As a result of changes in how we consume media, music journalism is increasingly in flux. This unstable climate, The Quietus’ Luke Turner argues, has all but stamped out the flames of negative criticism. Who are critics writing for today, and why should they resist the suppression of honest reviews?
It’s a curious sensation to watch something you love being bludgeoned to death in front of you. I’d not want to do it to anyone’s cat, dog, or gerbil. But albums are a different matter and, at the moment, there’s not enough stomping going on. At The Quietus, the online music magazine I co-founded, I recently wrote a hatchet on risible trip-hop nostalgists Public Service Broadcasting for their dire LP Every Valley, a tacky and inept album that turns the collapse of the Welsh mining industry into a gin-in-a-jam-jar musical turn at a bunting-strewn village fête.
The online reaction was not merely people agreeing or disagreeing with what I’d written, but surprise that such a critical review had been published. Bootings are, it seems, becoming a thing of the past – a relic of the print music press of the 80s and 90s. This is a troubled time for music-focused editorial websites generally. It’s recently transpired that writers for MTV News – which had undergone a politicised makeover not long ago – had their editorial freedoms restricted after Chance the Rapper and Kings of Leon threatened to no longer work with the channel. A new “reshuffle” has seen many MTV writers get the axe, while Vice announced the end of its dance music portal Thump. In both cases, writers have been laid off to prioritise video content.