Reviewing products can be great for any blogger, no matter what your niche, but being a good reviewer is about more than simply ranting or raving about items in a blog post. Today, I have a special treat for everyone out there who publishes reviews or is interested in reviewing products in the future. Ken Pierce from PiercingMetal, who has been reviewing music and concerts for several years, recently sat down with me to share some great tips about writing reviews.
Allison: For people who may not know you, could you tell us a little about you and your site?
Ken: Sure, well in a nutshell I run the PiercingMetal.com website and its companion blog “PiercingMetal Musings.” The site was launched back in early 2005 as a means to present my voice and views on a wide variety of Hard Rock and Metal music releases and concert events. I’m a former Metal musician that still supports the scene and I wanted to become a positive voice for the good things that were out there.
The decision to launch PiercingMetal stemmed from my being a contributor to several other sites of note at the time and eventually realizing that I could do more for the genre by starting my own presence and working closely with those who I had come in contact with. The name is an obvious play on my last name and the music that is focused on and the readers seemed to take to it. With that and the support of many established press contacts in hand I was ready to run with the ball.
The site features more than just reviews of course and has a calendar that lists numerous “happenings” of interest, lots of live concert photos and as of 2007 a companion blog was introduced to our readership. I also try to help the releases that I review by adding in an Amazon.com code to each and every article. In 2012 the website celebrated its seventh year of being online and I admit that no matter how much there is to do, it’s still a lot of fun and a never ending learning experience that reaches a lot of Metal fans. I maintain numerous PiercingMetal focused social network accounts as well in order to broaden the reach of the brand name.
Allison: With music, personal taste definitely comes into play. It’s not like other items where you can judge a product based on whether or not it works. What are some of your tips for reviewing items like music when it’s so subjective? How do you make sure your review is fair?
Ken: As far as being fair, you just have to be honest about how the release hits you. Is it great? Then say so. Does it stink? Then say so but know that you MUST back up why this is the case in your eyes. Compare it against another work that firms up the viewpoint, otherwise your “voice” can be considered untrustworthy.
You will also most likely need to deal with this publicist on other artists that they are working. And while they might realize that not everything is gold that they send to you, if you lambast everything that they pitch, there is a chance that you go to the bottom of their resource list because you are not an objective or truly honest reviewer that they can count on. Periodically I like to say how I might prefer an older album by an artist as opposed to something new and hope for a return to a more reliable sound.
Another tip is to mind your article length. If something is out of this world you should be able to say it in no more than three decent paragraphs. Over the years I have seen three page thesis length reviews on things that the writer felt was crap and that makes my head spin. Maybe it’s me, but I know that I don’t want to read three pages about something that I should be avoiding at all costs.
Allison: I love that you do live event/concert reviews along with album reviews! Can you talk about your decision to include these types reviews on your site and some of the challenges of reviewing an event?
Ken: If you are just a regular fan who wants to blog about concerts, then the best advice is to be as detailed as possible for your readers in order to bring them into the show with you. Take some photos with your phone or snappy camera from afar (since EVERYONE does that these days) and just make them feel like they were there with you. I say to see the opening bands as well because you never know who you will end up enjoying. I always love telling people how I first heard of both Into Eternity and Unexpect as openers on other shows and how since that time each how band have become favorites of mine. You truly get to watch a band develop their career and music with that premise. It’s so exciting. Bring your reader the level of excitement you had for the show and if it was a disappointment then warn them about it.
Allison: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone interesting in starting to review items on their blog?
Ken: Nowadays (if you are aiming at being considered a “professional reviewer”) the geography of this has changed so much since I even launched the blog part of PiercingMetal.com, but I guess the best advice is to just do it and expect the unexpected.
For new bloggers who want to review I say that they should start with things that they are most passionate about and want to share with their readership. It cannot hurt for them to write reviews about music that they are purchasing and if they want to chance sending these reviews over to publicity for said artist then they should. Perhaps it will lead to their being added to a media service list and be included in the mailers about the latest batch of releases from a company If they say “no” for whatever reason that does NOT stop you from posting a review about something and sharing a link across Twitter and Facebook. There are so many official band pages out there nowadays and fans are actually interacting more with the talent than ever before.
It’s your blog so the floor is yours to share your views about stuff. Don’t be afraid of standing by your words if you are challenged about them, but in that regard you should be prepared for the consequences as well. I suggest leaving comments open but to not be afraid of trashing the ones that don’t speak to the topic and go on forever or get venomous for no reason. Try to be a positive and reliable resource to the best of your ability and don’t make promises that you cannot keep or walk around with a sense of entitlement about having the blog with a few reviews online. There are always bigger sites with more content it seems. Also, don’t start to do it and forget about it for three months as people will lose interest. As long as review content keeps flowing to your blog you will keep your readers educated and informed and your contacts happy.