There is a trend going on lately in the way music is circulated that I really like: you see bands making their whole new albums available online before their official release. Thus, anyone interested in their music can have a personal opinion on the new material and doesn’t have to read reviews from the so called “experts”. This is working in favor of the band, as they skip the music journalists/reviewers and they familiarize the listeners with their upcoming release (so they can afterwards fill the clubs they perform live), but it’s also working in favor of the listeners, as they can hear for free and legally new albums. Win-win situation. No one complains about it.
Since YouTube took control of the music business all reviews are of trivial importance anyway. You like something, you Google it. Even if you don’t have time to look for new music, the YouTube algorithm will propose something relevant for you to listen next time you browse the web. Everything is being taken care of. From my point of view, the only thing reviewers can add is the input of an experienced listener who might (maybe not) have the ability to see the bigger picture and relate the reviewed album to the previous work of the band, or to make some comparisons with other released material of similar aesthetics from other bands around the world. The reviewers are not here to judge if the emotions triggered from an album are adequate or not. This is totally subjective and personal. The reviewers are here mainly to distinguish the importance of an album in the global music scene in terms of quality and novelty.If the reviewer happens to be a skillful writer then of course you may just enjoy reading his/her articles, but that’s a different story.
The die-hard fans will always follow the band no matter what, so their opinions do not matter a lot. The old-school/first demo fans will always like the old material more and anything new will always be found as less significant, so their opinions also do not matter a lot. The newly-recruited fans who follow the band during the last 1-2 albums are very fresh on the rollercoaster and will probably be thrilled with everything new, so their opinions do not matter a lot. The reviewer is the fan who has listened to all the albums of the band plus 1000 (one thousand) more from other bands, and may serve as a self-reflection for the band, a reality-check if you want, that will assist the band in reinstating its vision or by giving a green light if everything is going as it was supposed to go. I feel that, nowadays, reviewers serve more as an alarming or reassuring factor for the bands, and only for the bands. Therefore, bands should seek to read what we have to say. Good reviewers are hard to find though.
“If an album is selling well, and the band is touring around the world and doing fine, and pay their bills, is there a problem if the album is not the most spirited or groundbreaking? Do you have a problem with that? Should they stop making money?”, I can hear someone think something like that. Absolutely not. No problemo. But this band will be like Gabriel Batistuta, a fantastic player with amazing looks who never liked football, but used it to make a living.