t help but feel that Act Two let themselves down by kicking up a fuss and making themselves look both arrogant and rather foolish in the process. Is there something to be learned here? You would hope so, but I won’t be holding my breath to find out.