Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The value of concert reviews

This is an updated version of a post which first appeared as Read all about it! in December 2007

I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the world, but here in the UK it’s notoriously difficult to get any kind of review of a concert in the press — local or national.


Newspapers by Ian Britton from

When I approach the local papers, they tell me that they won’t review any concert that’s not on for at least five days. How are we to get reviews for our concerts?

I can see their point I guess if you think that the only point of a review is to attract more punters to come to shows. With that view, there’s no point in printing a review if, by the time it’s printed, the show has finished its run.

But aren’t reviews more than that? I enjoy reading reviews in my daily paper (The Guardian) which has national coverage. I regularly read reviews of theatre, pop concerts, opera, classical concerts, etc. in places far from where I live to which I am very unlikely to go. Or I’ve missed the show any way. It keeps me in touch with what’s going on, even if I never get to see the live show.

For the reader, a review can:

  • stimulate new ideas;
  • introduce me to new critical language;
  • bring a new artist to my attention;
  • make a connection with other things that I might otherwise not have made;
  • by making comparisons, introduce me to a new book/ film/ piece of music/ artist that I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of;
  • remind me of an act that I’ve not seen for some time (so I dig out their CD)
  • bring a venue to my attention that puts on interesting work.

I’m sure there are 101 other things I get from reviews, but way, way down the list is an urge to go and see the show.

Most reviews these days (of any medium) are basically of the star-rating type: does the reviewer think it’s worth your while to go and see it? There doesn’t seem to be any space for more critical, analytical reviews of the arts if a show is on for one night only – except, of course, if the director/ conductor/ performer is suitably famous. And reviews in the local papers tend to be simple descriptions of what happened and what the costumes were like.

But I still would like a review!

For the performer(s), reviews can:

  • be good publicity (even if they review is bad!);
  • present an objective view of what you’re offering (sometimes you can be too close to the material);
  • unearth some good quotes or descriptive language that can help describe your work;
  • help to validate what you do (you hope the audience will enjoy the concert, but until the performance, you won’t know for sure);
  • give feedback as to how you can improve and develop the work;
  • build confidence (yes, you are that good!);
  • remind you why you put up with all those really difficult rehearsals.

So reviews are a good thing, but how on earth do we get them??!!

In short, I have no idea.

I think a lot depends on your particular local newspaper and its circumstances, the status of your choir, the kind of music you perform, whether you have personal connections with journalists, and if you are on a prolonged tour.

I don’t think there are any easy answers, but I’d love to hear any hints that you might have.

What are your experiences with the local press where you are? Can you get your concerts reviewed easily? Do you find some kinds of concert get reviewed more easily than others? Do drop by and leave a comment, I’d love to hear your ideas.

This is my last post before Christmas, so I’d like to wish all you loyal readers a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.


Chris Rowbury's website:


Chris Rowbury


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