I'm sure all of you have read the Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce, but if you haven't, I definitely recommend it.
This is part one of a handy translator guide for music fans, who wish to decipher some of the more confusing terms in music, and thus armed with the truth, can navigate the vast assortment of music available on the Internet and possibly avoid the waste of cash that was earned working a real job.
It's presented in dictionary form, that is to say in alphabetical order. This is the start of a series that will be done on a casual schedule.
Devil's Dictionary For Music: Part 1
Classic: this is the generic industry term for any album that's demonstrated the ability to generate sales over a long period of time. Generally at least one year.
It is generally safe for the consumer to assume that any album that's called a classic by at least two different media sources or in at least one book that isn't ghostwritten for the artist is probably a classic in modern terms.
Critic: everybody is a critic, but in industry terms, it's a person who has some sort of media outlet for their opinions on music, and are considered a lower priority for payola and special access to the artist than radio program directors and the few music DJs that have any choice on what they play on their show.
Critics are considered necessary by the media because music fans find reviews entertaining, and thus a service that needs to be provided.
The music industry likes critics because it has been scientifically proven that a review has absolutely no influence on what the average consumer thinks, and thus can't hurt sales, and the reviews often provide excellent quotes for press releases.
What causes some people to quote critics is a psychological disorder that still isn't understood, and research in the area has been sparse and underfunded.
Some researchers feel that musical opinion is similar to politics, where large numbers of people let others do the thinking for them.
The average listener can safely assume that if the critic says things about their favorite artist they agree with, it's a good review.
A bad review on a record is generally a signal to the industry by the media outlet that they haven't bought enough advertising.
Cult Artist: this is generally a label applied to any musician who has a small but dedicated following who feel that the artist creates works of genius (see genius), fits a niche taste, or is considered legendary (see Legendary), or is considered unjustly ignored by the general public by publicity firms.
For the average listener, it's safe to assume that if being a fan of a cult artist makes you feel cooler, hipper, beautiful, or more discerning than the general public, then it's a true cult artist.
Genius: this was generally a term used to describe an artist who created music that made all the other artists feel like they made stupid or inferior music, or created a desire to emulate that genius.
The word is undergone several changes and meaning over the decades, so in the modern era it's difficult to define the word.
In music industry terms it's applied to a very small percentage of artists, a maximum of 99%. The term is sort of treated like a medal, in this case, awarded if the artist has done something exceptional, like actually generating a profit for the label.
The average Music consumer can safely assume that any artist that's considered a genius is generally is a signed artist with a good publicity agent, though due to modern recording technology, it shouldn't be construed as a term for someone who can competently perform music.
Legendary: this is actually a complex term, but if read in a publication, it's it's word applied to only a very special percentage of artists, possibly no more than 95%.
In real-world terms, it's generally applied to an artist who's had perhaps at least two hits, shown career endurance of at least three years, or is a cult artist (see cult artist).
For the average music listener, it's generally safe to ignore the term when evaluating an artist.
Special Edition: in music industry terms, this generally means a release that's been augmented with demos, previously unavailable live performances, versions of the song that sucked for some reason, or half-assed B sides
of singles to create a more expensive version of the album that the label assumes will be bought by the most dedicated fans of a particular artist.
It is safe to assume that this is merely the replacement for the 70s-80s era double album which generally only contained a single album's worth of worthwhile music. It generally signaled the peak of a particular artist's earning power, and was simply a form of profit-taking while the iron was still hot.
Author's Note: in the next installment, I'll provide accurate translation for common musical phrases.