For the latest issue of Tape Op, producer Mikael “Count” Eldridge wrote an op-ed titled “I Have A Credit Problem.” In it, he laments the loss of the liner note, arguing that today’s information-free delivery systems weaken the listeners’ experience and even hurt careers:
“This is not about stroking the egos of music creators. People need to understand that producers, engineers, and musicians need these credits in order to survive in this business.
We get our work by word of mouth, and without credits, nobody knows the work we’ve done, we don’t get new work, and pretty soon, we don’t have a career.
Companies like Pandora and Spotify get a lot of credit for their achievements. It’s time for them to give credit to the people who made their services even possible.”
Count has started a campaign on Facebook to help spread awareness about this issue, and is now working withNARAS to help develop new standards for digital album credits. But until those new protocols come together, there are several easy steps you can take to help make sure proper credits are available anytime your music is played.
The first is simple. There’s a “comments” section available for almost all popular files types where you can add notes to all of the tracks you make available for download. There are even free standalone programs like MP3Tag that work across multiple formats.
These systems have their limitations, and that’s what Count wants to improve. But they’re also vastly underutilized, especially on independent releases. This is somewhere you can make a difference instantly. If any of this sounds new to you, there’s a good chance that you or your record label aren’t using the currently available fields to their full potential.
For iTunes users, there are other options. Although iTunes inexplicably cuts off the “comments” field after an brief 255 character limit, the program does allow over 24,000 characters in the woefully underutilized “Lyrics” pane, so this a great place to add the text of your liner notes (in addition to your lyrics.)
As a fairly new feature, all iTunes releases can also include a “Digital Booklet.” These are PDF files, 4 pages or longer, that you create yourself. Once submitted to Apple, they are linked to your albums whenever your listeners download them. Other audio players have yet to catch up and integrate digital booklets into their platforms, but this innovation already heralds the eventual return of the liner note.
If you’re releasing your music through other outlets, whether it be Bandcamp or Amazon or anywhere else, you always have the option of designing engaging digital booklets for each of your albums and making them available on your own website. I’d recommend giving these away as a free perk, asking only for your listener’s email address in return.
Some day soon, it’s likely that all popular audio players will be able to draw on MPEG-7 data or something like it, and you will be able to associate any number of new information fields with each of your songs. But in the meantime, the best options we have are the comments field, the lyrics field and the digital booklet.
So please, start filling these fields in if you haven’t already, and be as creative as you want. If you’ve discovered a novel way of sharing complete liner notes with your fans, tell us about it, and we’ll cover your strategy, your notes and artwork in an upcoming issue of TMimaS.
As soon as listeners realize they’re missing out on your complete artwork, lyrics, story, and even the basic information about who you are, how you got here, and who helped you out along the way, distributors are more likely to feel the pressure and began bringing these fields to their customers.
At best, including credits, photos, histories, and impassioned manifestos will add another dimension to your fans’ experience. At worst, it might just help bring some welcome security your own career, and to the careers of the people who have helped you most.
There is a distressing trend in film criticism. You can see it from the smallest blogs to the biggest newspapers. We’re living in the snark ages.
“Snark” is an internet neologism. I don’t know if it is in the OED but, if not, it will be soon. It’s a combination of “snide” and “remark”, and refers to making sardonic or sarcastic comments for the amusement of yourself and similarly minded members of your audience. It’s the attitude adopted by faux-apathetic teenagers who slouch at the back of the classroom.
But it has escaped high-school cliques and infected film criticism, where, increasingly, the aim is not to write a review of a film but an amateur-night stand-up routine about it. There are many honourable exceptions, and inexcusably snarky reviews are far more prevalent online than in print, but overall the rise of the snarks is undeniable.
I often receive emails from aspiring film critics either asking to contribute to a publication I am editing or simply seeking advice. A great many of these contain variations of the sentence, “I think I am a good writer and that I have the right snarky sense of humour to be a film critic”, as if a film critic is by definition a jaded, uninspired insult merchant.
One email even linked to its author’s “takedown of Paul Blart: Mall Cop”, a piece that had been posted about three months after that movie was released, which is to say about two months after it was forgotten.
An entire generation of film critics – or at least of those who would like to be film critics – seems to believe that the highest aim of film criticism is to crack wise about a movie that isn’t worth anyone’s attention.
Whenever I raise this point, I’m given the default answer: “It’s just laziness. It’s always easier to make silly comments than it is to write something meaningful.” The second part of this is true: it is always easier to make silly comments than it is to write something meaningful, which is why if you can’t write something meaningful you shouldn’t write anything at all.
But the first part is false: it is not just laziness that compels critics to do it. Most of the critics who trade in snark are not professionally compelled to review dozens and dozens of films whether they wish to see them or not.
Especially online, many critics can write largely about whatever they choose. So those critics, or critics-in-the-making, who opt to produce snark-ridden “takedowns” of Paul Blart: Mall Cop are actively choosing to write unamusing drivel about unamusing drivel. If they were just lazy, they’d simply write nothing.
Film critics were once quality-assurance officers, checking everything that rolled off the production line and giving their opinion on whether it was fit for consumption. The biggest film critics, those on staff at the major newspapers, magazines and websites, still have a role like this: they watch every major film just before it is released and write a review that, in essence, argues whether readers should or should not pay to see it that weekend.
But any critic who isn’t working in that capacity, which is to say the giant majority of those who write film criticism whether as professionals, semi-professionals or amateurs, should work to a different model.
Thousands of films are now released every year. In 2011, Roger Ebert, the greatest and hardest-working film critic we will ever see, reviewed 292. This was the most he had ever reviewed in any year since he became a critic in 1967. But I’d wager it was also one of the smallest fractions of all the films released worldwide in a single year that he had ever covered.
There now are so many movies being made, and so many ways to find and watch them – 24-hour film channels on television, internet streaming, downloads, DVDs, Blu-rays and, lest they seem an afterthought, cinemas – that the viewer is overwhelmed.
Never has earnest critical guidance been more necessary. Today’s film critics should be truffle pigs, unearthing the undiscovered delights buried among the mass of mediocrity and rubbish.
There is no point in a thousand bloggers each reviewing the major studio releases of the week or, even worse, just choosing whichever one of them is least exciting and wasting words in mocking it. But there is every point in them employing their particular expertise and experience to discover, and bring attention to, a deserving film that would otherwise go unseen.
As film critics, our daily ambition should be to find a film so good it moves us to write about it persuasively enough that readers are compelled to seek it out and have the same wonderful viewing experience we did.
Let’s leave the snark for Twitter, where attention spans are short, character limits are shorter and, as the very name “Twitter” suggests, frivolity is key. Let’s make film reviews rewarding essays that, as often as possible, lead the reader to rewarding films.
It’s time to declare open season on open-mike-night criticism.
Don’t read this unless you want to rip out your hair in frustration. Here are some gems:
“The art market is not sexist,” Mr Sewell said. “The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank. There has never been a first-rank woman artist.
“One would expect the art world to be more egalitarian. It was only in 2004 that a living woman, Marlene Dumas, broke through the $1m barrier.
The Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova, who died in 1962, holds the record for the most expensive female artist sold at auction, with her Les Fleurs selling for £5.5m at Christie’s in June. Yet this pales in comparison with the £43m made by Bacon’s Triptych, 1976 in May – the most expensive piece of contemporary art sold at auction.
Mr Wirth complained that, while even the best-known female artists sell for around £2m-3m, lesser male artists make more money at auction.
None of this surprises me and I’m absolutely not offended by it. Complaining about male chauvinism and the denigration of female artists based on monetary value and exchange is circular and, frankly, a little ridiculous. Controlling institutions exist in all forms of business. If you think discriminating against female artists for being female is stupid, there is a simple remedy: don’t do it. Appreciating artists for their “greatness” is like watching TV commercials. Be the critic for yourself. This is the abortion debate of the art world.
Abasiophilia: love of (or sexual attraction to) people who use leg braces or other orthopaedic appliances Acousticophilia: sexual arousal from certain sounds Acrotomophilia: love of (or sexual attraction to) amputees Agalmatophilia: sexual attraction to statues or mannequins or immobility