Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Open Letter To Rebecca Martin / Down Beat and Critical Secrets.

Ms. Martin,

I respect your talent and your passion. I have little time for an artist that will take to facebook to universally trash critics as "stupid" and ask the asine musical question "Do they even listen to good music?"...News flash, critics talk and your musical stock is now tanking faster than "Hope and Change."

So Larry Grenadier did not make the Down Beat critics poll list, so what? Allow me to explain what that actually means on a couple of different levels.
a.) A true artist would not care.
b.) The bass field is an over crowded field where competition is fierce and young Independent talent has caught up to the old guard and has in many cases inched pass them in creative output.

Always remember length of time and competency do not necessarily go hand in hand...

Taste is subjective. Never forget that. A critics poll is an opinion. I publish a poll of what I am currently listening to so readers can better gauge where I am coming from. I do not call it a "Best of" as that is for the readers to decide. The concern you expressed is understandable, the blanket condemnation of people working my side of the music business is not.

Critics can and do drive sales, I have seen it from my own work. Critics and artists should be a team. The irony is an artist such as yourself screams for freedom of expression and diversity but...only on your terms. If a critic gives you something or someone new then suddenly we are all "stupid" and "not listening to good music." Define good, keeping in mind taste is subjective. The blatantly obvious is this...How smart is an artist to go on social media and rip all critics? A beef with a particular person or single publication is understandable but to expand that to be all inclusive? Not smart.  

Advertising drives major publications. If any "major" label sinks a pile of money into any major publication then you should never expect to see a review trashing that labels product. It is business. You don't bite the hand that feeds you. It is an unwritten and commonly understood practice that 2 stars then become 3 and 3 stars then become 4. Dishonest? Maybe. "Gilding the lilly"? Of course...

As a critic I have to deal with artists that only find use for my services when a new record is coming out. I have to pacify record companies and publicists all while listening to over a thousand releases a year while meeting some very specific time tables for results and attempting to keep my integrity in tact. I have been used, abused, and lied to more times than I can count but I chose to do this. How much do you get paid for a gig? Did you know the average critic at a major publication (if they are actually on staff or submit free lance) makes about 20-30 bucks for a piece IF published. I don't make a dime. Writers at All About Jazz are volunteer. Would you sing for free? I also have to deal with artists that rail on the "industry" with one hand while asking you to buy their new release with the other? Dishonest? No. Disingenuous? Yes.

A piece of advice. The record industry is small. Critics talk. You have now taken a step back and there will be a great many critics that will now never review any of your fine work or...wait for the chance to trash the next one simply because they can. Arturo O'Farrill came out with some statements after the Trayvon Martin case that advocated violence as pay back. In speaking with an editor from a major publication, he confided in me that he too had a run in with O'Farrill whose attitude was less than diverse and accepting. This same publication will now never review O'Farrill. O'Farrill has since changed labels. It is not what you say but how you say it. I have learned that the hard way.

Bottom line is that not everyone will make the Down Beat poll but then again, not everyone should.

Be Well,