Did this get linked? Am I slowing on the uptake?
Off-chance of this taking off into an epic heated wrangle, I'd like to quickly point out the following:
I'm looking for a tremolo pedal and would swap some tapy tascammy stuff / a zoom 505 or some other odds and ends such as a plastic samurai alarm clock and some books.
the differences between a taste-maker critic and a critic
Polar Bear is Dying raises a very fair point in response to a previous post that cuts straight to the heart of my research. What is the difference between a taste-maker critic and a critic? Don't all critics influence taste in some way or other?
Um, you could certainly make an argument for that. But wait. Many critics don't look to influence taste. They see their role to inform, to provide a form of consumer guide: or to discuss and inspect without necessarily prejudicing the reader (this form of approach particularly favoured at more 'respectable' newspapers); or (lower down the food chain) to do whatever it takes to blag that free CD or pair of concert tickets. There are whole sections of the critical community that view 'personality' in a writer with distrust - "immature" is a word I've seen used several times in conjunction with the recent death of one of the NME's foremost taste-maker critics of the 80s and 90s, Steven Wells (and not particularly as a prejorative). Many (perhaps most) critics view their duty as to 'tell the story', describe the music - nothing more, nothing less.
I'm not saying that the latter can't be taste-makers. Of course, they can: especially when they have a certain consistency in their views which their audience learns to interact with. For example, David Fricke of Rolling Stone is a man who's never bothered pushing the 'personality' side of his writing, but clearly he's a taste-maker critic - many people, both within the industry and without, set great store by his recommendations.
Then again, there are many critics who would define themselves as taste-makers without any clear reason why. I'm particularly thinking of the sorry breed of writers that showed up at the UK music press mid-90s, having read nothing and experienced nothing except the UK music press itself (and perhaps a few years at university, which frankly amounts to bugger all). Were they taste-makers, simply because the intent was there? Or were they lacking the personality - so crucial to a persona like Steven Wells, or Nick Kent, or Everett True - without which, unless you're as trusty and consistent a source as Fricke, or Simon Reynolds (to give an even better example), you cannot fill that role?
(I'm not meaning to imply Reynolds' or Fricke's writing has no personality - clearly it does - just that that personality isn't central to their whole approach.)
Is it possible to be a taste-maker critic if no one is paying attention to your views? Now, that's another question entirely. To pull in a question I posed a few weeks back, is the critic defined by their audience? Because it sure as hell doesn't just lie in the intent. How can I be a taste-maker if I'm not influencing anyone?
So is there a ready checklist by which you can define a taste-maker critic? Of course not: like all definitions, it is mutable and flexible and determined by the medium it exists within. And yet I need to be able to state - as unambiguously as possible - what a taste-maker critic is, because without doing so, how can I define the changing role of the taste-maker critic in web 2.0 environments?
In the past few days, I've been engaging in a (one-sided) argument with the fine readers of Drowned In Sound over a particularly cantankerous blog post overview of dull-ass Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Most are down with the idea I should be free to write what I like, even if they disagree with the sentiments and feel the post is gratuitous and rather pointless. Interestingly, almost without exception, the entire (message board posting) readership of DiS seem - quite touchingly - affronted that I should be seeking to engage them in dialogue over my views, one staff writer even going as far to suggest, "I wish a little of the old True would come back instead of just trolling for hits".
It's almost like a entire generation of music fans have never engaged with a taste-maker critic - because this is what I've always done!
Oh, and here's a tentative checklist for a taste-maker definition... If I could be bothered, I'd draw some arrows linking and circling the following to indicate the relationships. Maybe one of my readers could oblige?
To be fair to our "readers" the bulk of the people who post, react and respond on the boards represent a vocal minority. 300k+ people come to DiS every month and about 5% of people who read the music forum actively post. Basically, a helluva lot of people can be found lurking, searching for tid bits or to follow debates, yet I can see why people think it's just a small cluster of quite often negative people, which is seemingly what puts people off bigging up up things they like... I've not done a tally but I'd estimate that about 60% of threads and/or responses to them are negative.
As for the actual point of your blog, I think that the succinct nature of modern media seems to leave little room for 'opinion' and I hate it. I started writing because I had too many opinions that no-one in my small down wanted to listen to, let alone engage with. Like moving from warm alcopops to wild turkey on the rocks, it started with instant messenger conversations and email discussion groups, and soon became awful attempts to write like Lester Bangs (and failing miserably, obvs) (in fact after 12years of blogging I'm still shit at the writing bit but don't tell the Sunday Times or they'll pull my column).
I love when I know a writer's taste, don't agree with that taste and can find things to like because they absolutely hate it. And even moreso, nowadays at least, I love reading skilled writers because there are so few of them. I could read Charlie Brooker writing about painting teacups and I know it'd still be fascinating. Ditto Stevie Chick writing about records I'm never likely to like or John Doran writing about records from genres that I don't for a second relate to or understand.
I dunno if I answered the question.