Ethical dilemmas of the BBC music blogger #1: how honest should I be?

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Long, long ago, before the internet and BBC Introducing, I was in a band (cough) stranded on the dole dreaming of acclaim and wider recognition. We felt entirely isolated. The band I was in and the people we played with had no one to turn to for authoritative and constructive criticism. The rejection slips we collected from the few record companies who deigned to acknowledge receipt of our masterpieces never explained why, the majority of the time they weren't even signed by human hand.

I swore to myself when I took on my role at Radio Wales that I'd try my best to respond to every piece of music I'm fortunate to receive.

It's not always possible, despite my best efforts. But when I do get back to the musicians I spend a lot of time considering the good points and the bad points of their recordings. And I try to be as clear and direct as I can be in my criticisms.

Hark at me! Who am I to be bigging up my opinions and critiques of a musician's work in such a sanctimonious way? Well, I agree! But bands who send me music have already chosen to, you know, send me music.

Asking me who I think I am (as sometimes happens) when my reply isn't effusive rather belies an ignorance that validates the rejection in its own right.

Oh, I know how pompous that sounds. It's my equivalent of the 60th guitar multitrack. Your criticism is duly-noted and I'll do my best to implement or ignore it in my next blog.

That's the other aspect of critiquing a rock 'n' roll band (how quaint). What with rock being anti-authoritarian by its very nature, wouldn't listening to a no-mark DJ's criticism be tantamount to rolling over and letting the rock beast stamp on a band's stomach, squeezing their pansy-assed good-for-nothing guts out to show them how it should be done?

There is something in that, I think.

Of course, the best bands arrive almost fully-formed and way beyond the reach of my weaselly criticism. But for those who will insist on rhyming 'fire' with 'desire', or trying to sound like that most-aped of modern beat combos, Funeral For a Friend, I will tell them about it. It might just help them.

This approach works just fine on the radio show. All correspondence is in private: egos are bruised and insults hurled well away from public ears. But these blog things, they're opinion pieces that anyone can read, musical warts, lyrical sores and all.

Say a band from North Wales releases an album, but it's a 25 carat poop of a record, do I call it for what I think it is in the forlorn and self-important hope that it will help raise standards? Or do I lie and extol virtues it hasn't got because this should be all about supporting Welsh music regardless of my personal opinions - readily embracing the role of the local radio DJ who cried "Classic!" Or do I do what my mum might advise: "If you can't write something nice, don't write anything at all."

Well, this being a blog, I choose the first course. I have to. It's not about my ego, some unfulfilled megalomania or incipient vindictiveness. It's about respect; respecting the musicians who send me music and respecting the readers who come to these pages expecting an honest appraisal of the area's music so they have a better idea what is deserving of their music and attention. That audience - the one that benefits both this blog and the musicians - will only return if they trust that this is written with as much integrity as I can muster.

I will do that.

I promise.

So, now we have the goalposts set-up, who's got a ball?

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