Ed Sheeran performing at Wembley Stadium in 2015Mark Kent/Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/vZdYan

In an interview with Rolling Stone last month, Ed Sheeran had this to say about music critics: “Why do you need to read a review? Listen to it. It’s freely available! Make up your own mind. I would never read an album review and go, ‘I’m not gonna listen to that now.’”

He appeared to suggest that, in the age of streaming, the only purpose of music critics is to tell people what not to listen to. There is no point telling people what to listen to because everyone is already listening to everything, right?

“Perhaps Sheeran has forgotten the importance of critics in his own meteoric rise”

Wrong. It is true that music is more accessible than ever before. Streaming has removed the need to purchase an album before listening to it. Critics have therefore lost the role of stopping listeners wasting their hard-earned cash on records they end up hating.

However, there is also more music available than previously. 49,000 songs get added to Spotify each day and, whilst even critics cannot sift through all this content, they certainly have more time than the average listener. Critics spotlight emerging artists that you might never stumble across on your own. Perhaps Sheeran has forgotten the importance of critics in his own meteoric rise.

“The suggestion that critics mostly try to dissuade people from listening to certain albums is nonsense”

A review is more than a star rating. A good critic helps you appreciate elements of an album that you might never have otherwise. Reviews enable you to discover more about music, whether that be genres, techniques or influences. Only critics have time to keep up with industry trends, artists' trajectories and their roles in the music scene. Of course, music is subjective. That is why multiple outlets exist. The same goes for any other journalism.

Ed Sheeran’s cover photo for the Rolling StoneInstagram (@rollingstone)

The suggestion that critics mostly try to dissuade people from listening to certain albums is nonsense. Understandably, Sheeran has been impacted by negative reviews. His latest release, =, received a Metacritic rating of just 59, whilst his previous project fared even worse. Remembering only these and none of the positive feedback he has received, Sheeran supposes that critics spew nothing but negativity. Yet, this is far from the truth. Not only do reviews spark debates among fans, but they are enjoyable to read.


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Music journalists have adapted to streaming by producing carefully curated playlists and are even employed by Spotify to do so. They offer gateways into new genres and support artists without the money or marketing skills to succeed using social media and promoters. They play an important role in influencing whether listeners purchase records, tickets and merch, which is especially important considering the measly amount afforded artists by streaming giants.

Critics do more than write reviews. Features highlight issues affecting the musical world, from underrepresentation and ticket prices to the impacts of streaming and social media, whilst opinion pieces like this one can initiate vital debates among the public and professionals. Sheeran’s view of critics is based on a narrow conception of their role. Even in the age of streaming, they play a vital part in supporting new talent and holding the industry to account.