"Do you want to buy something based on someone's opinion or based on your own ears?" said three-time Juno winner Terri Clark. "I think that's the difference. I think there's a greater chance of somebody buying my record based on their opinion than somebody else's."
Which, of course, presents a problem for music publications already struggling with industry-wide crises in ad revenue and print readership.
Last year, Spin magazine experimented with a major change to its reviewing procedure. By way of an editorial declaring the album review a "redundant, gratuitous novelty in an era of fewer and fewer actual music consumers," Spin announced that the mag -- founded in 1985 -- would begin reviewing most records in the form of 140-character Twitter missives, with only records that were notable (usually especially good or bad) receiving more in-depth write-ups.
While Spin's era of Twittercism has since subsided, senior editor Christopher R. Weingarten ????? who wrote that much-discussed editorial -- stands by the assertion that the value of the music review has receded.
"I think reviews still serve a purpose ... but there's certain things that they don't do anymore," he said in a telephone interview. "They're not the way for people to discover music like they were. They're not the way for someone to discern what something sounds like. We live in an age where if you want to know what something sounds like, you can listen to it very, very easily.
"With a Google search, you can hear about 80-90 per cent of records that exist with your own ears, with very limited tools," he added. "So why do you need to sit down and read someone talking about an album?"
And it's not just streaming as a free tool of evaluation that has eroded the relevance of reviews.
There's also the sheer number of publications spilling proverbial ink on proverbial wax. Gone are the days where such legendary critics as Lester Bangs and Robert Christgau could scribble a well-reasoned review in Rolling Stone, Creem or the Village Voice and possess more or less the last word on an album. Now, a buzzworthy new record inspires tens of thousands of words in Pitchfork, NME, XXL, Mojo, PopMatters -- what feels like an endless array of sources, all accessible, all reputable (to at least some degree).
To focus the deafening din of criticism, review aggregators like Metacritic have become almost essential, meaning fans tend to opt for critical consensus rather than the impassioned arguments of a lone writer.
"Every record review is just one little patch of snow on a giant snowball," Weingarten said. "To make a band now, you have to have sort of an agreement among a lot of sources, instead of just one big source."
So the days of a single review breaking a band could be over.
It was very nearly a decade ago when Pitchfork published a 9.3-scored rave for "You Forgot it in People," the sophomore album by the heretofore relatively obscure Toronto collective Broken Social Scene, immediately opening up the eclectic disc to a significantly wider audience.
Now, it's become increasingly difficult to point to a recent example of a single clipping so drastically changing a band's fortunes.
So record labels have had to adjust, too. Steve Waxman, director of national publicity for Warner Music Canada, casts his mind back to a time in the mid-80s when -- working for the indie imprint Attic Records and representing Charlottetown hard-rockers Haywire -- he campaigned a local Toronto paper for a review. (Tellingly, he points out that he'd "never call anybody now and bug them to review a record").
Most Popular Stories
- Slow Week Ahead of December FOMC Meeting
- Hispanics Seek to Grow School Board Members
- GM Bailout Saved 1.2 Million U.S. Jobs, Report Says
- 'Knockout Game': Myth or Menace?
- Questions Remain in Jenni Rivera's Death
- U.S. Companies Eager for Iranian Business
- Bitcoin Used to Buy Tesla Car
- Banks Fret as Volcker Vote Approaches
- Paul Walker Fans Pay Respects
- Yellen Set to Become One of World's Most Powerful Women