May 17

An Empirical Indicator of the Tightening in Music Coverage?

Album Of the Year is a site that tabulates numbers for records that have been reviewed by a limited set of outlets, much like Metacritic, except they appear not to use a special weighting rubric to adjust the ratings of various outlets (or at least they initially did not) and moreover limit their outlet selection is less independent-focused.

I happened to catch a page called “Overall Ratings” which I hadn’t seen before, which inter alia, displays a ranking of all records reviewed by any of the select outlets by year. Of personal interest, St. Lenox record Ten Hymns comes in at #73 for 2016 and Ten Fables comes in at #281 for 2018. (Looking at records reviewed by two or more outlets, they come in at #48 and #258, respectively.

Of more broad interest, however, are the numbers indicating the total number of records that AOTY tabulated, based on reviews coming from its select 19 outlets, which includes Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, AllMusic and PopMatters.

2,244 albums received some numerical review in 2016. (1,648 for 2). LINK
2,010 albums received some numerical review in 2017. (1,482 for 2). LINK
1,839 albums received some numerical review in 2018. (1,439 for 2). LINK

This looks like a significant downward trend in coverage that may line up with some other things I’ve seen over the past few years. Is this evidence of the “tightening” in the market? Not only is there an 18% reduction in the number of albums reviewed, based on these numbers. But the reduction most likely targets independent musicians the hardest.

Of course there are several possible explanations of the numbers. It’s possible, for instance, that AOTY is simply tabulating information for fewer records. But it’s worth examining what the explanation is. Because if it is an indication of an 18% reduction in diversity of records reviewed, that information should be on the radar of every independent musician in the business.

Incidentally, if 19 music publications only review 1,839 records a year, that only comes out to these outlets collectively reviewing about 35 records a week. Which is pretty pathetic.