Note: slightly edited to closely match what I actually submitted. See next post. -Red
Originally Posted by Brian Chambers
I see, so when the show is over, there will be some critical pieces about, for example, which of the Xerjoff Oud Stars might actually be any good?
Not trying to be coenty. With a handful of exceptions, there's only so far you can get with user-generated reviews. I really enjoy reading critical opinions from people more knowledgeable than I. I know that some of the people signing the editorial by-lines would have much better ways of taking apart, for example, the Aedes EDP than newbie me over on the Male Fragrance Forum (I think mine is the only review so far). This is content that would BN richer, IMO.
And I don't buy the two arguments that either 1) perfume is too subjective or 2) adding opinion pieces would limit access. In the first case, nothing has stopped wine critics from slapping point scores on wine before it's even out of the cask, and it's at least as subjective as perfume (smell+taste). And in the second case, nobody has stopped sending Pitchfork pre-release music for their snarky reviews or forbidding Roger Ebert from seeing movies.
I do understand that the industry might be backwards in this respect. But BN has a large enough audience that it could be the agent of change. It could less of the indexing service (IMDB) and more of the online authority (Pitchfork).
Honestly, I shared your disappointment the first time I saw a fragrance trade show covered (and I'm talking about coverage by *everybody*). I guess my expectations have been lowered over time. But I still think you're right - there should be some excitement analogous to a lot of other shows. The major media always has rave coverage of new fashion and new tech at those shows. And I further agree that Basenotes is the ideal (if not the ONLY) place which could be that agent of change.
Imagine Turin and Sanchez doing Ebert-and-Siskel-style reviews, live from the show! Maybe Puckrik and Burr? It would be pretty sweet.
As far as the access thing - well, I don't think that it actually *has* to be the way it is, but for lack of enough of an influential, independent critical culture, it *is* very controlled. Like the tech industry - where preview access to new tech is *hugely* controlled - the strings are a lot more visible from the inside. None of the big players want to *appear* like they're trying to control opinion and shape perceptions, but mess with Apple or M$ and watch the fangs come out. Tech bloggers who bitch about how little they did to get crossed off the party list are so common, it's almost its own form of tech humor now. The beauty industry definitely isn't as bad as tech, IMO, but the situation is still problematic. The closest thing to an independent critic that we've had was Turin, whose opinions were *not* exactly welcomed. I get the impression that Burr encountered the same forces that Turin did, but negotiated them in his own style, with somewhat different results.
That said, the problem is exactly what you're describing. There is simply not a sufficient, or sufficiently prominent, layer of independent criticism and opinion, to overcome the normal and natural desire of any industry to shape its environment for its own benefit. I'm not blaming the industry - if anything, the beauty industry is so self-introspective on issues like animal cruelty and component safety, that they are easily accused of co-opting their critics to a fault (e.g., IFRA). But it seems to me that there has been no emergence of a hotly contested critical culture with the power to save or condemn a new launch, in the same way that a unanimity of critical voices can now seriously help or harm a movie. Personally, I think that it would be to the *overall* benefit of the industry to have more and stronger critical voices, which could - as you suggest - raise things up to the standards and prominence of the music culture and the movie culture. But it's a scary step - kind of like letting your kids grow up and leave home. And in just the same way, I really agree that it's something that *should* happen.
Now - the reality. It takes money to pull that off. Not sure if BN has the budget to really fund "fly two BNers to Italy so they can write highly opinionated and entertaining, possibly even Turinesque, reviews of fragrances". I would love it if they did.
So..... let me put my boot-cleaning stick in a hornets nest.
There is a trade show in New York in August
. I personally think that this one guy I know on Basenotes, by the name of Brian Chambers, is fully qualified to report on it, and to give some honest, well-written, and *real* criticism, that we would all enjoy reading. In fact, if he did this now, before he got too (how can I say this nicely) smooch-roped by the industry, then he could probably *remain* an independent critical voice, which we so desperately hunger for.
It's almost five months from now, so I am fully confident that he would be sufficiently well-versed in fragrance that I could fully trust his descriptions (I already can, but as I scientist, I love to overdo things). I already know that his views of many facets of fragrance parallel mine, so I am guaranteed to benefit hugely from his insights. And I know this dude named Grant who could put his stuff on the front page......
Seriously - I challenge you to *be* that voice. I really hope you consider doing it.