Thursday, November 11, 2004

How many rock critics does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

I don't know the answer to the above question, but I think that once the room has filled with more than about seven rock critics, you aren't getting any light until the sun comes up.

I hate to keep jumping up and down on Big Yawn's head, but while I was attending the baptism of a buddy's daughter the other day, it was pointed out to me by a tipster that one of Big Yawn's problems is, like, they are a fucking army of rock critics. Well, I checked out what passes for a masthead at their sight, and my eyes grew wide and aghast at what I found. Big Yawn has thirty-two fucking writers and six editors--which is totally fucking numbing. i can't think of a single rock magazine that employs that many writers. I mean, Chuck Klosterman and Sarah Lewitinn write all of Spin, by themselves these days, don't they? With help from Dave Eggers and Sia Michel's booty, I mean?

Thirty-two writers? That's just staggering! And bewildering, too. I don't know more than fifteen people who aren't totally full of shit when it comes to rock criticism in Washington, DC, and precisely none of them write for Big Yawn (though none write for the City Paper, either, in all fairness). What's amazing is for thirty-two writers, BY can just barely scrape out a paragraph every forty-eight hours. They should print T-shirts that read "Going broke on 32 opinions a day!"

But, when you approach BY's other problem--cited by Here's a Hint--that all of their record reviews tend to cluster around 6-8 on a ten point scale, it's clear that the over-abundance of writers is the problem. I'd bet that each one is basically reviewing something they're predisposed to already, and that alone is contributing greatly to BY's Special Olympic version of rock criticism. But, more to the point, having too many critics waters down the overall aesthetic of the organization as a whole. That's why BY doesn't have an aesthetic right now, and ultimately, why the website currently doesn't really stand for anything. Except, of course, that getting your buddies together for a game of online grabass is fun if you keep your standards low.

We don't expect BY to take the suggestion we offer, because these lames never do, but if they want to improve their site one-hundred fold right this very second, they should dump at least 28 of their "Staff Writers." Merge the remaining four with your four contributing editors, and there's your slate of critics. Who should get the spots of the lucky four? Pick the four people who have the nastiest and most opinionated perspectives who can also deliver the column inches. An aesthetic will emerge and your readers will get to reality test their opinions against those of your core critics. Once your readers have a sense of vocabulary, they'll get invested, keep coming back, and talk about how you guide them to good music choices.

Get it together, Big Yawn. You're a music site, not a fucking Baskin Robbins.

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