Why Do You Read CD Reviews?

I am contemplating a major overhaul of this site’s CD reviews system. Before I do that, though, it would be helpful to have your input on these questions:

(1) Has anything said in a CD review here impacted your decision to purchase a project?

(2) If so, whatβ€”and why?


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57 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. No. I rarely buy CDs anymore.

    • OK, fair enough!

    • Do you download full albums or at least songs Do reviews here affect your downloading
      ?

  2. In the SG market, as Aaron Swain so greatly posted yesterday, more people are concerned with the artist than their product. If Legacy Five or Greater Vision put out a subpar-to-horrible project, fans would still buy it because of the artist.

    CD reviews, essentially, are simply opinion pieces or editorials. I don’t think they will sway anyone into purchasing a specific project they didn’t already plan on buying anyway.

    • You are entirely correct; because of artist loyalty and longevity in this genre, they often don’t. I’m curious about those rare times – if ever – when they do.

      That’s why I phrased the question the way I did – pretty much a “have you EVER” type construct! πŸ™‚

    • I buy albums that might favorites release. I presume if I like the artists and have liked past things they have done, there is a chance I will like others. I am also a completist.

      As far as reviews, they can be helpful. Sometimes reading someone’s glowing review and pointing out certain things can make a person want to see what it is all about. Reading less than glowing might cause someone to not bother.

      Honestly, I rarely read reviews unless they are artists I already like. I want to see someone’s take on it. I also want to make sure the Oaks get fair coverage. πŸ˜‰ Just kidding on the last part.

      • That is about the way I treat reviews, too – if, for example, DBM gives a group a glowing review, I’ll often check them out, while there have been CDs (e.g., the Martin’s new one) which I was considering purchasing and decided to pass on after they got really low ratings.

      • You’ll probably get a review copy, anyway. πŸ˜†

      • No, not of the Martins’ CD – Gaither/EMICMG doesn’t distribute review copies to bloggers last I checked. If we want to write about something, we have to buy it ourselves.

        So, for example, on the GVB reunion CD/DVD set, I spent the ~$50 to purchase the pack, just like everyone else. Ditto for the hymns homecoming tapings. And I expect that I’ll purchase the films this fall from the taping I attended this spring.

      • OK, I was joking anyway, but that’s interesting.

      • I think other labels and artists figure they could use the publicity, but I suppose that Gaither’s team figures that everyone knows who they are, and everyone who wants to buy what they have to sell will buy it anyway!

  3. I specifically remember getting into the Collingsworth Family after reading your review of The Answer.

    I’ll admit that if one of my favorite groups releases something, I’m going to buy it, whether anyone reviews it or not. But I’m a collector. I think there is still a more casual audience out there that is influenced by these reviews.

    Honestly, I have truly prayed that someone out there would buy the new Inspirations CD after reading the review I did for it. I don’t know if anyone has or will. But I won’t let that stop me from trying. I try to remember that this music we are reviewing isn’t just a form of entertainment. It can be a true help to someone’s life. To me that’s added incentive to keep it up, and added responsibility to do it right.

    • Brian – very cool! Do you remember what specific elements of the review influenced your decision to purchase that CD?

  4. I read reviews because you post reviews…

  5. Budget reasons usually keep me from swerving around too much on new album purchases, as in the whole album. But I did once buy a Triumphant CD, (maybe I got a deal on it; don’t remember!) and it was definitely based on reviews, probably yours.

    My iTunes purchases, on the other hands, are mostly influenced by reviews. If I get an irresistible urge to hear something off that new album people are raving about, I’ll typically come over here and look up the review. Then I’ll buy 1-3 songs which sound like something I’d like. (Sound clips would do it, but I guess I trust your reviews more! Also, I like getting in on what others are talking about.) I’ve done that with the Inspirations (2nd-to-last album), Kingdom Heirs, Triumphant, and probably others.

    • Brian reminds me that I did it with the Collingsworths too.

    • Amy, thanks for the feedback!

      So would it be fair to say, then, that level of excitement conveyed is the biggest factor that influenced your decisions to check out a few tracks here and there?

      • If you’d asked me, I might have said I didn’t know.

        But that is a fair analysis. I feel the need to stay “in the loop,” even without SG radio, and at least give non-Cathedrals heritage groups a chance to get my attention. (Speaking of them, you certainly have been the one to get me to check out Mark Trammell’s music.)

        Declaration never made it onto iTunes (did it?), and I still haven’t got the whole album. Maybe someday. But I certainly would have tried some songs if I could have, and the buzz was a big reason. I tried a couple of songs off the KH’s album after the mega review (and liked them, too!)

      • OK, thanks – that someone makes a purchase after a review is a great thing, but why is what I’m trying to discern today. πŸ™‚

        Trammell’s is a Cathedrals heritage group, too! πŸ™‚

        It looks like Declaration still isn’t on iTunes! (And I’m glad you liked the KH songs you tried.)

      • I couldn’t figure out why till you told me. πŸ˜›

        I meant, “speaking of Cathedrals heritage groups.” I think. Just didn’t make it clear. (You were doing so well with the mind-reading thing a few minutes before.)

      • Ah!

        And no, I don’t mind-read – I just guess. Some guesses are better than others. πŸ™‚

        (By the way, thanks for pitching in! Since I knew you had purchased at least a few individual songs after reading reviews, I was hoping you would pitch in!)

  6. Separately, as you may have noticed, reviews have absolutely no influence on my buying some projects. I’ve managed to abstain from reading the review or joining in the discussion on GV’s latest project, because I don’t want to cheat myself out of listening it to the first time and being surprised.

    • Yes – for practically anyone in our genre, because of the way the genre is set up, there are some groups whose CDs we will purchase no matter what the reviews say.

      • We know you don’t purchase the cds you review. You get them free. LOL I like to read reviews and then make a decision, so please keep them coming.

      • I get some free, but I purchase a good chunk of what I review (and probably at least half of the music that goes into my collection each year!)

  7. I purchase a CD because I am a fan of the group, not because of any review. I don’t read reviews.

  8. I guess i am in the “group loyalty” category more or less. I have the set groups that i like, that i usually will buy any new release that they come out with. Once in a great while , i will give another group of person a chance and purchase one outside of my faves, but sometimes its a mistake, other times, it was a good idea.
    So i guess i will read the reviews, but sometimes if its a group or person i don’t care for, i will just not even read the review.

  9. I’ll be honest, if not for some high ratings and great things to say about a couple of projects, I would have skipped over some things. The most recent with the Kingdom Heirs new album. Now, at some point in time I probably would’ve got my hands on a copy. But after the review, I felt the need to get it on Release Day. So listen, your method is tried and true. Nobody is going to agree with you on every aspect of a recording, and I wouldn’t expect that in my case too. People have different tastes, levels of creativity, pay attention to different things…

    • Thanks! Rarely would everyone agree on every aspect of a recording, but a good review will often give people an idea of if it’s something they want to aim for.

  10. Daniel: I agree I have done a lot of my buying on the groups I like.
    I can also say that if I find a really negative review I have to hear the whole albom before I will spend the cash.

    There are people in thee music industry (I am referring to Pop, and country.) That I love one album but won’t touch another because it’s not up to par.(not so much sogo)

    Yes a review can make or break a sale for me.

  11. Good question. No! Never. I do enjoy reading reviews about “my favorite artist” though. Just to see what your opinion is.

    The Martins new CD- I bought it yesterday and compared to their last ones it stinks as far as song selection goes. That is besides the two songs that have already been done by other Artist. Those two songs are GREAT. But, that’s my little opinion. I didn’t hear no songs like,

    “Out of His Great Love”
    “Wherever You Are”
    “Only God Knows”
    YES AND “THE PROMISE” now that was a song!!!!
    And more.

    But, let me say this “with every head bowed and every eye closed in closing” THE MARTINS CAN FLAT SING. They are and still is one of my favorite groups on the more progressive side of Southern Gospel genre. I am still a BIG FAN of the Martins.

    • Thanks! The review I read – on Friday Night Revival – raised the same point – that song selection wasn’t as strong on that one.

    • Are you listening to the same cd? I think that was a little harsh. Some cd’s take time to get used to.

      • The review that convinced me it wasn’t worth my time was this one: http://fridaynightrevival.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/the-martins-new-day/

        Feel free to make the case – say, in an open thread here – that the reviewer was wrong, and that the Gospel message is at the forefront and clearly expressed throughout. If you do it well enough, you might just convince me to listen for myself!

  12. At first glance, my response was no, I barely even read the reviews. I do however read the reviews of groups that I’m interested in following, skim over a few of the tier 1 groups, and skip the rest.
    Recently I was at a Gaither Homecoming however and walking in I saw Kevin Williams booth. I remembered that when you reviewed his Acoustic Sunday cd, I had said to myself that it sounded so good that sometime I was going to buy it. Soooo… I walked over and purchased the cd.
    I guess you could say that in a few instances it has influenced me.

    • Cool! I didn’t actually review that one myself – a guest contributor at the time, NewSoGoFan, wrote it.

      So what did you think of that CD once you’d purchased it? Did you like it as much as the review led you to think you might have?

      • Yes, actually I did.

        And sorry about forgetting the author of that post.

      • No problem.

    • I would say that you would faster discourage me from buying a cd with a poor review; than you could encourage me to buy a good cd with a raving review.

  13. CD reviews never have a sway on my purchases … mainly because I read so few reviews that I think do a Gospel project any justice. I have started to read reviews that pertain to the doctrine of the songs more so than the “sound” or musical correctness. I find those more to my liking or interest.

    I would like to see reviews include clips within the review. I think that would go further in helping someone choose if they wanted that project. (Past the loyalty of a group simply buying because of the group.)

    • The tricky part is that copyright laws pertain to sound clips; permission needs to be obtained first.

      • I thought there were exceptions within the law allowing the use of parts of a work for review purposes or some mumbo-jumbo like that. Or is that just for written work, or am I just mixed up? Cause sound clips really would be helpful sometimes.

      • There are fair-use excerpts for portions, but the length is what is in question – 15 seconds? 30 seconds? more? It can be tricky waters to navigate.

      • OK.

        What about linking to sites like Amazon or iTunes when clips are available?

        Not that it’s normally that big a deal, or that people can’t find them themselves, or that they’re available before or by the release date, when you’re working with a pre-release copy.

  14. I have to say that I nearly didn’t buy the Booth Brothers’ “Declaration” after reading last year’s mega-review, although at that time I had purchased just about everything else that they had to offer as a group. The Booths are my favorite SG group, bar none, but the review’s references to lush orchestrations and majestic backdrops, along with the almost reverential approach to Lari Goss’s production, convinced me that this particular project would not be my cup of tea, and some of the You-Tube videos I had seen did not make me inclined to change that decision. I finally bought the CD earlier this year at a BB concert, and while I still have some reservations concerning the production end (this CD has the distinction of being the only Booth Brothers release containing a song that I absolutely cannot stand), there was more than enough to love about the CD to make me regret waiting as long as I did to purchase it. So in the end, I learned a little lesson about allowing the opinions of others to influence my own CD-buying decisions. In the future, I might go ahead and read reviews on projects by acts to which I have no strong attachment, if only for the entertainment value, but for the artists that I truly admire, I’ll go ahead, buy the CD, and make my own decision as to its merits or lack of same. After all, if my favorite artists are really of the caliber that I think they are, the chances of every single song on a particular project being a dud really aren’t all that great, are they!

  15. Maybe hash out your ideas of the Traditional/Progressive rating system again…

    • Now THAT is a good idea. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • I think that’s an interesting concept. I can see why one may hesitate to use it: you don’t want to make it seem like it’s some kind of overriding factor for the quality of the music. I’ve actually thought about it for the past few CDs I’ve reviewed. Not putting it in my reviews themselves, but just thinking about where they would fall on the “scale”. Inspirations 9, Kingdom Heirs 8, Greater Vision 7, Kingsmen 6, KP&NR 3, with “10” being the Dixie Echoes, and “1” being I don’t know what, because I don’t usually get music from that arena. πŸ™‚

      • Whether right or wrong, many people base their “likes” on style and not on the music itself, or the lyric itself. So with that in mind, I think it would be helpful for many southern gospel fans to read specifically about groups or albums that represent their favorite style(s).

  16. I have favorite Southern Gospel groups and buy any release they have. This is the way they make a living and I support them any way I can. In fact, my husband and I will buy two CDs of any project and give one away.

  17. Okay, I have been reading the posts and as a reviewer (well kind of) I enjoy reading other peoples reviews. If a review is positive I will most likely purchase that album. If the review is more negative, for the most part however, if I like a group regardless of the review I will usually get the album; just so that I have it. Now that we are in the age of instant delivery and downloads. You can sample songs and only choose the ones you want; however that being said personally I prefer to have a physical copy of a CD. I enjoy reading reviews and hearing how other people interpret songs and albums. So do reviews turn me away from projects? Not really. Do they solidify my choice to purchase an album? Yes indeed they do.

  18. I read CD reviews mainly because I am interested in the opinions of others. I especially enjoy comparing my opinion of the CD with the reviewer’s after I buy the CD.

    I generally buy a project because I like the group or songs that i have heard. However, I have been influenced to buy a CD because of reviews,including yours, but I can’t think of any specific examples right now.

    • I’m with you there – I love going around to different reviews and comparing my opinion with others’!

  19. I tend to agree with the statement from Joe M: “I would say that you would faster discourage me from buying a cd with a poor review; than you could encourage me to buy a good cd with a raving review.”

    I used to be a group loyalist, but lately the product put out by many of my favorite groups has left something to be desired (I could expound upon that if a related thread were created). I am now quite interested in reading a review prior to making a purchase. A poor rating would easily discourage that purchase.

    All that said, I personally hope you continue to review CDs.