Discerning consumers who care about music and have good ears should be the bedrock of the music business, but many of them have given up on new artists because they can’t find reliable critics to guide them. Record labels, for their part, need frank, knowledgeable feedback from critics — both to keep them honest and hold them accountable — but such input is in short supply and veering towards extinction.
The same, I feel, goes with most any creative endeavor that has a strongly commercial component to it. I've bottled and saved a good deal of my venom for the way book criticism has become a highly degenerate practice, not least of all because of the way authors themselves are being recruited to be a part of the business by way of book blurbs.
I've received a little flack from some folks for singling this out, because — or so goes the rationalization — authors need all the help they can get, andhaving a "name" author on the cover of your book is one of the best ways to do that. I'd argue it's not, that more often than not it just smacks of cynicism (many authors, even quite accomplished ones, have awful taste), and because it puts the author providing the blurb in the awkward position of having to say unconditionally good things about something else, not just once but many times.
I don't believe this is fair or honest to anyone on either side of the equation. If I write a review of something, and someone wants to chomp out a phrase from that and use it somewhere, fine. They misquote me at their own risk. But this business of supplying what amounts to a premanufactured bit of ad copy, out of some misguided sense that mutual backscratching is okay even when it comes at the cost of debasing and vulgarizing the very standards of the craft — sorry, no.
Good critical writing is hard enough to come by, in big part because people rarely know where to look to get good examples of it (side note: I plan on whomping together a list). But ultimately, criticism that goes unread or unacknowledged is wasted. Everything that makes it more difficult to get people to take heed of such work, to take such work seriously, to use it as part of the reading equipment they possess, is detrimental to the art that it is a companion to.