“The subjectivity of being subjective: How should bands handle reviews?”

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Music reviews are an interesting form of music media. To some people, these types of reviews can be the difference between listening to a piece of work or deciding not to even give it a chance. Others recognize that these reviews are merely opinion and are irrelevant when it comes to listening to an album. Music listeners can easily choose how heavily they weigh reviews when it comes to how to judge a piece of music because it simply does not reallyaffect him or her in any way. Sure, it could be the difference between someone finding a momentous album in his or her life, but that’s not something that directly affects how we live our daily lives.

But let’s look at music reviews from a different perspective: the artists’ perspective.

This past week I noticed something strange brewing on the Internet. There were a lot of angry people lashing out on Twitter at Thomas Nassiff, a celebrated music reviewer on booming alternative music website, absolutepunk.net. All of these tweets ended with a not-so-charming hashtag of #GFYTN (or Go [expletive] Yourself Thomas Nassiff). Wondering what all of the fuss was about, I discovered the root of the issue.

Nassiff had taken up the challenge of reviewing a new album by a young Boston-based band called Transit. For the last few years or so, Transit had built up a promising following on Absolute Punk as they showcased strong progression in the pop-punk music scene. Nassiff, though claiming to be a fan of the band’s previous work, was not too keen on the band’s latest effort titled Young New England, giving it a 4/10 score.

With how much influence this website has on the alternative punk scene, Transit, of course, was listening and noticed how harsh the review was. This lead to a few hateful comments from the band toward Mr. Nassiff in what appeared to be digitalized temper tantrums via Twitter and Facebook.

This had me a little shocked. As a long-time fan of Transit as well as a music reviewer myself, it really surprised me that a band that I loved and respected would lash out so childishly toward one negative review. I’m not going to get into the specifics of what was said, but it’s safe to say that it was uncalled for.

This begs a question that neither I nor most people I have talked to have ever really thought about. How much should artists weigh what critics say about their work in reviews?

Most musical artists put their hearts and souls into creating their music. Their work is basically their baby. They make a tremendous effort to feed it, influence it and raise it up to a standard that they have set. Much like a parent, they are proud of what they have accomplished. So, naturally, when a musician sees a mostly negative review of their baby that they had spent so much time perfecting, it kind of feels like someone with no kids calling you a bad parent. Of course, on the other side of the spectrum, if someone calls you a fantastic parent you are left feeling even more proud of yourself than you were before.

Now I know that making music and raising a human being are two very different tasks, one much more difficult than the other, but the premise is similar. One of the main differences is that in music there can be absolutely no solid evidence that what the artist has created is good or bad. Music is subjective, and what one person might think of as hard to listen to another person might see as beautiful or even influential. This is why so many fans do not let reviews sway whether or not they should listen to an album, which is absolutely the right thing to do.

Bands like Transit should take note.

Bands should not persecute reviewers for not liking their product no matter how much work was put into it. When all is said and done, it’s simply one person’s opinion,and an established band like Transit should realize this. The band has thousands of fans, so it is impossible to please everybody.

It is difficult to take harsh criticisms, but when it comes to music, artists should not allow themselves to be too heartbroken over a single review when there are endless opportunities to touch other people with that same product that was criticized. Rather than pout and point out how much disgust one has toward a reviewer, why not take what that reviewer said to heart and learn from it, especially with a reviewer as credible and honest as Nassiff. It took courage for him to so harshly criticize a band that he has shown love for in the past but his honesty should be respected, not ridiculed.

The most important word to know while being involved in the music scene is “subjectivity.” If this word was more openly referred to among bands and fans alike, then maybe the music world would be a nicer, safer place to express an opinion.