So you didn't like our album review?

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    ChrisWow.  SoulTracks has been in the middle of a mild firestorm of controversy lately and that is something we're not used to.  We've been working hard for over 6 years now to support the growth of quality soul music and the artists behind it.  It has worked wonderfully for us, as SoulTracks has become the most popular soul music website in the US and the soul music movement has made significant strides, even as the music business as a whole is troubled.  But with our growth and increase i
    Chrisn profile has come a pressure from some artists and record companies to make sure we cover them and their music, always in a favorable way.  We've continuously increased the number of reviews we write, now totaling between 15-20 new music reviews every month.  But lately we've been getting hit with some surprisingly vocal disapproval from some because we don't give every album a glowing review, with more than one saying that any criticism we may give regarding an album makes us "haters" who are "hurting the cause."

    Let's start by telling you what our mission is:  To advance the cause of soul music around the world and to expose readers to both major label and independent artists who are deserving of praise - many of whom would never receive the exposure they deserve without SoulTracks.  In order to do that, we owe an obligation to our readers to always be honest.  No artist can "buy" a good review from us; they have to earn it with their music. 

    Michael GipsonBut it is also important to know that any review we post is just the opinion of one person, and that person may or may not agree with what you think of the album.  In fact, we post many reviews that our music editor Michael Gipson and I don't agree with (we even disagree often on each other's reviews).  As an example, my favorite album of 2008 was one that our reviewer thought was mediocre and said so.  Any review we post expresses a very personal view of the reviewer and it isn't the Gospel on the merit of an album; it is simply a conversation starter about a disc that we felt was worthy of having a conversation about - even if our reviewer didn't love it.  We try not to write about albums that have no merit whatsoever, but if an album has something to recommend, even if it isn't fabulous, we feel it is worth bringing it to your attention, warts and all.  As long as a review is honest and intelligent and doesn't personally insult the artist, it is fair game.  We feel we owe that honesty to our readers, who can make up their own minds about the album (to make sure of that, we typically provide a link to a place where the readers can hear the album for themselves).  And we're all growing as people and writers, so we may just be dead wrong about an album.

    Those who feel our readers are robots who follow everything we say are insulting the intelligence of SoulTrackers.   Our readers are passionate and opinionated, and don't hesitate to tell us when they feel we're wrong.  They sure did last year, when they made an album that our writer only "mildly recommended" the most popular album of the year on our charts and in our annual awards.  And they did it again this month with the #1 album, a disc that I liked but didn't love.  Most artists cherish the thoughtfulness we give to our reviews, and countless artists have told us that they appreciated even a fairly critical review, because it allowed our audience to hear about them and made them work all the harder on their next album.

    The last point we want to make is about advertisements.  SoulTracks has been an amazing resource that has never charged our readers for our content, even as we continue to add new features.  In order to run the site and pay our writers, we accept advertisements from artists and record companies.  Our rule is that we only accept advertisements from artists with artistic merit and who do not promote things like violence and hate.  But simply because an artist purchases an advertisement doesn't change one bit our review, as we've shown in many so-so reviews of talented artists who have advertised with us but who our writer felt did not deliver a killer album.  Again, our loyalty is to our readers and to our editorial integrity.

    So, in the end, the point I wanted to make with this note was to remind folks that SoulTracks is not a fan page or simply the mouthpiece of any artist or record company.  It is an honest resource for soul music lovers. We are like our readers: opinionated, intelligent and most of all passionate about soul music and the important role it plays in our lives.  And we're also imperfect, making mistakes and growing as we go along. Thanks for going with us on this journey.

    We'd like to hear your thoughts on this.  Comment below and let us know your opinion.

    Chris Rizik

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