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« Give 'em something they can feel! | Main | 10 Predictions for Radio's Next 5 Years »
Wednesday
Feb182009

My song sucks? You must be an idiot! What’s the right way to review music?

Someone once told me that to negatively critique a song is like telling a mother her newborn baby is ugly. Every mother thinks her baby is cute and every artist thinks his or her latest song has (massive) unrealized potential.

Over the last year, my favorite posts on Music Think Tank were my shortest. I learned a lot, and your answers helped shape the products I worked on. The comments on the following posts were great.
Do most fans really want anything from you other than your music?
Do great songs really ever go unheard?

Now, I’m going back to the well. Music Xray is about a launch a social-network-like music submission and review utility. The application does four things:

  1. It enables music industry professionals to earn a bit of revenue through the music submission and review process.
  2. It enables song owners to get legitimate feedback quickly and inexpensively via an environment where they can review the reviewers.
  3. It exposes songs (in some cases) to the people that can connect songs to exposure opportunities.
  4. It gives Music Xray the best way to get a ton of songs professionally tagged, which will help to make all the songs in our system easier to find.

Here’s the challenge: What’s the right way to review music?
We are enabling optional free-form comments. However, we are also providing an interface where reviewers can quickly select any number of canned (point and click) reviews. The canned reviews will enable the reviewers to move quickly and (most importantly) it will give Music Xray the ability to show artists all the songs that have generated similar reviews.

I have obtained conflicting advice on the types of reviews that artists want and expect. The system will accommodate all different types of reviewers (A&R backgrounds, radio backgrounds, producers, other artists, etc). Everyone probably has a different way that they review and critique music?

We just started passing around the list below. Something seems to be completely missing from this list? I’m not sure what it is. Can you help me complete this product?  If you want to email me, send an email to bruce(use the at sign)musicxray.com.


CRITIQUE
Critique Mix and Production
Production/mix is too thin
Production/mix is too full
Sounds muffled
Sounds tinny
Lead vocals too loud
Lead vocals too quiet
Backing vocals to loud
Backing vocals too quiet
Lead instrument(s) is (are) too loud
Lead instrument(s) is (are) too quiet
Dislike lead instrument effects
Drums too loud
Drums too quiet
Bass too loud
Bass too quiet
Keyboards/piano too loud
Keyboards/piano too quiet
Other instrumentation is too loud
Other instrumentation is too quiet

Performance Critique
Overall performance needs improvement
Lead vocal needs improvement
Try a more appropriate key
Backing vocals need improvement
Lead guitar needs improvement
Instrument solo needs improvement
Percussion needs improvement
Beat drags
Beat is top heavy
Bass needs improvement
Keyboards / piano needs work
Horns need work
Strings need work

Composition Critique
Chorus melody not compelling
Chorus melody too repetitive / basic
Chorus doesn’t resolve / resolves poorly
Verse melody not compelling
Verse melody too repetitive / basic
Verse doesn’t resolve / resolves poorly
Bridge melody not compelling
Bridge melody too repetitive / basic
Bridge doesn’t resolve / resolves poorly
Middle eight need works
Overall tune does not stay with me
Lyrics need work
Lyrics aren’t compelling


COMPLIMENT
Compliment Mix and Production
Excellent mix & production. I wouldn’t change a thing
Production is unprofessional
Generally good mix and production
Good ideas in the mix and production
Good mix
Good production

Composition Compliment
Chorus melody very compelling
Verse melody very compelling
Bridge melody very compelling
Middle eight is compelling
Overall tune stays with me
Lyrics are compelling
Lyrics are poetic
Lyrics are insightful

Performance Compliment
Excellent performance
Excellent lead vocals
Excellent backing vocals
Excellent lead guitar
Excellent instrument solo
Excellent percussion
Excellent bass
Excellent keyboard
Excellent horns
Excellent strings
Good performance
Good lead vocals
Good backing vocals
Good lead guitar
Good instrument solo
Good percussion
Good bass
Good keyboard
Good horns
Good strings

Reader Comments (33)

Hmmm. Daunting prospect. Interesting list. Maybe it's missing a category about genre? So much of how we judge music is by relating it to other artists we've heard, as well as the timbres of instruments and how they conjure up a cultural/situational reference (sitars vs. conga drums vs. electric guitar). Your instrumentation list is pretty limited. What about rhythm? Groove? Arrangement? So many criteria for judging a recording! I think you need an open field for "sounds-like" input where the reviewers could list other musicians they think the recording sounds like or borrows from.

February 18 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa Weber Morales

It is missing a whole section about arrangements. Saying that lead guitar's performance needs work is not useful -- was it a good guitar part played badly, or is the part itself bad, though the performance is executed well? Sometimes the arrangement is too busy or too sparse. My background is in arranging and producing, so I'd want to let them know that even if the song's OK, if the arrangement sucks, it kills the song. I'd want to say stuff like "the low end is too busy, the top is too sparse" or "counter melody is distracting (too much melodic activity).

Also, on composition, add feedback on intro and ending/outro. Intro in particular is important -- it can grab audience attention or lose it!

Overall, SongXray is an interesting concept, I'll certainly be checking out when it launches.

Ari Koinuma
SelfSufficientMusician.com

February 18 | Unregistered CommenterAri Koinuma

I like that there are different sets of lsts to use in considering different aspects of the music. It seems that, all too often, if an independent musician's work doesn't sound like it's been touched by the hand of Butch Vig, reviewers automatically dismiss it as irrelevant or non-professional. In a world where home recording is so accessible and abundant, it seems a shame to pan something just because it doesn't pop like it was mastered by the guy who works for The Killers. Obviously, if something sounds so bad it's barely listenable, then it deserves to be criticized for that reason. Otherwise, it'd be great if reviewers focused more on the song than the production.

February 18 | Unregistered CommenterShawno

I pretty much agree with Shawno:
You envision different types of reviewers, but do you plan for different review needs from the artist submitting a song ? I mean, not everyone is an aspiring star, some people look forward to having their compositions picked up and re-arranged and re-recorded by professionals. As a composer, I'm not very interested in knowning the lead vocal is lacking, or the drums are too loud, because it's only a demo, a sketch of the final product.

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterFrançois

Such tick box style comments do not appeal to me at all. The comment "Bass too loud" by itself is meaningless. When someone gives me feedback on a song, I want to hear the WHY behind their remarks. A useful comment would be something like: "The bass is too loud, because it makes this song feel like a disco track when I think you're shooting for a ballad." Maybe I was... or maybe I was aiming for a disco beat after all and need to pump up the drums instead!

When you reduce a review to a set of tick boxes, there is absolutely no way to gauche the level of expertise that the reviewer has. You won't be able to know if the critique or praise comes from someone who understands your music or from someone who just likes to hit some boxes. Even a single line of written comment can do that.

For example, I once received a jury comment that read: "the chords you use are not very original." While I don't doubt that this person understands music, he clearly did not understand my music at all, because I purposely avoid complex and strange chord progressions.

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterJim Offerman

All great comments thanks..

Jim,

Good point! We do need the information (tags) to be somewhat structured for the reasons I outlined. The answer may be to 1) click check box, then 2) pop open a comment field next to the check box. Thanks again.

February 19 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

I think that an interesting category to add to your list would be Overall Concept. When new artists are reviewed their authenticity often comes up. Are they ripping off someone's ideas? Where are their ideas drawn from? Are their concepts honest or part of a popular formula? Originality is becoming increasingly more important to me as a listener as the landscape becomes more and more populated with artists.

Adding this field and experimenting with set click boxes and comment fields (as you mentioned in your response to JIm) could really help artists figure out if they do in fact have something with massive unrealized potential or just another knock off.

Ciao

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Beguin

Building off of Alex's comments, there should be several "Overall" options, not just with regards to originality and authenticity, but with regards to how the different elements work together; some bands have great bass lines, great vocalists, great guitarists and great drummers, but the parts don't gell together into a listenable whole, not based on how the music was engineered/mixed, but because of the music itself.

Maybe the solution is just some sort of overall/summary category to talk about the recording as a whole, and not just the individual parts that make it up? Ultimately, as you seem to be looking for a subjective variation on the music genome project, and this seems to be the one glaring omission from that...

Going to think more about this, as it's a great idea...

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterJared Covington

As a songwriter, I agree with Ari, Shawno and François about allowing the song to be judged apart from the quality of the recording. There's no formula for a great song structure, but it is definitely possible to subjectively judge the structure of a song as right or wrong (with a huge grey area in between).

It is always useful (if sometimes painful) to be told that a song starts to bore the listener at a certain point. This might be because it's too repetitive (which you cover with the checkboxes), or maybe because it's not repetitive enough. It's the kind of user testing you get for a song when you play it live for the first few times. You can see the exact moments when peoples eyes start to glaze over and the smiles fade. So you go home and rewrite and edit.

The site seems like a great idea, mostly because you can 'review the reviewers'. The same criticism can mean very different things from different people. If my mother says "Ooh, that's a good bit" it's because (a) there's something that sounds like Phil Collins, or (b) there's a funny lyric. If my bass player says "Ooh, that's a good bit" it's because (a) there's a cheeky and unexpected modulation or (b) there's a fretless bass riff that slides up to the 9th and pops back down to the lower octave mid-verse.

But anything that gives songwriters an opportunity to share their experience and knowledge is a good thing in my book. ;)

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterBen Walker

Reviews should, in my opinion, be constructive in their criticism, entertaining with their presentation, and informative to their readers. I always try to listen to an album three times before I review. It's time consuming but at least my readers know I didn't give it a half spin and then just spat out a review. I play it in the background while I do other work just to see if anything really catches my attention, then I play it again when I know I can listen to the album as a whole, then each song individually as a possible single.

It's always hard when you get an album from a band that you really want to like or love live but the record is just not up to par. You hate to have to break the news but if you tell them in the right way, it should be constructive and beneficial to them in the end.

While most of the "critics" I know try to point out the good as well as the bad in a review, I think many critics feel that they need to have something to fight about. They'll trash a record and rate it a low 2 when it is really just average at a 5. Critics do have a wide variety of tastes and preferences but sometimes you can just tell when someone is out to stir up trouble.

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

I just had some additional thoughts -- it looks like others already touched on some, but I think there should be a criteria for originality. If everything is done right but if the song is so generic or too close to existing artists, that's points off of the artist.

And I hope the reviewers are doing this blindly? Meaning, listening to songs without knowing who they are? With indie bands I suppose the chances may be slim that the reviewers have heard of them, but still, things like images and location can influence the reviews. Reviewer should be able to find out who they're listening to -- but only after they're finished rating.

Ari Koinuma
SelfSufficientMusician.com

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterAri Koinuma

Okay, this post got my brain going.

I agree with Ari Koinuma, you need something about arrangement (instruments, parts) but also just plain old structure (verse, chorus, etc.).

The review process in inherently subjective, but I love the idea of trying to make it less so. I think a good approach for songxray would be to have Needle Drop (for quick reviews) and In the Groove (for more detailed reviews). I also think song / arrangement / structure / performance should be separated, the trick being how do you sum this stuff up? Is it a point system? An AI summary (a la a stock rating system, see schwab.com for how they rate stocks)?

One last thought: last year, The Economist ran an article about the use of artificial intelligence to determine whether a song would be a hit. The technology has since been commercialized and can be used at http://artists.uplaya.com/. Personally, I'm not convinced, but it creates an interesting way to quickly see if a song might be in the ballpark or not. You can read the Economist abstract here: https://www.economist.com/science/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_SDDTSGR

Jeff
www.cerebellumblues.com

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Shattuck

I completely agree with Ari on the last posted comment. I believe reviews would be much more effective and honest if they were done blindly.

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Beguin

As a singer songwriter one criteria that I apply to the music I'm listening to is this: Did the songwriter write this song because he or she "could" or because he or she "had to"? In other words you could get all the formulas and form and structure and notes right but does it come from a deep place of passion and does it touch me, the listener in some way that causes me to respond with an emotion.

another criteria is "do the words challenge me or paint pictures or make leaps of the imagination" my teen age son played me some tracks from a very popular band. the music wa great but the lyrics were all kind of boring and flat.

as a songwriter who basically dreads the critical process because it has never really been helpfully constructive I find performing live and watching the eyes glaze over method you mention in your post to be very helpful...

but we need a positive critical process like you are proposing merely to help sift through the sheer volume of stuff out there. ultimately I need to find an audience of people who care deeply about my kind of music. and you seem to be offering another positive avenue.
thanks!
Mark Shepard
http://www.MarkShepardSongs.com

February 20 | Unregistered CommenterMark Shepard

The criteria you have are fine, but I think there needs to be a category that relates the music to what else is going on in the music, as many artists can perform well in the areas above, but aren't filling a need. Bruce I know you have said that old Beatles' songs would perform great in all of these areas, but wouldn't be hits today because in relation to what people what now they just wouldn't work. Therefore, there has to be some "relational" category as well, as music does not exist in a vacuum. Some artists would not pass the test on some of these criteria yet still garner a fan base as well. The Ramones were mediocre musicans but hit a nerve with many people because of their image and live show energy; WolfMother and the Darkness need all kinds of improvements in many of these areas, yet filled the void of 70s era stadium rock. T-Pain is hardly a great rapper yet being the first to use alot of the auto-tune vocal effect (now everywhere) got him above the fray. These variables are probably the hardest to measure with a computer, but are some of the most important. Here are some ideas
*Artist Fits into Clearly Defined Genre (Could work for some like the Darkness if there is a void)
*Artist Melds Together 2 or More Genres (Could work for some, like Shakti, if there is interest in this combination)
*Artist Makes Use of Uncommon Sounds (T-Pain Used Auto-tune first and then everyone else followed)
*Vocalist Has Uncommon Timbre (Lil Wayne, Tom Waits)
*Vocalist Has Commonly Desired Timbre (Country Fans Want a voice like Carrie Underwood's without experimentation)

These could go on and on, but my point is that music does not exist in a vacuum and you can't discount these relational variables.

February 20 | Unregistered CommenterPat W.

Excellent advice from everyone. Thanks! Please contact me if I can return the favor in any way.

If anyone (looking for two separate individuals to work independently) is interested in (and fully capable of) taking my list + all these comments and gluing it all together into a far better list - as a consulting gig, please contact me directly to discuss terms. I don't want to create a massive list, I just want to create a better list.

Thanks again!

-Bruce (bruce atsign musicxray.com)

February 20 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

I can comfortably say that the canned feature is a complete waste of time.
does anybody pay attention to the success of pitchfork? I cant say i agree with them about certain styles of music, but they ask the fundamental question: why is this music good? i dont think that there is a single respectable reviewer who doesnt put the music before them in front of their own peculiar tastes. if you cant put the music before your own music tastes that you are not fit to be a reviewer!

secondly, i can think of a number of classic lofi albums that would fail in the canned system. i like the idea of having reviews of reviewers, because you can see what they might be more lenient about or what really bothers them in music.

February 20 | Unregistered Commenteraustin

@austin

You're pretty sure of yourself with that complete waste of time comment.

A million songs a year are being uploaded to the Internet now. There's no barrier to creating music and hitting the upload button. Unfortunately, there's not enough time in the world to do Pitchfork reviews on every song.

Think of the canned comments as a first line of defense, or as the mouth of the funnel. The canned comments will serve a purpose, and they will keep the cost down for artists that want quick, credible, actionable, and very inexpensive feedback. The free-form comments (which we enable) serve a second purpose, as any reviewer can dive in as deep as they choose. It's really going be up to the reviewers.

We may take your advice and add a field that says "why is this music good?"..

Cheers,

Bruce

February 22 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

One of the problems that good musicians will have in the future is that they will not seek out feedback to become GREAT and only being 'good' just won't cut it in the near future. With the exposure the net brings directly to consumers (fans) there will be a time that artists that are great will be able to make a living doing what they love.
With that said, its pretty ridiculous that anyone would look at Bruce Warilla's concept and not want to be the first one to get concise feedback to make themselves better. Its equivalent to an NFL player saying 'i'm good enough' and don't need to train, watch fim, watch what I eat, etc...unless your the next Bob Dylan I would highly suggest you solicit EVERY ounce of feedback in ANY way possible and take pieces' of that feedback to get better...thats of course if you want to be average or good and one has to believe that 'personal development' is pretty important.

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Malloy

Wow, really interesting list, and what a great service to provide musicians "quick, credible, actionable, and very inexpensive feedback" as you say in your comment above. Seems much more effective for getting USEFUL critiques rather than the "you suck!" or "OMG I loooooooove you" type comments one usually finds on a YouTube posting for example.

I don't know much about music production, so I don't really know what I might add to the list, but one thing I've experienced about delivering/recieving critiques in general is that it's always nice to give/get the positives first. As you mention with the part about telling a mother her newborn is ugly, for some (most?) it's very vulnerable to put your stuff out there for critique, and hearing that it has some merit first can put you in a state more open to hearing where it can improve, rather than going off to sulk in a corner. Of course people ought to be grown up enough to take it in stride, and shouldn't submit unless they were both prepared and wanting any sort of feedback, positive or negative, but you know, everyone is human, and those artist types can be so sensitive. :-)

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I have been in the hit and song analysis business for 40 years first as a fan, then as a music critic, teacher, artist manager, booking agent, record deal maker and independent radio promotion guy. You can knit pick a song forever and find a million things to say good or bad about it. Everybody has an opinion about a song when they hear one. 35 million people a week are making judgments about songs on American Idol. At its most basic, 99% of artists should want to hear what a Simon Cowell says about their song rather than a Paula Abdul. The most valid opinion about songs in any popular music genre rock, pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, Country, Latin, etc. are those made by people whose passion about music has forced them to make career decisions about songs they like or don't like. These would include record company A&R people, music publishers, TV or film music executives who have perspective and years of experience and whose decisions have actually resulted in numerous signings or the selection and use of music for various forms of media; artist managers, record producers and booking agents for newly signed emerging artists all of whom make decisions about artists and their material which involve risking their time and money and which truly affect their personal financial bottom line; radio program directors and record promotion executives with at least 10 years of experience whose jobs are always on the line because they make daily decisions about one song’s success over another; and music critics or bloggers who rate and pick hit songs and successful artists and who have a lengthy and well establish track record. When any one of these people makes a decision about a song, years of experience enables most of them to be able to make split, concise opinions about a song that takes into consideration a number of factors that are second nature to them: a historical music perspective, trial and error, anecdotal data from all the artists they have heard and seen, a finite understanding of song structure; their well honed view of why some songs work and some don't; their sense of a song's timing culturally as well as in the market place and most importantly their willingness to make a decision and stand on it which could affect the career and the life of a particular, musician, artist or songwriter. If I were to pay for a song review, I want a person like those described above to tell me what they really think about my song concisely and if its about me as an artist whether I have what it takes to make it, the right image, talent, charisma, live performance and drive. They don’t have to break their opinion down unless they think that by fixing something or things I can still make it. I want validation and to know, based on their experience which I respect and am willing to pay for, that I or my song has what it takes. Ticking off a long bunch of criteria is fodder only for those who need reasons why they or their songs won’t make it.

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterMusicBizGuy

@MusicBizGuy . Ticking a bunch of check boxes may seem like fodder. However, I think it develops a baseline for making a review. Suppose you were to check off a check box then a box pops up that allows you to fill in additional information. Now you have a starting point for a review that you can compare to any other review as well as gather more in depth feedback. I think this is far more productive then just saying "It's crap", which is something the american Idol Judges say all the time. The goal here is to facilitate giving constructive criticism. You may be an excellent judge of whether a song is good or bad. But some sort of structure can pave the way for why you might think something sucks. You never know the reviewer may learn something about why he/she likes certain songs.... To totally dismiss this type of review process is short sighted IMHO

February 22 | Unregistered Commenterjohnny iller

@johnny iller I am suggesting by no means that someone who pays for feedback deserves a simple response. When I make a decision about a song or artist I put a lot of thought into it and give that artist feedback they can use that helps them better understand who they are as an artist or songwriter. The more money they want to pay the more in depth I would be willing to go.

I only used Simon Cowell as an example. That show is only geared to short and sweet responses for big ratings and not at all the kind of response I would give in the Music X Ray scenario. That being said. I definitely stand by what I said in my comment. Artists if they are any good need to be fed back to in broad strokes and then be allowed to go back to their personal drawing board and figure it out for themselves as to how to improve their product if they believed the advice given was valid.

When an artist lets other people define their vision for them they are doomed. Music is something you feel from the heart and is deserved to be viewed as the sum of all of it parts. If guys like Bruce Springstein, Jerry Garcia and the Dead or Jagger and the Stones were subjected to a list of things to tick they never would have ever seen the light of day.

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterMusicBizGuy

American Idol works because it develops 'commitment and consistency' on the part of the viewers. It isn't the world's most perfect 'decision market' (although it has attributes of it). Its the world's most perfect marketing engine. It works because people become 'invested' in the contestants (their back stories, ethnicities, socio-economic situation, etc), vote to support their favorite, and then cement that support with an act of the wallet to complete a very primal cycle.

American Idol is the ultimate way to manufacture nuevo-superstars. Fortunately, sometimes talent intersects with it. This makes is palatable.

February 23 | Unregistered CommenterJed Carlson

@ bruce

well if your aim is give as many bands that want feed back as possible, then yes maybe the canned system will work. but, there in lies the problem. it provides no real barometer of whether or not the music has any real value. By then, why would anyone want to even check out a high score? I imagine that a jonas brother's record would do pretty well within the canned system..so would a miles davis record. does that mean the jonas brother's record would actually be all that good? probably not.
secondly, i dont think a quick score from a reviewer using the canned system would be any different than if a reviewer was told to rate an album on a 1-10 scale after only a few listens. except, if the record hand good leads, etc, it might actually get rated higher than it deserves.


overall, i guess the best balance would be to sit and wait to see how effective the canned system is and then get feedback from reviewers and those who were reviewed.

February 23 | Unregistered Commenteraustin

@all

Swap canned for guided and I think you have a better idea about the review system. The thought is that most people know what they feel, but are not good at expressing it. Giving a reviewer this tool would allow him/her to organize their thoughts in a clear concise manner, which builds value for everyone involved.

As an example (perhaps not a good one) I just recently did my taxes via HRBlock. They lead you down a series of questions that you answer in a simple way. The end result is your taxes are done. While HRblock has guided you, the tax return is still representative of your unique situation. To stretch the analogy, a simple 1-10 score is the equivalent of getting someones gross income. It tells you on a general level how well off you are, but doesn't convey anything more than that.

What you want to do is get an good/great idea about a song without reading someones life story. It's important to remember that some songs simply slip through the cracks. Systems like this will go a long way towards patching those cracks.

February 23 | Unregistered Commenterjohnny iller

Hey Bruce.

Cool Idea.

I'm not sure if this is already in the sea of comments (apologies to the person if it's already there), but having a reviewer profile might provide more value to the uploader.

What's great to someone is complete garbage to someone else. Sure, there are songs that will have wider appeal and cross age-groups, but most aren't. Stuff I thought was fantastic at 14, I think is complete crap 10 or so years later.

Submitting your song to a reviewer who's into the same type of music will be good for both the artist and the reviewer. The artist will get reviewed by someone in their target market and the reviewer will only be reviewing stuff he wants to review.

Hoover

NewRockstarPhilosophy.com

February 24 | Unregistered CommenterHoover

I'm not the hugest fan of this idea in the first place, I have to admit. I have a couple central themes that I'm seeing for the music industry and this falls into the dominant theme for new businesses: tools for hobbyists.

This sounds very similar to mechanisms on Garageband.com and (maybe?) ReverbNation. I think there is definitely an audience for this type of thing I just wonder how big it is.

This seems like a nice, small idea that some people will benefit from but my guess is that it's mainly the wrong people. My experience on Garageband.com was that it was a lot of people relishing the opportunity to judge but I didn't get a lot from the feedback and I was resistant to change how I was writing songs based on the feedback, even from professionals. That is probably a deficiency in me.

So many new businesses are popping up that are about charging the music-maker for some kind of service. In this case, critical feedback. But at some point somewhere there needs to be money flowing from people paying for music or none of the feedback will have any relevance.

At this point, though, I am wary of all the different services telling me how they're going to give me feedback on whether my stuff is any good or not when there is no market orientation to these services. Out of work A&R guys telling me I shouldn't double my vocal in the chorus is hilarious and, to the point of an earlier commenter, if we apply these crowd-sourcing standards to art all we'll get is mediocrity.

I'd much rather see a more transaction oriented system that makes people vote with their ears through some kind of streaming chart system - but which ensures that, for a fee, a base number of people will hear the song and then decide whether or not to refer to a friend or some similar kind of referral mechanism.

But perhaps that's the output of this song-judgment system (or one of the outputs).

Again, there's an audience for this kind of service but it's not me and I don't think it's very big. But I could be wrong. And I admire you, Bruce, for building this concept and executing against it.

Sam,

But, there is market orientation to the service we are building. If you poke around on the pages way inside Music Xray, you will see that we are building a funnel not just a reviewing machine. All the 'utility' we offer enables artists to measure, monitor and grow market demand for their music.

- unique digital song packaging
- computer-based analysis
- statistics tracking
- opportunity submission (real marketplace opportunities)
- professional reviews
- promotion tools
- tagging tools
- etc..

The deployment of, and interaction with, each of these features makes your song more 'intelligent'. Together they make your song sortable, searchable and locatable within the universe of music.

What is a reviewing tool to you, is also a tagging tool to us. Moreover, we believe qualified music industry professionals are best equipped to review and tag music, as I am not a big believer in the wisdom of the crowds when it comes to reviewing / tagging music.

Yes, some of the 'canned' reviews are not truly tags, but hold judgment until you see how the entire system works. Trust me, a review will serve a higher and a market oriented purpose, other than just another review.

February 24 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Make it like hotornot.com: measure peoples 1st gut reaction. Yes or No. Like it or Don't like it. The average person (non-musician) doesn't pick apart production or arrangements. It's either: I like the song (lyrics and melody) or I don't, it makes me want to dance or it doesn't. Of course all the criteria listed goes into that 3 second determination.

February 26 | Unregistered CommenterSuperfly

Here's a sample review worksheet from a service I' won't name. Some of you may recognize it. Itwas designed for the review of both commercial and popular music, written to order. Enjoy.

Style
__ On target for today's market in ________ genre
__ Not current sounding
__ Hard to classify

Style Comments:
_________________________________________
_________________________________________
_________________________________________

Melody
__ Good music in verses
__ Verses could be stronger
__ Good music in chorus
__ Verses/Chorus sound too similar
__ Memorable Hook
__ Hook not obvious enough

Melody Comments:
_________________________________________
_________________________________________
_________________________________________

Structure
__ Intro too long
__ Well-written structure
__ Good sectional contrast
__ Not enough sectional contrast
__ Could use a bridge

Structure Comments:
_________________________________________
_________________________________________
_________________________________________

Lyric
__ First line makes me want to hear more
__ Engaging
__ Cohesive
__ Good use of imagery
__ Rhymes well
__ Communicates emotion to listener
__ Lacks focus
__ Unique
__ Too abstract
__ I don't understand it
__ Too predictable
__ Too many cliches
__ Awkward phrasing
__ Vocal does not help to sell song
__ Vocal does help to sell song

Lyrical Comments:
_________________________________________
_________________________________________
_________________________________________


Title
__ Good title
__ So-So title
__ Can't determine title by listening
__ Could appear in a more strategic place
__ Doesn't repeat enough
__ Repeats too often

Title Comments:
_________________________________________
_________________________________________
_________________________________________

OVERALL COMMENTS
_________________________________________
_________________________________________
_________________________________________


Now give a rating 1 to 10, 1 being the worst, 10 being the best:

__ Music
__ Lyrics
__ Marketability
__ Arrangement
__ Production
__ Engineering

NOW. Would you walk this into a label credibility on this music?

__ YES
__ NO

NOW. Give a reason why did or didn't forward this:
_________________________________________
_________________________________________
_________________________________________

March 3 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

Everyone. Thanks!

Mojo. Thanks for the great list you just posted. Much appreciated.

-Bruce

March 4 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

As a prefessional writer, and someone who has been involved in the music business for the last thirty years, I cannot tell you enough how much of an imposition a request for a review is to me. Unless you are prepared to pay me for my opinion, please do not approach me for a review.

As of late, I have been talking with a number of other professional writers who share this opinion. They are also opposed to musicians requestiong reviews, with out the musician considering compensating the writer for their time, or energy.

Why should we be obligated to review anybody's music, unless they are willing to compensate me for my time. It has been my experience that a musician is not interested in a trained professional opinion, they are interested in adding to their press kit another review which will be used to help sell their music. These then stop be objective opinions, but advertisements.

As one individual says above. they will often listen to a CD three times before they put pen to paper, or sit down at their computers to knock out a review. They do this to formulate their thoughts on a CD, before commiting words to paper. As the average CD may be 45 minutes in length, some longer, that is three hours that are lost for ever.

And now we have musicians telling reviewers that they expect more than a canned review, as if this approach is not sufficient. As Bruce Wanilla said (above) there are over one million songs uploaded every year. Certainly not every track merits this attention, or any.

The answer for a review can now be found online at Musebin. Here they limit a review to 140 characters. If a review requires more than 140 characters, its normally fluff.

140 characters , and a Thank you (if a reviewer wants to appear polite), is all any CD merits.

Dave King
Cross Harp Chronicles/
Just Roots PR

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