Sunday, March 28, 2010
Reviews and Expectations
First, I would like to thank all of those people who have joined as followers, and the many more who follow through the RSS feed. I did not realize there was as much interest in reviewing Audio Drama as there is. That gives me great hope for this form of plays, and bodes well for the future!
For a while now (usually after bad reviews) I get messages from creators, co-creators, and friends of the company/shows I've reviewed often times angry that I've given a review; sometimes questioning my own credentials to make such a review.
Frankly, these kinds of responses confuse me more than they strike a point with me.
I have not attempted to present myself as anything but an interested and enthusiastic listener of audio drama. I've listened to shows for decades and feel I have a good idea of what works and what does not. There are some audio drama companies out there I can say for certain do neither. They have little understanding of the scope of audio drama through the years, nor have they really considered exactly what works and what doesn't in an audio drama. So, making audio drama does not make you a specialist in good audio drama by default.
The argument seems to go however, that I have no right to review something when I have not seen how many hours go into the process of making the product.
Again, my confusion. Does one audio drama automatically sound better because it has taken longer to produce than another? I would argue that some people who struggle with the skills could take much longer than someone who is an expert at the field. There is no guarantee that length of time working on an audio drama makes it better.
Finally, people have asked me to take into account the inexperience of a company. What defines inexperience? Length of time in the field? Amount produced? I've heard companies that have been on and off making audio dramas for five years and have not improved their sound. And I've heard people who produce new shows only once in a blue moon but are excellent. So experience is a hard thing to judge. It requires an intimate knowledge of all the people behind the wheel, and not something I have the resources to do.
In the end, there is only one thing, and one thing alone I can judge- The Product.
If your final product misses the mark in one way or another, an honest reviewer must report it as so, and explain where and why it does so.
A good reviewer is not there to write, "The get a 100% for effort" because frankly they don't know how much effort went into the play, nor should they. Their job is to simply listen to the product with integrity and give their best critical response to that product.
I've discovered that there are all kinds of purposes and roles for audio drama. Here are some:
Those Who Make Audio Drama for the Fun of It- Best of luck to you. My reviews should not and will not matter. If audience development is not your goal then focus on having fun and ignoring reviewers.
Those Who Make Audio Drama for the Audience- Then this blog is of central importance to you. While I'm not in any way the definitive voice for audio drama listeners. I am a voice. There's not a lot of us out there (Thanks to Dex for making me aware of his site The Listening Post please go there and read) and every bit of critical feedback for you will help on your quest for a larger audience.
Those Who Make Audio Drama to Hone Their Skills- I hope this blog will provide you with some information and critical knowledge on how you can improve. You will have to be the judge of that in the end.
So, please, before you ask me to "take into consideration" something about a review remember that while I am interested in all kinds of background information, my job is to inform the listener as to the products of audio drama out there. If I don't give them an idea of what to expect when they listen, they have every right to call me out for not being honest enough. In the end, it is the product that matters. The good news is, I'll keep listening to new products that people send me, and if they are good, I'll post about them as such.
But getting good is not a final destination either. Even big names like Joss Whedon let some turds out once in a while. No one can strike gold with every shovel full. Good innovators will fail more often than they succeed, because they take chances. Blaming your audience for their honest feedback is like claiming the dog farted while eating at the table. Either you take your lumps and move on, or you ignore what is written and you go on.
The suggestion that I should stop bad reviews because it might drive people to stop making audio drama is something I simply will not own. Anyone who puts anything out for public consumption and thinks they will not receive any bad reviews for their work, no matter how beloved it is says far more about those producers of audio dramas, than the reviewers.
Whenever I write a review, I put myself in the perspective of someone who has never heard audio drama before or has a poor understanding of what's available. My writing is for the listener and not for the audio drama producer.
That being written, I have one last urging for that audio producer, writer, director, actor. Take what points I make that are true. Take what points you think are unwarranted and ignore them.
And keep writing. I do enjoy comments even negative ones. But as I've pointed out in earlier comments, for all those who think I need to be more positive, notice how many responses I've gotten to negative reviews, how few I've gotten to positive, and the complete absence of comments to those posts I make about the pieces that make good audio drama.
Maybe the proof is in the pudding itself and the expectations you set.