Michaelangelo Matos linked to this interesting conversation on music criticism in Twittering times. The piece begins:
One of the unfortunate side effects of the lack of critic culture: people are getting more stratified and separated in their listening habits. If you—if you read Spin or Rolling Stone in ‘96, you’d get an article on Nine Inch Nails, an article on Chemical Brothers, an article on Snoop Dogg—and, you know, the internet doesn’t work that way. If you’re into rap, you go to rap twitters. If you go into metal, you go to metal twitters. You know, bands build audiences for themselves! You just follow the bands you like. You don’t have to—you don’t stumble across this stuff, and that’s a problem! It’s harder to get exposed to things that aren’t in your comfort zone. I have friends that are so deep into indie rock that they don’t know what the fuck Katy Perry is, or Lady Gaga, and these are, like, the most ubiquitous songs in the country!
An interesting, logical observation that a check of anyone's iPod says isn't true. Listeners may read more or follow one genre more than others, but festivals and iTunes libraries say listeners aren't that stratified, and neither are critics. The second half of that, though - critics vs. the mainstream, if I read it correctly - there's something in that, but that's a tension that has likely existed since the dawn of modern music criticism.
... and there's a lot to think about in this post, more than I've excerpted.