By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Eric Weisbard, a former editor at both Spin and the Village Voice, doesn’t think so. “The authority of the music critic, in days gone by, was just that they had this access to the records, which allowed for the kind of judgment no normal human being could possess. So much of one’s expertise was simply rooted in having access to an ever-growing record library.”
Music critics could speak with authority because they’d been given a golden ticket: a spot on all the mailing lists. Critics knew that these 10 CDs were the best of the year because they’d received the majority of them, and appreciated those the most.
But not anymore, Weisbard says. With the rise of iTunes, download and streaming services like Rhapsody and eMusic, and the expanding illegal BitTorrent sites, a critic is no longer sitting atop a hallowed throne. “If anything, the person who relies on what comes in the mail has access to less stuff now than the person who chooses to use the other channels. That’s a huge difference. The idea that your mail is an inferior product to the Web has really changed the stakes.
“When you can have access to databases that wouldn’t fit in your house even if you did receive them in the mail, whatever the new notion of what creating the perfect library is going to be, I doubt it’s going to be based on receiving promos and keeping the good ones.”
The problem will no doubt work itself out over time, he adds. He’s already noticed a change: When he and his wife, Los Angeles Times chief music critic Ann Powers, invite people to their house and send them down into the music room, “teenagers no longer stare at our postal tubs of promos with anything resembling envy,” says Weisbard. “It used to be that when kids were over and they saw all of our CDs, they wanted to sit down and plow through them and take what they could. It was like a total party for them. There was nothing more fun than giving my cousins piles of promo CDs, counting on people who visited our house to take a few minutes to sit in front of the tubs to see if there was anything. And there are still people my age who get pleasure out of doing that, but it’s very, very rare now for someone younger to come into my house and want to spend any time looking at promos.”
Motormouth Media’s Judy Miller Silverman says that the onus is on the critics and tastemakers to make the next move. “It isn’t until the writing community and the community of people who get promos really say, ‘I don’t need this in my life. I can listen to the music digitally and delete it if I don’t like it. If I do like it, I can play it on my iPod or I can burn a copy of it myself.’”