The “Truth” About Musical Gear Reviews

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this one but it is everywhere on Youtube. It doesn’t matter what the channel is dedicated to – music gear, car maintenence, photography, hifi equipment, artist supplies, etc – you name it, none of them want to say how they really got the product they are reviewing. I didn’t realise what was going on at first, but then I noticed a pattern: Youtuber starts review of some piece of gear with an earnestly open and seemingly honest disclosure, “before I start, a quick disclosure, blahblah company sent me this product to review, other than that no money changed hands, they have no say over the content of this video and don’t get to see it before it’s published” (I took this one at random from the very competent music gear reviewer Loopop – who puts a great deal of work into his reviews and are worth a watch – just don’t look into his somewhat questionable political views which thankfully are not divulged in his videos). That sounds all very nice and honest doesn’t it? Except that one word near the beginning.

Bear with me for a moment – imagine it was recently your birthday and you were showing a friend one of the gifts that you received. “Oh yeah, this is what my girlfriend/boyfriend SENT me”. Huh? Sent? “Did they post it? Don’t you mean GIVE?” OK, so maybe they did send it by post, but we know it was a gift, don’t we. Why sent and not gave? Go and watch some videos, it must be a script they get with the product. They never say “give”. It’s always “sent“, and that leaves some doubt on the table that maybe it’s a loan, and that doubt is important. Sure, no money changed hands, but when the company gives you a €1000 digital drum station and sampler and you get to keep it then they kinda have just paid you €1000 for the review. Frequently it shows too – the reviewer treads a fine line between being honest and not biting the hand that feeds them. Sure, occasionally they might list the negative points (after the positives) but they never really say, “Don’t buy this”. I get it, really I do. I wrote music reviews for several years in the early 90s for a number of alternative music fanzines and rarely would I write a really bad review. I figured that musical tastes varied immensely and if something wasn’t my cup of tea I wouldn’t review it, someone else would and maybe they loved it. I also didn’t have to state that I got the record or CD for free (though often it was on a prerelease cassette) and seeing as I was also DJing at the time, and organising tours and concerts it all seemed fair and above board to me. And I really do like many of these Youtube reviews; people like the aforementioned Loopop and Ricky Tinez, Benn Jordan and alike have occasionally convinced my purchases (damn them). Benn Jordan in particular has been very honest and open (as usual for him) about his reviewing policies and I was rather sad when he decided to not review gear anymore due to the grief he unfairly received online. Which is not what I want to be part of either. All I’m saying is it irks me when they all parrot the word “sent“.

What is it about the word “give” that makes it so hard to say?

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