a few notes on various functions of music criticism


What do we mean by music journalism?

“A music critic can be enthusiast, communicator, discoverer of new bands, dry academic trying to theorise about everything, conduit between musician and public, complainer about the state of music, agent provocateur, diarist, revolutionary, lightening rod of great ideas, drunken fool, failed musician, aural guerrilla or a combination of all of those” – John Robb, Louder Than War

All the following are generalisations and may not apply in specific cases.

You read album reviews, the same way you read reports of football matches  you’ve already seen. For validation, to have your experience enhanced. To pick up on details you may have missed. To catch hold of names. To aid description. You look to the (presumed) ‘expert’.

You read album reviews of music you have not encountered, the same way you read reports of tennis matches you failed to see. To catch up on what is happening, for information. For ‘informed’ commentary. There is opinion, but it is informed and gives the illusion of authority. (All authority is an illusion.)

Reading the criticism is entertaining or fulfilling in itself, separate to the music under discussion. Vice, for example. The enertainment can be vulgar in itself, and informal.

Music criticism is a conversation-starter, or perhaps aims to be, particularly in online environments. This is the primary function (and reason) for the ubiquitous Top 10/20/100 lists that clutter up the front pages of magazines and websites alike. Folk love to argue about Top 10/20/100 lists, or so the (assumed) argument runs.

What is the difference between online criticism and trolling? What is the difference between newspaper headlines and clickbait?

Why do you trust certain reports and not others? 

What is the difference between criticism and opinion?

What is the role of jargon in journalism?


  • Feature writing
  • Reportage
  • Reviewing
  • Opinion pieces
  • Profiles
  • Interviews
  • Cover stories
  • Previewing
  • Inform
  • Describe
  • Entertain
  • Comment


  • Specialist titles
  • Fanzines/the blogosphere
  • Mainstream music publications
  • Mainstream newspapers/magazines/websites
  • Multimedia sites – TV, YouTube, cable, radio, photography, other

Is music criticism the same as music journalism?

Does music journalism/criticism take place only in the written word?

“There are still roles for the critic to play […] and these range from being tastemakers to those who help shape discourse about music to those who are filters to social reformers to pure entertainers” – John Doran, The Quietus

2 Responses to a few notes on various functions of music criticism

  1. Jonathan says:

    Music journalists have shaped the way that I think about music more than most musicians have. I would bet that doesn’t apply to just me.

  2. Best10 says:

    After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. There has to be an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks!Best10

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