A Closer Listen doubled its readership in its third year, passing one million hits and accumulating 5000 Twitter followers. To date, we’ve also received three million pieces of spam. We received 2500 instrumental works this year, and reviewed 500. We’re aware of many more; with many musicians now making music from home, it’s safe to say that the true release figure is at least four times that number. This being said, we still attempt to identify the very best, and to share these releases with our reviewers. As we begin our year-end festivities, we hope to introduce you to your new favorite album!
Our site is unique in a few ways. No reviews are ever assigned; we review only what we like. We don’t accept advertisements, and we don’t share files. Our reviews tend to be positive, because we spend a lot of time with what we cover, and that time is valuable; if we’re not excited, we’re not involved. This brings us to our deepest regret: even though we cover more than one album or EP a day, there’s always something else we wish we could have covered. Sometimes the person who wants to cover an album is sick, or has a paper due, or is changing diapers, or is working two jobs. We’re all volunteers. To all those who submitted music this year and were not covered: we thank you for sending us your music. It was played by at least one staffer. We are grateful for the time you put in, and wish that we could have done more. Don’t give up; persistence pays off!
State of the Industry: Taylor Swift waged a battle with Spotify and Amazon fought with Hachette. The demand for vinyl increased to the point that every American pressing plant was backed up, delaying smaller releases for many weeks or even months. Cassette Store Day made another bold run at joining Record Store Day in winning the hearts of the general public. Many artists, frustrated at the difficulty of finding a label, decided to self-release, and found great success in doing so. You’ll see many on our year-end lists. But many labels also closed, citing diminishing returns and resources. The instrumental field continued to benefit from streaming services such as Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Spotify; the wisest artists translated interest to sales through creative packaging and licensing fees. While physical sales continued to diminish, this was no longer seen as a reason for alarm; the lack of a physical product was no longer considered a hindrance to success.
Year-End Charts: Over the next few weeks, you’ll see a number of charts appear at A Closer Listen. The first batch of charts are specialty lists, which were selected by our editor-in-chief. These include perennial favorites Best Videos, Best Winter Music, Best Packaging, and The Happiest Music of the Year. A new addition is the Top Ten Singles Chart. Nayt will unveil his picks for the Year’s Best Album Covers. Then seven genre charts will appear, chosen by the entire staff, followed by the Top 20 Albums of the Year and individual staff articles.
We’re super-excited to share our year-end picks with you, and hope that you feel the same! Thank you for your readership and continued support. On behalf of the entire staff, we wish you all a happy and blessed December, a blessed Hanukah and Christmas, and a happy New Year!
Note: the bottom photo is taken from the wonderful photo book, Dust and Grooves, available from the website of the same name!