The Localist: An Empirical Indicator of a Tightening in Music Coverage?
Album Of the Year has a page that they publish every year as a part of their review analytics. AOTY specializes in tabulating numbers for records that have been reviewed by a limited set of outlets, much like Metacritic, except they appear not to use a special weighting rubric to adjust the ratings of various outlets (or at least they initially did not) and moreover their outlet selection is less independent-focused.
The page of interest is a yearly ranking of albums by review rating. The interesting fact about the page is that it provides the total number of records that AOTY tabulates, based on reviews coming from its select list of 19 outlets, which include Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, AllMusic and PopMatters. Here are some numbers:
2,244 albums received some numerical review in 2016. (1,648 for 2). LINK
2,010 albums received some numerical review in 2017. (1,482 for 2). LINK
1,839 albums received some numerical review in 2018. (1,439 for 2). LINK
These numbers are of note because this looks like a significant downward trend in coverage. Is this evidence of a “tightening” in the market? Not only is there an 18% reduction in the number of albums reviewed, based on these numbers. But the reduction most likely targets independent musicians the hardest.
Of course there are several possible explanations of the numbers. It’s possible, for instance, that AOTY is simply tabulating information for fewer records. But it’s worth examining what the explanation is. Because if it is an indication of an 18% reduction in diversity of records reviewed, that information should be on the radar of every independent musician in the business.
Incidentally, if 19 music publications only review 1,839 records a year, that only comes out to these outlets collectively reviewing about 35 records a week. Which is pretty pathetic. This list includes music from any genre.