Commentary: The Digital Resistance, Part II – Media

Commentary: The Digital Resistance, Part II – Media

Recently, I reached out multiple times to an artist to get their input/feedback on an article I’ve written here on MusicScribe. These requests have been ignored. I believe, based on previous interaction with this artist, that this is due to their disdain for anything blog-related (although, it’s entirely possible that they just hate my guts; without a response, it’s hard to tell). I get that they are not obligated to respond to anything I write, but in the interest of fairness, my reason for reaching out in the first place was to provide a fair analysis, not a critique.

But why are artists so against the idea that blogs can be a legitimate news source?

Over the last decade, blogs in general have gone from personal little online journals to major sources of news and information. Quite a few people actually make a living at it (although, we here at MusicScribe still hold on to our “day jobs”). And while some blogs still have a personal agenda, others (us included) try to present a fair, open-minded perspective when it comes to news and even our editorials. I personally try to research as much as I can before I write a commentary, as I do not wish to present misinformation. Sometimes that research includes reaching out to artists directly for input and/or feedback.

Now, just like everything else in southern gospel music that represents change, there is a resistance to blogs. Ten years ago, this would be understandable, as blogs were still a relatively new medium, and rather than attempting to be objective, many posts (and even more comments/responses) were highly opinionated, and often were not flattering towards SG artists. The main culprit, of course, was Doug Harrison’s site, A Very Fine Line, which drew the ire of many a gospel artist in its time (sometimes, rightfully so, but more often than not because the posts and comments lifted the veil on the SG industry that very few were wanting lifted). Some artists handled the site fairly well, while others minced no words about how they felt about it.

That was then, however, and this is now. Harrison retired from posting on AVFL four years ago (November 17th, 2013, to be exact). The bitter taste of his site, however, still lingers with a few artists, and that has carried over to other sites, as well, to the point that ALL blogs are now viewed as “bad,” including MusicScribe.

Part of this, I believe, is due to the fact that artists do not control what is being posted on sites such as ours. With publications such as the Singing News, which is driven heavily by artist advertising, it is in the publication’s best interest to make sure the artists who have advertising investments are not upset by what is published, lest they lose that advertising revenue. Is this unbiased reporting? Of course not, but the SN doesn’t claim to be unbiased, and the artists know this.

MusicScribe, however, is not beholden to a publisher or advertiser. Our site owner, David Bruce Murray, allows for a few ad’s which we have selected for our site, but we do NOT solicit advertising from artists, which means we do not run the risk of losing money if an artist is unhappy with something we publish, and to DBM’s credit, there have only been a handful of posts that I can think of over the last decade that he has rejected from posting. That doesn’t mean that we all post whatever we want to post, mind you. We still try to adhere to a certain level of integrity. In fact, I’d venture to say that we hold ourselves to a higher standard BECAUSE we are not beholden to advertising revenue. Sure, we could post every piece of gossip or unverified bit of “news,” but at the end of the day, we all are SG fans, and it is our desire to BETTER the genre with our writing, not harm it.

In fact, most of what I personally write is not written to be mean-spirited (despite what some may think); it’s written to bring attention to something that I believe could hurt the industry as a whole. Subpar products, outdated business models, and tunnel-visioned mindsets are only going to hamper the genre’s growth, and part of my goal with my writing is to make artists aware of these potential setbacks, and (dare I say it) encourage them to improve and grow themselves. Sometimes this means presenting the information that artists don’t like.

Still, there are those who do not see it this way. Some artists believe that if they cannot control what is being written, then it’s not worth reading. They have worked hard to maintain a certain image and/or public persona, and anything that challenges that is a threat. With that mindset, blogs will never be viewed as “legitimate,” because they can’t be controlled. On top of that, a few artists take ANY criticism, constructive or otherwise, as a personal attack.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; any critique I offer is prefaced by respect for an artist; the fact that they are willing to put their hearts and talent out there for the public, not matter the outcome, has earned my respect for being willing to do so.

This is also not to say that editorials in gospel music are anything new. JD Sumner’s column in the Singing News used to rub people the wrong way quite often, but because he was a legend in the industry (as well as held a controlling interest in a lot of the industry at some point or another), he could get away with it. People are much more open to taking less than flattering critiques if it’s from someone in a position of power. DBM has posted photos of other editorials from over the years in the SN, and almost all of them are from other artists or industry professionals. In other words, if you’re IN the industry, you can comment ON the industry. If you’re not inside that bubble, however, then your editorials, opinions, critiques, etc., are not valid (or at least not AS valid).

Personally, I feel this is a more dangerous mindset to have; if an industry is so inward-focused that any outside opinions are immediately invalidated simply by virtue of not being from your inner circle, then you are essentially operating in a vacuum. It is to an artist’s benefit to at least LISTEN to what those outside the industry have to say, especially those who are so passionate about it – even if it’s not what you want to hear.

Will sites such as MusicScribe ever be viewed as “acceptable” in the gospel music industry? Maybe some day, but probably not until some of the current established artists (who may or may not have been burned by older sites) are no longer in charge.

FYI – We will leave comments open on this post as long as they remain civil. Play nice, people….

Kyle Boreing

<p>Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a gospel music soloist, occasional quartet singer, and church music director who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with artists such as Mercy’s Mark, the Dove Brothers Band, and The Oak Ridge Boys.</p> <p>Visit his website at www.kyleboreing.com, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.</p>

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17 Comments

  1. Brian Crout
    Reply December 04, 14:23 #1 Brian Crout

    I can’t speak for what artists think about blogs. I know one thing I struggled with when I blogged was whether I could say something negative about a musical effort, and do it Biblically. My primary goal when blogging/reviewing was to please the Lord, to make someone think more highly of Jesus because they read my blog. Would He have been pleased with me criticizing a musical effort in a public forum, instead of talking to the artist privately, in a graceful and edifying manner (Ephesians 4:29)? Am I in any position, as a Christian, to publicly judge the quality of someone else’s sincere spiritual work? (1 Cor. 4:1-5) I know those Bible verses are true, of course, but I still don’t know exactly where my blogging efforts fell in relation to those instructions.

    I said all that say this: some gospel music artists may have a spiritual issue with media that is critical of their work. And I’m not sure they’re necessarily wrong.




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    • Kyle Boreing
      Reply December 04, 14:46 Kyle Boreing Author

      That is a very valid point, Brian. However, if a copy is provided by the artist and/or record label for the express purposes of review, then it’s expected that our review will be made public (in fact, most labels request a URL link for our review). In those cases, should we:

      a) Provide an honest critique, even if it’s not necessarily a positive one
      b) Provide only positive critiques where possible, even if the positive merits are few
      c) Provide no critique, even though one was solicited

      Again, none of my critiques are an attack on an artist; they are an analysis of a product. If the product were not intended for public consumption (meaning it was a private transaction between two individuals), then no, a public review would be unacceptable, and your stance would be correct. However, in the case of products such as music CD’s or DVD’s which are intended for mass public consumption, then I believe that a public review is not anti-Biblical, especially when requested by the parties involved. It is more unethical, in my opinion, to only request positive reviews; in fact, the FTC forbids the practice of providing only positive reviews in exchange for product (as evidenced by the disclaimer at the bottom of our site).




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      • Brian Crout
        Reply December 04, 15:30 Brian Crout

        Yes, I think that’s a good point. If a review is requested, then one can’t have a problem with the contents of an honest review. It would be wrong, for sure, to write in a dishonest manner. It makes me wonder, if a record label requests a review, if the artist is necessarily on board with it themselves all the time. I can only remember one instance of an artist directly asking me to review a project.




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        • Kyle Boreing
          Reply December 04, 15:39 Kyle Boreing Author

          I think I can safely guess that not all artists are on board when a label sends a product out for review. I’ll just leave it at that.

          That being said, I have sent my product out to several folks requesting a review, and in every instance, I’ve asked them to be honest and not hold back. Have I liked everything they said? No. Have I agreed with everything they said? More often than not, I can say I have, if somewhat begrudgingly. The reason being, I want to know what works and what doesn’t. I want to know what people like and what they don’t like, and if they don’t like it, then I’ll remember that and try not to do it next time.

          I was in a roundtable at NQC years ago with a group of bloggers. I remember Wayne Haun telling us that Janet Paschal came into a pre-production meeting for a new album with a print out from several blogs. She took what had been posted and used it to make a better album. To me, that is an artist who cares what the public thinks and is willing to do what needs to be done to grow as an artist.




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        • Scotty Searan
          Reply December 04, 23:41 Scotty Searan

          Jesus wasn’t always positive, He actually spoke quite negatively more to religious leaders than sinners




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          • bravesfan513
            December 05, 08:09 bravesfan513

            There’s a difference between preaching against sin, and critiquing something that has nothing to do with sin. There’s really no comparison to be made there.




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          • Scotty Searan
            December 05, 08:46 Scotty Searan

            I am not saying critiquing a project is calling it a sin.
            But some people when you speak against they believe you are criticizing them, even though you call no names.
            And yes some people cannot, as the article states, take negative criticism.
            They will make it appear that the reviewers are calling them bad singers or whatever.
            So many people cannot agree because they allow the pendulum to swing left to right and they refuse to meet in the middle.




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  2. Scotty Searan
    Reply December 04, 19:37 #2 Scotty Searan

    Kyle keep giving honest reviews and opi ions.
    There is one thing I hear in SGM more and more that I have never really been crazy about and that is the SYMPHONIC BAND SOUND. I can handle strings a little bit. As a matter of fact two of the albums in my opinion had the same title, but by different artists, THIS IS MY VALLEY the Rambos and also Steve Sanders.
    I am not crazy about Brass in SGM.
    I am glad for digital downloads because I can buy the music that does not have brass or is too progressive
    I have the same problem in other blogs when I give opinions.
    What I have observed very people are able to discuss things, if an opinion is different than their own.
    I may not agree with every opinion i hear, but I respect them by listening.
    God bless you




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  3. Esther
    Reply December 04, 21:41 #3 Esther

    Realistically, the genre as a whole is winding down in slow motion. In another 35 years or so, none of this will matter.




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  4. Kenny Payne
    Reply December 04, 22:04 #4 Kenny Payne

    I think what all this comes down to is one simple thing. If you don’t want an honest answer from someone, don’t ask the question. Being in the business for 30 yrs , i got to be around a lot of singers. Being with the Weatherfords for almost 7 yrs I was able to be a part of events that I would never have been able to be at. The music industry as a whole has its flaws. It doesn’t matter what the genre is. The difference in SG is the message. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard and learn to take conductive criticism without getting bent out of shape over it. It’s not about the singers. It’s about the message.




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  5. Chris Unthank
    Reply December 05, 07:56 #5 Chris Unthank

    It’s not just blogs.




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  6. David Bruce Murray
    Reply December 05, 15:12 #6 David Bruce Murray

    I don’t mind at all the negative comments about blogs in general or those comments that are specifically directed at our own honest CD reviews.

    I am just amused that almost every person who does complain also fails to apply the same logic to their own actions.

    Some background…and this will be somewhat long…
    I view honest CD reviews as a service primarily to fans. Any benefit that may come to artists is great, but our first and foremost effort is to inform fans who may be interested in buying a CD.

    If I give the impression that a sub-par CD is absolutely wonderful, I am a liar. It’s that simple.

    Sometimes I may just let the star-rating speak without going into too many details, but I’m not going to lie to promote a CD…that’s the ground level. Over the years, I have read reviews in other places and been disappointed when I heard the CD later, not because of style or whatever, but because the review made a musically lacking effort to be some stellar piece of musicianship.

    I also work hard to describe music accurately. If I describe an instrumental piano jazz CD as if it was just like any other pure Southern Gospel CD, I am inaccurate. If a Brian Free & Assurance CD is described in such a way that the reader believes it’s going to sound practically identical to an Inspirations CD, that’s wrong.

    Above all, I stress that CD reviews are simply my opinion. I know a bit about music to be able to say if I believe this CD is better than another CD, etc., but there are others who are better musicians than me. Opinions vary, and most readers are wise and realistic enough to appreciate that it’s nothing personal toward the artist.

    Honest reviews help introduce fans to artists they may not have heard before. They help fans decide whether to spend money on this artist’s CD or that artist’s CD when they don’t have enough extra income to buy both.

    Are artists disappointed when every review isn’t glowing? Sure, they are.

    Are fans disappointed when they buy a CD based on a review that made it out to be the best CD the artist had ever recorded only to find that it’s not very good? Sure, they are.

    When some of our readers lean entirely in favor of the artist’s point of view, I understand why they might be inclined to say we aren’t following the instruction of scripture. I’m just saying how it affects the artist isn’t the only issue at hand. The moment a CD is sold for any price, the question arises as to whether it’s worth that price. We’re simply trying to assist fans in their purchases.

    So, that’s my motivation as a critic, which brings us to the motivation of someone who likes to give the critic a dose of their own medicine as it were.

    All that was background. I’m coming to my point….
    I just checked my Facebook Messenger records. I have NEVER received a private message through Facebook from Brian Crout about the type of reviews we choose to write. It’s been years since we exchanged any sort of communication by email, and even then, it was typically talking about a possible review with several other writers. The most recent email I could find was written in 2012, and it was a discussion with some other bloggers at that time about whether to review a CD together as a “mega review.”

    As far as I can tell, 100% of his criticism of our reviews or style of writing in recent years has been posted for the public to read.

    And yet, his biggest criticism here is that we have said negative things in CD reviews that were posted for the public to read.

    Make of that whatever you will.




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    • Scotty Searan
      Reply December 05, 15:26 Scotty Searan

      I have read reviews on CDs & DVDs you have reviewed else where. Most of them never mention why a song or whatever the case may be what they call up to par. Some reviews have left comments about certain songs, only commenting on what they liked.
      Every reviewer is human and yes bias can get in the way of a review.
      I may like a certain style of SGM, You may like another, but I know I could give an accurate review of a project and I believe you do.
      Keep on doing a good job.




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    • Brian Crout
      Reply December 05, 16:11 Brian Crout

      There was another post I made that I don’t think I waited long enough to allow it to go through.

      I was very surprised to read your post, and I don’t remember ever criticizing anything written here. This is the best SG site on the internet, by far, and I am both avid reader and big fan of the writing here.




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  7. Brian Crout
    Reply December 05, 15:47 #7 Brian Crout

    I apologize if if I was ever critical of you or anyone here. The Lord knows I try very hard to never do that. If you will point me to something specific I said in that way, I will apologize with more specificity.




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    • David Bruce Murray
      Reply December 05, 16:12 David Bruce Murray

      Your first comment here applies two scripture references to why you chose to stop writing reviews yourself and concludes that artists have a valid scriptural basis for being discontented with honest public criticism of their commercially available products. (They don’t.)

      Maybe you didn’t intend for that to be a public indictment of what we do here, but as a direct response to Kyle’s article, it sure seems to be the case.

      My apologies to you if that was not your intent.




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      • Brian Crout
        Reply December 05, 16:48 Brian Crout

        Thank you for helping my to understand my error. First, let me assure you that it was definitely not my intent to say or imply anything negative about anything that has ever been written here. It is my responsibility to write/speak in such a way that my intent is clear. So I apologize for writing my comment so poorly, that it was viewed as a criticism.

        My intent was to share what I dealt with, personally, as a blogger/reviewer, and use that to provide potential insight into why some artists may have an aversion to blogs, in the case that their view of blogs lined up with how I often feared mine would be perceived. I can definitively say that I have never read anything on this blog and had any thought of it being in violation of Biblical principles.

        I should have led the post with, or at least included, positive statements like that about your site, so that it would have been clear my intent. And for failing to do so, I apologize.

        On a less important note, I would also like to clarify that I did not intend to imply that I stopped blogging because of this internal struggle. I stopped because I no longer had the time or zeal to do what I thought was a quality job at it.




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