Matthew, further to this:
As a critic, I make no bones about the fact that my own
taste is highly idiosyncratic, and that I will never, ever be all
things to all people. The fact that my own sense of specialness is
driven more by repertoire than performer puts me, I know, in the
minority, as does the nature of some of that repertoire.
I’m curious if every concert or recording you preview, or every artist you profile, is special to you. As you mention in your post, and as we all know, arts coverage is shrinking. Beyond repertoire, as you write in the excerpt above, what makes you feature one artist, one concert, one album, over another? And in taking the time to preview it, are you not–just as marketing materials are–setting the audience up with some kind of expectation that this event is a cut above the rest? “This concert was special enough to be previewed in the Boston Globe or on that writer-I-like’s blog. If he spent his time on it, maybe I should spend my money on it.” I think about listings in places like New York Magazine and Time Out New York; not only is there competition to get a listing in the first place, but then there are the critic’s picks, and the expanded listings, and the floating photos to compete for. Levels within media-coverage-levels of what’s more special than everything else before anyone even gets to a concert.
Also, how do you write features that you are assigned differently than those you pitch to an editor yourself? That is, what’s it like to cover something someone else may deem special but perhaps you do not?
There’s also something to be said for competition for reviews. I remember a publicist friend of mine saying a client was going to fire her because all he wanted was a New York Times review, and because of various scheduling conflicts at the Times and other concerts in the city that night, he wasn’t getting it. This was an extremely well-established and well-respected artist, but apparently not…whatever…enough to tip the scale. Reviews are assigned at least a week in advance, so basically newspapers decide what’s special enough to be covered before seeing anything. Imagine if the New York Times writers could be at every music event in the city one night, and then pitch what should get reviewed to their editor based on what actually happened at the concerts!
Matthew responds to this post in the comments.