Friday, January 25, 2008

Full Disclosure: FYI

Get SmartOkay, so I feel I should come clean a little bit here. Honesty is the best policy, after all. You may have noticed that I've done a few album reviews lately, months before the album is due in the stores. You've possibly been wondering just how I was able to get hold of this music so far before it's release date. I mean, does Euphrony have connections? Is he really an inside man? A double-agent, planted by a label to promote their music after having spent years building "natural" relationships with other bloggers? Does he really have an iPod implant and ear buds surgically attached to his head?

The answer, in short, is: Yes. But no.

Read more . . .
As with all things, there is more of a story than just a simple one sentence answer. I feel, for various reasons, that I should share this with you (since, you know, you presumably read my reviews). Last fall I came into contact with a very nice lady at INO Records. Through conversation with her, I obtained the pre-release of Sara Groves' new album, Tell Me What You Know and reviewed it for you here. She liked it. I don't know if it was because my review style and writing are, in her opinion, good; maybe it was because I gave a complementary review to an easily complemented album. In any case, she liked my review well enough that they even linked to it from Sara's MySpace.

In fact, she seemed to have liked my review enough, and my willingness to distribute it a bit over the blogs, that she later asked me if I would like to be put on a list of their online/grassroots media partners - getting pre-releases and other info - give them a listen, and do some more reviews. I said yes, and last week I found a stack of pre-releases in my mailbox. The first that caught my attention was
Addison Road, as I had been hearing some good things about them for a few years but had not really heard their music. Thus you ended up with Monday's review

What do I get?
So, what do I get out of it. I get a free CD, weeks or months before it hits the shelves. I get traffic to my blog. I potentially get (indirect) access to the artist for interviews, which can posted here or over on
I2A depending on the focus of questions. And, well, that's about it. No big, fat paycheck in it for me. And no real motivation to give easy reviews, except to keep the free CD's coming.

What do they get?
What they get out of this is mostly free publicity for their artists. I'm sure that positive reviews would help, but I don't promise them that. When I review and link to the artist, it lets people know more about them. Viral marketing. That's all.

Why am I even mentioning this?
Well, I bring it up to say this: I will have reviews that are less than flattering, and I will be reviewing music that I don't often listen to or necessarily recommend. I'm not a mean person, and my reviews will reflect that. I think every person's music has a market, people who would enjoy it no matter my opinion. When I review music, I try to give an idea of some similar artists (good for comparison when the the artist is relatively unknown) and I will try to address the target audience for which the music is aimed.

This is relevant as one of that stack I received last week is an album of contemporary praise and worship music. For those having read my blog for a while, and my comments on other blogs, you will realize that I am not such a fan of this genre. Okay, in full disclosure, I pretty much hate what it has done to CCM radio. But I'm a little conflicted here, because that does not equate to my not liking praise songs. I sing them every Sunday, some of them hundreds of years old. I find them to be a huge part of my Christian experience and worship to God. But I can get sick of even a great thing when I'm severely overexposed to it. Take, for example, Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)": according to
Radio and Records Christian AC chart, it had 1546 plays to an estimated audience of 3.757 million in the last week. By comparison to their AC chart, Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah" had 1595 plays to 13.067 million listeners. Relatively the same number of plays, but Tomlin's song hits about a quarter the audience, which translates into more plays per station.

Now, because I am conflicted I don't know just how to approach a review of such an album. Having thought it out, I think I'll do just what I do for any album. That seems fair, right? I'll listen to the music, and write on its merits and who its target audience is. I'll try to separate it from the genre as a whole so that I can speak to that artist and that album rather than speak to the whole genre. Does it have a good sound? Are the lyrics good? Is the music memorable, and does it distinguish itself from similar artists? Also, since this is music with a purpose, does it accomplish that purpose? Does it draw the listener into praise and worship of God? These are the questions I'm going to ask myself. I'll do my best to keep personal prejudice out of the reviews and speak to the music itself.

I just thought I'd let you in on my thoughts. Do you think I'm taking a good approach? How might you do this differently? And do you know anyone else who wants to give me free music?


Anne said...

I have too much "personal prejudice" to review anything - except food.

Good Luck.

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Euphrony.

I think you've come to a good conclusion about what to do.

I'm sort of facing the same dilemma with the books I've started receiving for review. I'll be reviewing two next week, one that I loved so much I'm sure the series will be among my favorites ever, the other I liked but don't necessarily feel added anything new to what we already have. But perhaps for the genre itself and what it set out to do, it was quite a good little book.

Anyway, congrats on getting some free stuff from the blog! I look forward to reading your reviews. Do you have to review everything you get?

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