The Future of Reviews on DiS
As underlined by various remarks on the M83 & Real Estate thread, and various comments lately, I'm thinking it might be a good time to rethink how DiS presents its opinion. Nothing radical but a slight adaptation either in what we do or how we present what we do.
I'd be really curious what most people want 'reviews' to be nowadays. Personally, I've never been interested in creating a consumer guide but with the new version of DiS I want to put 'recommendation' to the fore but retain our critical backbone.
Do you want reviews to merely tell you what to buy or are you more interested in someone exploring a record you like/hate, to give you a different appreciation of it? Do you just like reading some salient or excited thoughts? Do you just like reading writing about music by some talented bastard? Is the idea of a 'review' obsolete when you can just bash play? Do you get turned on to music by reviews of records you've never heard of? Do you even read reviews of music you're not aware of? (these are just some of the existential crises which fill me with dread)
Since DiS started, I've always wanted the site to be understood as a cabal of opinionated and knowledgeable individuals, writing under one umbrella. Sort of like the way lotsa modern sites aggregate various blogs, and present a frontpage which provides a curated viewpoint (or how things like Metacritic tries to give you an over-arching idea of what all journalists think). However, many of the "DiS' opinion is WRONG" comments, which have reared their head again lately, suggest this concept isn't quite getting across.
PLEASE NOTE: There is no Drowned in Sound opinion, no party-line, no demands placed upon our writers. We merely offer an approximated view based on the words of the individuals who write for the site, nearly all of whom do so on a voluntary basis (although they do get perks like free records, gig tickets, experience, etc).
If there is a perceived DiS party-line, it's only because I gently try to curate the perception of one, based on decisions of what we push to the fore by repeatedly mentioning an artist or doing takeovers or spreading select things via our social networks. Or gunning for exclusives with certain acts. Or putting things on playlists. Or starting threads about things I like or things I think folks here might like, that I've found on DiS or elsewhere. Or ignoring music that doesn't seem like it would be that much of interest to the types of people who come here. Etc. Etc.
I've also always wanted a thin line between the community and the editorial. This is why, when I did last year's album of the year list, the love for the Emeralds record on these boards was taken into account. I've always wanted DiS to feel like it's written by music fans, who happen to have critical faculties. In fact, if you look at the current 25+ contributors, many of them are articulate members of the community, who have been kinda 'upgraded' to write for the site. Sure, some of our writers aren't regulars on the boards, and it just happens that of the 3 or more people who email in everyday asking to write for the site, some of these people who've become contributors really stood out - either because myself or Andrzej Lukowski (our reviews editor) liked what they sent in or they were persistent at submitting "I heard something amazing and I've written this, with DiS in mind..." rather than the bulk of the people who just send a link to their blog or their clippings of 30 word reviews, written for another publication. In that respect I quite like the idea of our 'hiring' policy being like the doorstep in Fight Club.
Anyway, seeing as we're in the midst of redesigning the site, I'd be curious how you think we should go about...
1) ...presenting the above concept of DiS editorial being a bunch of individuals, with their own opinions and not some editorial PARTYLINE?
2) should we run multiple 'staff' reviews of major releases or do more to encourage everyone to submit their opinions of a record? For a lot of records, there will be no reviews and for others, things could get very overwhelming. And how does someone know if a review was written by someone who can be trusted? i.e. how do we stop Sweet Gorilla reviewing their own album? I do fear wikification, when trying to ensure we have an air of authority. Perhaps we could have eBay style 'trusted user' scores? Or maybe users should only be able to leave scores and review records in a 'thread-like' manner?
3) should the 'DiS score' be decided by the community, beside a score awarded by the individual? (this is a functionality we already have but don't really present very well). Would user-generated scores leave us open to Belle & Sebastian style hijacking?
4) should "reviews" as a concept be changed, to be more of a critical piece of writing about a record from a particular viewpoint?
5) would it be better if we ran less reviews (maybe just 1 per day) and had a much smaller team of writers?
6) if we did 5, would more specialist and round-up 'columns' of short reviews make more sense? And from a column, would you get more sense of an individuals thoughts and feelings?
7) how would you go about contextualising a writer's opinion? This is a huge question that I'm trying to find a solution for because I think it's really important that you can read one thing by a writer, who maybe awards a 7/10 and get a sense of what else they think is a 7 and what they think is a 10, so you understand their taste, without needing to read their last 30 reviews. Although, obviously, you should be able to work this out from their WORDS.
Anyway, I'm sure I have more questions in my head but this is already TL;DR. Feel free to answer any of the above or throw any other thoughts on things to do with reviews into the ring...