Writing Reviews – How I Do It

Everybody who writes reviews has their own process of getting the finished product ready. I’ve developed my method over the five or six years I’ve been writing music reviews and have altered it based on feedback from the various editors I’ve had over that time, and on the things I hate when I read reviews myself…what do I hate?

  • Reading a regurgitation of the one pager which has come from the publicist, most of the good critics out there write reviews without using the one pager as more than a fact checker, there are  a lot of people however who use it as a copy guide and just rewrite it so the review is never going to be an honest opinion
  • Reading reviews written by someone who really has no idea how to write, some people like the idea of writing for a zine because they want the freebies, but they really don’t know how to write. Honestly, if I thought for a second that my writing was as awful as some of these people, I wouldn’t dare write another review!
  • Reading reviews written by people who really don’t understand the music, how is somebody supposed to give an objective review about something being good or bad, if they don’t know what the music should/shouldn’t sound like?

So, my process when I have a review to write:

  • Listen to the album through fresh and take notes, what stands out, what do I like, don’t like, is anything particularly good/bad, do some songs fit better than others, is the opener strong? etc
  • Listen to the album a second time, expanding on notes.
  • Write first draft of review
  • Listen to the album a third and sometimes fourth time whilst editing review and fact checking band member names, previous albums etc
  • Research band information, this is where I would use the one pager from the publicist, what have the band been doing recently? Are they due to go on tour soon, when is the album being released etc?
  • Finalise the review

Once my review is finished and submitted I like to go and see what other critics have had to say about the album, it’s interesting to see if you’re on the same page as other people. I never do this before I’ve finished the review though as I don’t want to risk tainting my own opinion.

I also spend a lot of time reading professional critics work, read how the people who are getting paid for it write. I subscribe to Metal Hammer for a start so go through that cover to cover each month, and then I read any and all the big websites. The key thing is to always be willing to learn, to be willing to see where you may be missing something and be willing to alter your habits to improve.
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