Open letter about “negative” reviews

16 Responses

  1. Being a local musician I’ve had more than enough negative things said about my music, actually the exact scenario described in the full post where someone who wrote for and The Minnesota Daily gave me a negative live review and compared me to Owl City because of the wardrobe I had on that night rather than the music.

    You know what I did? Laughed it off on facebook and then was interviewed by the same person for a feature in a few weeks later.

    There isn’t anybody out there that is reading and city pages agreeing with everything they have to say that you should even want as a fan. I know I sure as hell don’t want to “make it” as a musician some day simply because a site like pitchfork gave me a good review and the high schoolers followed.
    The reason I think press is important is to give the people who will genuinely like what you do/ probably never hear about you any other way a chance to know you exist.

    I think this person is taking negative press as a personal insult, and then taking it way to far. When I sent out press submissions for the first time with my Rain War EP one of the most exciting things about it was the possibility that there could be a negative review and knowing that any positive reviews were a reflection of an honest opinion.

    I have bitched and bitched again many times about the music in this city, but never about any negative opinions of local bands. My problem with a lot of the press in this city is the lack of, NOT negative coverage of most of the more obscure stuff happening when a lot of times it seems like the thing most relevant to the rest of the world . I even e-mailed the owner of moon glyph saying that I thought his artists made up MOST of any chance Minneapolis has of becoming nationally recognized for something that isnt 15 years old (besides the hip hop scene). But those bands still get coverage from City Pages and along with the folk/hard rock stuff, and people still support them.

    Bottom line is musicians are trying to make a living doing what they do and it doesnt do any of them any good to get nothing but positive reviews of their music in the local scene.

  2. La La Land says:

    The writer being responded to wants to go to L.A… What a fantasy to think that Los Angeles is going to be this all inclusive loveable songwriting scene, where dreams come true and everything is positive and sunny (mmmm the beach)

    Someone needs a reality check. Good luck anyway Ari!

  3. Domino says:

    Music, art and everything in between is obviously all subjective. Any artist who works hard at their craft and truly believes in its power (which I would assume is every artist) has the right to take a negative opinion personally. However, it can certainly be detrimental to look much further into those things. Bottom line is: your art isn’t going to touch everyone, and people with negative opinions tend to speak louder than those without. While I can’t entirely agree with Ari’s observation – I will say that Mpls music critics appear to be fairly short sighted. But then again, so is Pitchfork. As much as I love Minneapolis, fortunately I have very little vested in this city or those who inhabit it. I live here because I’m not distracted, it’s inexpensive and therefore I am able to be incredibly productive. My sights are set elsewhere. Good luck in LA Ari, and thank you Reviler for getting me to come out of my shell!

  4. Ari says:

    Hey Josh, thanks for taking notice. I think ya’ll are missing my point. I encourage you read my full blog post (not just the comments reposted here). Dear La La Land 🙂 … I say: “I’m leaving Minneapolis. I have sought out a supportive and talented singer/songwriter community in Los Angeles where I will go to write, record and challenge myself to become great. Of course there will be adversity there as well, but it’s a big enough sea to not get ruined by sporadic drops of oil like our little lake here has.”

    This isn’t about getting negative reviews. Like I mentioned I took more offense to the reviews that were not written about me but by other very talented bands where the reviewers discussed the culture surrounding the music and not the music itself and that these reviewers have a hard time discussing the music – making musical, factual errors.. because they, themselves are not musicians and don’t seem to have a good ear. And it’s not just about the music reviewers. That’s a small part of the entirety of the problem.

    But again, everyone gets bad reviews. I don’t care about getting them. I welcome them. This is about a switch in the scene that I (and many many other local musicians – many of whom are on my farewell bill on the 12th at the Varsity) have noticed over the last few years. Negativity in our tiny community. I love the Minneapolis music scene dearly and I’m deeply saddened that this negative switch has occurred.

    But again, because you are talking about me, I suppose I should defend my stance. I am not leaving because I got bad reviews. They don’t bother me. I really and truly am leaving to challenge myself with a new pool of writers and performers. I am going to LA not to become famous and of course I realize there will be tons of negativity, but the collective 5 weeks I’ve spent already I have found only support from many incredible singer/songwriters and other musicians. This is a personal decision. It’s not an f u to Minneapolis. I wrote this note because I wanted to get the conversation started because I love Minneapolis and hope it returns to its supportive community like before and… I really have nothing to lose locally because I’m leaving. Many (respected) local artists have expressed to me their gratitude for my sincerity, candor and balls for articulating what everyone was thinking.

    peace and love

  5. Josh says:

    Yeah, just to be clear, this isn’t/wasn’t an indictment on Ari whatsoever. I honestly believe him that many artists feel this way and would rather have a conversation why I (and possibly others) disagree with him than have people take stabs at him. I genuinely appreciate him starting the conversation because it is something I have wanted to see what others thought about it for a while.

  6. jonbehm says:

    I think Ari’s experience is one thing, while perhaps the bigger issue is another. If Ari got some bad reviews that were more based on personal attacks than anything musical, that is just plain wrong. I do, however, think that one of the downsides of our “Minnesota Nice” mentality here is that we tend to take any criticism, constructive or no, personally.

    That being said I was extremely surprised to read Ari’s post because my opinion has been for awhile that most mainstream media in these Cities are hesitant to truly be critical about anything local. If I were a musician here I think I would be more eager for constructive feedback, since getting honest to goodness opinions here sometimes seems like breaking some sort of cultural taboo.

  7. Ari,
    I see what you mean about the negative reviews regarding culture rather than music and I completely agree that is a huge problem.

    I think something that is good (and bad) about minneapolis is that since it is so isolated and also so involved in its local music you see stuff that normally happens on a much larger scale happening in a single city.

    I def think a lot of the listeners and press have played into clicks, but I think that is more so a result of bands forming clicks first.

    I mean for an example of the exact opposite of how you see things going:

    I moved here just over two years ago. Released my first record in January of 09 before I’d ever played live. Made 2 albums that nobody took notice of, and the biggest shows I played were at my house. Then recorded 2 records in october of that year and for the first time had a friend of mine who had experience with it send out some press copies. Based on some press from the first record I got more press then I could have ever hoped for in the cities for the second one a few months later.

    I live in St Paul, cant afford to go see other local bands unless I am playing with them, and the list of other bands I am friends with could be counted on a single hand. I hangout with one person who lives in Minneapolis, very rarely and other than that I pretty much hang out at my house every night with my wife and work on music 12 hrs a day. If there is a click in the cities for the music I make, I am sure as hell not a part of it or even really much aware of it, but the people that liked the record still wrote nice things about it which helped me out an insane amount in making people aware of my stuff.

    To be honest the thing I disagree with you the most on is that the “Young” people are the problem. I think the BIGGEST problem with the cities music scene by far is the death grip everybody has on anything since 1950 that has made minneapolis musically relevant to the world.

    This is something I think about a lot having not grown up here. If something is going on the with Jayhawks then everybody in the city is up in a fuss. Thats cool and all, but then you also see all of these young kids acting like they are excited as well to appear deeply connected to the scenes history.
    I myself listened to the Jayhawks for the first time recently and having heard it would never consider listening to it ever again, in my entire life.
    Yet the appeal for young kids to appear aware of the past has a bunch of 20-28 yr olds freaking out over something I think my mother would enjoy, and that is saying something.

    Yet recently on this site actually a video was posted for a band coral legs that i happen to play with just before that. As i was watching them and having my mind blown, having never heard of them my first thought was “wow this is the kind of amazing shit that nobody will ever write about”

    I guess what I don’t really understand about your post is how you feel like the old music scene is being shunned or something. I think it is the exact opposite.

    Are you aware of how much absolutely incredible noise bands there are here in the twin cities? I guarantee i’m not even aware of 90% of them, and the last place i’m about to find out about all of these amazing projects is City Pages or That doesn’t mean that I dislike City Pages or they have both been very kind to me, supported my music, and have written about a lot more diverse stuff as of recently in my opinion.

    I just know that old ladys read City Pages while they are waiting in a hair salon around here, just like young kids read it. It doesn’t make sense for city pages to write about noise music for their readers regardless of how much I wish they did just so i’d be aware of it.

    I’m sorry dude i mean no disrespect to you and I hope so much that your career continues to prosper and you can afford to live and eat and play music. I understand your frustration with the idea of people giving bad reviews to local talent that may not be justified, because I also know the other side of the tracks that writers probably don’t see which is being a local musician and having to read some negative twitter post about you sucking after youve been starving all day because you cant afford food and you’ve spent all of your money making an album. Thats some shitty stuff but it’s just life man and you have to accept it.

    I personally just feel like I am on the otherside of the age line in this topic because if it wasnt for young people who saw me live and liked it, and also happen to work at City Pages,, The Minnesota Daily, and The Current I probably wouldn’t have gotten a single letter of press/radio play from any of them.

    Sometimes music scenes change because music changes, and in a world where everyone is afraid of phonies, clicks and trends are going to be brought into it. Just stay true to what your doing and hope others do the same and concern yourself with the people that like what you do. The ones who dislike it may be jerks to you but they also may be giving someone like me a chance to have my music be heard. There is always two sides to these things.

  8. I also wanted to add when I said I disliked the Jayhawks that was just my own personal opinion and I think appreciating the history of your music scene is extremely important. Having come from Detroit, I still lived there when they demolished the motown museum simply because it wasn’t profitable.

    The point I was really trying to make was it seemed as if Ari felt like the “old” music scene here was getting pushed to the side in favor of the “coolness” of new hip bands and I have seen the exact opposite of that effect since moving here.

    I guess it almost feels to me like this “over-connection” to the past creates a mindset that Minneapolis is known for folk/alternative rock music and should continue to be known for such. Sometimes it seems like a lot of people around here given a choice between the world recognizing “Velvet Davenport” and the world recognizing “Peter Wolf Crier” would much prefer “Peter Wolf Crier” being seen as the modern face of Minneapolis.

    You see examples of it all the time, though Velvet Davenport has been touring for a while now and has gotten a great amount of national recognition, when “Peter Wolf Crier” announced their first tour City Pages wrote on Gimme Noise “Go Boys Go!”

    This city has the makeup to be probably the greatest music city in this country, given its amazing amount of support for local musicians. But if this music scene is going to flourish beyond its own borders the old view that Minneapolis should be known as a folk hotbed takes it further and further away from relevance in the modern music world. And while nobody should be pushing anything simply because it is more relevant in current music fads, It is starting to seem like aside from the few online press outlets who do cover the really amazing “out there” stuff happening, national press from other parts of the country are better at recognizing the true potential Minneapolis has in bands like Velvet Davenport, than our own music publications.

  9. Matt Linden says:

    Dada, I stopped reading after you said you disliked The Jayhawks, just kidding. But let me put my two cents in: I’m 22 years old – far younger than the average “listener” of bands like the ‘mats and the jayhawks and soul asylum – yet when I was at the three night show at First Ave for the Jayhawks reunion shows I probably knew more of the old material than all the old fogies around me. Granted, I have been listening to that band nearly my entire life because of my parents’ personal taste, but what I want to point out is your claim that the younger crowd is latching on to these “older” bands like they are gaining hipster cred for doing so – because that is certainly not the case for me, even though you may of thought that had you seen me at the show (my bro with with me as well and at 19 he was probably the youngest person in the audience). I think it certainly depends on who you are talking about. For instance, The Current ran a poll the weekend of the fourth the vote in the local artist that they would feature all weekend – those included The Jayhawks, The Mats, Soul Asylum, some others and Atmosphere. Atmosphere won by a landslide and I think that is a testament to what the young, internet savy listeners are digging in our local scene.

    I’m also just out of college and was well aware of the “new” acts in the Twin Cities scene that were attracting a ton of buzz. None more so than Solid Gold, who are neither folk or alternative rock. Peter Wolf Crier, yes. Solid Gold, no. Solid Gold, I believe, is a also testament to what can be popular in our ‘modern’ Twin Cities scene. And although I do believe you stress a little too much about what the City Pages is doing. They are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, indie publication in the Twin Cities save for They are going to have to, as you mentioned, cater to both younger and older crowds. But by the same token, they featured Lookbook on the cover – they have nothing to do with folk and I think they are a part of a larger scene that is growing in the Twin Cities: electronic. I mean even at my private college we had a small hotbed of people that were well aware of smaller local talent that you are eluding to. CLAPS was based out of my school – they are not exactly the ‘norm’ Twin Cities musicians for sure. I just think that if you aren’t folk-based or alternative rock than you cannot make it in our city – or at least it will take you some time to get noticed. I just can’t, or don’t want to, believe that.

    ***I don’t really want to get into the negative review discussion – just wanted to talk about the scene in general. I think that argument is wack! To put it blunty: how will you, if no one ever gives you a negative review or constructive criticism, know when the hell your art sounds like shit? When I write a piece I want to know if it is garbage so I can make the necessary changes later. I think you may have said this, but sometimes I’d rather have three negatives than one positive. We both feel the same about this.

    That being said, I love your band, man. You are doing great things and I hope you don’t feel the need to leave the 10k lakes for La La Land. I think you starting and engaging in this conversation as a local musician is very important and more should be taking note. I really don’t see how you, as a electronic-based musician, should feel alienated in our cities. I hope you feel that Reviler is doing some of these smaller groups justice as well.


  10. Adam Bubolz says:

    Now if only our local press would stop reporting on Prince’s every move like it was something important. Dude hasn’t been relevant in a long long time.

  11. Matt Linden says:

    Prince died in 1999.

  12. In response to Matt Linden.

    First of thanks A TON for saying nice things about the music, it really means so much!

    I really agree with almost everything you said. I tried to hint at your points slightly when I said in my opinion more recently publications like City Pages and have been writing about some of the more varied things going on, claps is def a good example of that. I can’t say much about solid gold because i havent really heard much from them yet.

    Most of what i said was in response to Ari who from what I have read seems to come from a more old school idea of what the music scene here in the cities should be. A lot of his comments to me came off as a resistance to change from an older culture which can really really stall progress if people of that mindset are in a position to dictate what others are exposed to.
    It seemed almost like he was bashing young music reviewers for taking a more negative approach to things, while he himself was also ignoring the positives of changes in the music scene and focusing only on the negatives.
    Like I said while a young music reviewer may be critical of his style of music because it isn’t hip to them, that same person could have been the first writer to ever take notice of what I am doing, or claps, or coral legs, or vacation dad.

    When Scott Colburn was here in Minneapolis for the Zola Jesus tour we did together he was telling me that during the recording session for Neon Bible at one point he was talking to win butler and said:

    “You are an amazing songwriter, but one thing you need to be aware of is that your band is not going to last forever”

    At this point in time it seems slightly ridiculous the idea of someone telling Win Butler that Arcade Fire isn’t always going to be the biggest thing in the world but there is no denying in the long run it is the truth.
    Thats why i love people like David Byrne who constantly seem to try and adapt to a more modern way of thinking and praise bands like Arcade Fire and The Dirty Projectors. I think Ari just needs to understand that if he doesn’t adapt to change he will inevitably lose relevance and feel the way he does now as things progress in the way they rightfully should.

    In his original post he made a comment about how he doesn’t understand why he can play locally and bring out 300-400 people and then have these young writers bash him or not appreciate what he is doing. That seems really backwards to me.

    Is it a tragedy that if would praise what he does he could increase that audience to 500 people?
    The tragedy to me would be the young band playing down the street from him that night to 20 people that could have written about in that scenario.

    on the subject of the Jayhawks thing i should have made my comment more hypothetical because i really dont think that young people who are interested in stuff like that are doing it to be hip, that was the wrong way to say it. Music like that needs to be remembered as a moment in time, something worth appreciating in a historic sense, NOT a model of the way things should be done now. The world has changed, and will continue to as it should. I just think people like Ari need to accept that they had their moment in time. It was good while it lasted, and will always be important to the people that were there, or discovered it later.

    However if his hopes are to stay relevant to a modern music scene then the responsibility is completely on him to adapt to change. Otherwise he should be grateful for the 300-400 people coming out to his shows and accept the idea that it could be the peak of his accomplishments here without broadening his horizons.
    Why he feels like that does him injustice, i don’t really understand.

    Maybe him moving to LA is his way of progressing and searching out new opportunities for improvement. If so then I support him 100%. But if it is his attempt to re-create something he had and felt years ago then I personally think he would be better of putting his efforts into building the first means of time travel rather than re-locating himself.
    In the end everybody just needs to do what makes them happy I guess.

  13. Ari says:

    This will be my last comment as you all are doing a great job. To Dada Trash College. “Young” was not meant in a negative way. Just stating facts. I’m “young” too… I’m newly 25. Maybe that’s not young anymore. But I have nothing against young artists/writers. I know who the reviewers are and they are relatively young: 22-27.

    In addition, I promise you I’m not against change. On the contrary if you look at my music over the past 5 years you’ll see a tremendous amount of it. I respect artists who can move with the times. I don’t have an “old school” mentality of what the scene should be… all I’m saying is that 3 years ago I felt an incredible amount of support and love from fellow musicians and music lovers alike. I love that our scene is incredibly diverse – I welcome the diversity and musical change. Believe me, I know I never have been and probably never will be the defining sound of Minneapolis. Minneapolis doesn’t have a sound despite what Vita.Mn, The Current or the City Pages might want you to think. And to get the record straight – my love for Minneapolis music began 5 years ago… not 15, 20 or 30. My top 10 Minneapolis bands do not contain The Replacements, Prince, Husker Du, Soul Asylum or the Jayhawks – I respect them all but there is so much more Mpls music that I love.. truly. Love to the point of sitting in a room on a weekend night with others actively listening to local albums that came out in the last couple years. Love to the point of attending every possible concert that they play around town (or out of town if I’m in that area) and rocking out front row.

    Everyone here is great. Thanks for keeping this respectful conversation going. Thanks Josh for your initial comments. And thanks to the other musicians creating great music. Dada Trash College – good stuff man! seriously. I’m gonna try to make it to your Aug 7th KCK show.

    Shameless plug:

    Aug 12 – Varsity Theater – All Ages
    “Last Kiss, MPLS”
    Ari Herstand and Friends
    ReadyGoes, White Light Riot, Roster McCabe, The Alarmists, Gabriel Douglas, Joey Ryan, Sarah Winters (and other special guests)

  14. Matt Linden says:

    ^^^Truth. It means a lot that you can stand up for this city and this scene and articulate it as you see it. Relocation will not solve Ari’s problem but I wish him the best of luck on his progressive journey. I love your anecdote about Win Bulter, too. Although I think they will be around longer than people expect. I could see them building a discography that rivals Radiohead. Dada, I’m a fan. Thank you. See you at the Nomad.

    “This is for everyone around the planet
    That wishes they were from somewhere other than where they standin’
    Don’t take it for granted, instead take a look around
    Quit complaining and build something on that ground
    Plant something on that ground, dance and sleep on that ground
    Get on your hands and knees and watch the ants walk around that ground Make a family, make magic, make a mess
    Take the stress, feel your motivation and build your nest
    It sucks that you think where I’m from is wack
    But as long as that’s enough to keep your ass from coming back”
    – Atmosphere

  15. Hey Ari,
    I def probably made a lot of false assumptions about your situation and i’m sorry about that. The comments I made were made up of things I myself have been thinking for a while based on previous situations i’ve seen. I didn’t mean to lump you in with anything you aren’t a part of, i guess it’s the dangers of the way things can be interpreted so false over a medium like the internet.

    I think what may have led me astray is you speaking about things in a fashion of “the way it used to be” and I ran with it.
    It just seems like so much of the time when people discuss the twin cities music scene it all revolves around the history of it rather than what is happening right now when so much of what is happening right now has an opportunity to grow and prosper outside of minnesota.

    I think a lot of the stuff that you find frustrating is just a part of a necessary process. I think while the love and support from people that you are talking about is important, it also is dangerous if it’s without balance.
    The reason i don’t mind some of these new reviewers saying the negative things that they do is because I think they are starting to hold local bands to the same standards as some of their favorite national acts and that says a lot about the talent here. I guess just try and think about your exact situation as the very best outcome.
    While minneapolis is a great place to live due to the huge amount of support for local musicians, it is also a terrible place to live for musicians who hope to take their music to a national level, and I think a lot of that has to do with the flaws in the kind of support you are striving for.

    If I was in a band like the Red Pens and every time I had a show the biggest printed music publication in town wrote about it why would I want to go play a show to 3 people in New Jersey on tour? That has nothing to do with the Red Pens as a band or people but its just an easy example because they get an incredible amount of press around here.

    If you move to LA and love the songwriting community you are a part of, it forces you to improve as a musician, and some day you prosper beyond anything imaginable to you right now then who in actuality helped you accomplish that? The people who have loved and supported you all these years or the prick at who pissed you off enough to force part of you to make that change.

    I just really hope you continue to stay positive and take what you can from criticism. You seem like a very passionate hard working dude who is also talented and I think that with qualities like that letting negativity get you down is the only thing that can stop you from your full potential.

    Thanks for saying nice things about my music and it’d be great to meet you in person at the show, if you come out bring one of your cds i’d like to hear it.

  16. Concerned Resident says:

    Mark Mallman’s ‘Minneapolis’ is currently (ah!) being played on The Current. Patches & Gretchen are featured on Channel 2. The New Standards… really?

    It seems that this article’s points are going unnoticed (probably like many talented musicians), and the ‘Who Knows Who’ scene in the Twin Cities chugs on to its own detriment. As a result of this incest, the quality of local music here has reached an all time low (until next year).

    Look at the local section of The Current’s blog. Every review is fucking glowing.
    I don’t even need to hear the music to feel its orgasmic nature. I do find it strange however that they can play The Roots next to Atmosphere and nobody seems to bat an eyelash.
    Hey, it’s an auto-hit here if you record at Pachyderm Studios. Did you know that Nirvana & P.J. Harvey recorded there??

    It would be laughable if it wasn’t so wrong.

    Surely I can’t be the only one noticing that these wannabe ‘artists’ can’t sing for shit?

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