The Role Of The Critic

Posted on May 13, 2013


The changing status of the music critic has become the centre of debate. The most predominant newspapers and magazines are finding their average circulation figures dropping – The NME and Q magazine are dropping by 20% every year (Anon, 2012). This is because everything musically orientated has moved online. Although paid-for magazines are becoming less popular, it doesn’t mean music critics are any less valid. As a process of evolution, everything has to change and develop. If anything it has improved the music critic industry, because you don’t have to be privileged enough to write for a newspaper to have your opinions heard. All you have to do is set up a blog and you’re on your way to potential, global success.

What is wrong with music critics today is that they are just a number in a queue; there is no relationship or appreciation of them. Looking at the 70s, when Lester Bangs and Nick Kent were setting the standards for music journalism, it becomes apparent that the role of the music critic today is a lot less intense. The critics weren’t just a faceless annoyance in a musician’s day, but they had an identity – The critics knew about the artists, and vice versa. Nick Kent tells the Guardian of a time in 1973 when he and Lester Bangs interviewed Lou Reed and he couldn’t stand to be in the same room as him because of Bangs poor reputation (Long, 2012).

The process that happens before the act of writing is a lot different now. Journalists lived the same lifestyle as the musicians. They went on tour with the bands; they spent time with them external from a professional environment. This meant that their writing not only told the public what they already knew about the musicians but it told them the experience and lifestyle of them when they were away from the public eye. Nick Kent, who wrote for the NME in the 70s, was infamous for his lifestyle of hard drugs and partying. He had an extravagant appearance of messy hair and make-up, like the rock stars of the 70s. He explains in an interview about the history of the NME that he dressed as outrageously as any of the bands he was writing about (Long, 2012). Critics today live in a different world to the artists they are writing about. PRs are the only thing bridging the gap.

Due to the instant access of reviews and writing online, critic’s opinions work as a culmination, which is what makes them powerful, whereas only a limited number of critics twenty years ago would have had an affect over their readers. There are many negative points to how the role of the critic is today, but everything has to evolve. It was only a matter of time before technology took its toll on the art of music journalism.


Anon (2012) NME and Q suffer sales decline of almost 20% year on year. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 18 March 2013]

Long, P, (2012) Interviews with NME journalists: Nick Kent. [Online]. 30 January. Available from: [Accessed: 18 March 2013]

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