Sputnikmusic FAQ, Reviewing Guide, and Other Important Stuff
[Last updated March 21, 2008.]
Welcome to Sputnikmusic! Our mission is to provide a resource for music enthusiasts, with a strong emphasis on our community of reviewers from all parts of the world. All LPs, EPs, artist DVDs, and official bootlegs are added, rated, and reviewed by our members, making Sputnikmusic an excellent resource where anyone can quickly search for an artist or album and read reviews. Sputnikmusic was launched in January 2005; our database is limited solely by our users' submissions to the site.
Essentially, we are a community-driven music site where our users write and submit album reviews and more. In addition to increasing their reviewing abilities and developing into critical thinkers and writers, users can:
1. Create a Sputnikmusic profile, enabling users to post on Sputnikmusic and the community forums,
2. Find albums and genres of interest to further their musical curiosity,
3. Rate albums on a scale of 1-5,
4. Create a musical timeline to showcase their progression (or lack thereof) of their musical tastes over the years,
5. Submit and read music news,
6. Record journal entries and make lists of concert experiences, showcase music they're currently listening to, Top Ten lists, and more,
7. Be exposed to music - new and old - through Sputnikmusic's listening parties,
8. "Sound off" on albums as an alternate to submitting formal reviews.
By having a large, interactive community that can feature a diverse array of opinions on albums instead of a few select reviewers, we are able to present multiple opinions of an album or artist.
In order to create a musical profile, post comments on Sputnikmusic and the community forums, and begin using the site to its fullest extent, you will need to register with us:
Once registered, you can begin to rate your music, submit news, write reviews and/or sound-offs, and more.
As you begin to rate your music, you will begin to develop your musical profile, which will chart your overall taste in music. Further, you can create a rough timeline of your musical tastes over the years, add your favorite artists, tell users what album or artist you've been digging lately, and more.
An example of a Sputnikmusic profile:
Sputnikmusic automatically calculates your genre pie chart based on your activity (as in, how many albums you've rated on the site). The more albums you rate, the more accurate your pie chart will become.
[b][size=5][center]STARTING OUT AT SPUTNIKMUSIC[/b][/center][/size]
[b][color=red]Q: Alright, I registered... so, what do I do?[/b][/color]
Congratulations, and welcome! One of the first things we recommend is to start searching for albums or artists in our database and begin rating albums. You can search for artists by using the search box located at the top-right of the page (Find a band, then click on the '>>' to search), or you can search by genre (and sub-genre) by clicking on one of the seven primary genres located at the top of the page.
Once you begin to develop your profile, you can post comments, you can create a musical timeline, add your favorite artists to your profile, take part in the listening parties, create music lists and journals, submit and read music news, begin to write reviews and sound-offs, and more.
One of Sputnikmusic's major strengths is providing its users the opportunity to peruse and explore the site and all it offers at one's leisure.
[b][color=red]Q: How do I...
... log-in or logout?[/b][/color]
[b][color=red]... begin rating albums?[/b][/color]
1. Search for an artist using the search box at the top of the page
2. Click on an album at the artist page
3. At the far-right of the album, click on the drop-down "Rate It" box, and select your rating.
[b][color=red]... submit a review?[/b][/color]
The easiest and most efficient way to submit a review is to go directly to the band's page (e.g., search for the band from the main page). From there, look at the left-hand panel below the artist image and streaming songs (if applicable), and click on "Add a Review."
[b][color=red]... add an artist to my favorite artists on my profile?[/b][/color]
1. Search for an artist using the search box at the top-right of the page
2. Just below the artist image, click on "Add to my favorites."
[b][color=red]... use the "What I'm Digging" feature?[/b][/color]
1a. In your User Control Panel, simply type in the artist and album, and hit submit.
1b. Alternatively, you can click the "Dig It" button featured on every album page.
[b][color=red]... submit an artist or album to the database?[/b][/color]
2. Please make sure that you don't duplicate an artist or album!
[b][color=red]... bold, italicize, underline, embed, etc.?[/b][/color]
1. Please note that Sputnikmusic uses vBulletin code, and not HTML (use brackets , not <>).
2. Embedding of objects is prohibited.
3. Sputnikmusic-oriented vBulletin code: [url]http://www.sputnikmusic.com/forums/misc.php?do=bbcode[/url]
[b][color=red]... do something that's not listed here?[/b][/color]
1. Simply click on the Community link at the top or bottom of the page
2. Find the "Report Problems/Ask Questions/Make Suggestions" thread and ask away, and one of our mederators or users will sort you out.
[b][color=red]Q: I am an artist/member of a band/label rep, and I want our album reviewed. Who can I contact for more information?[/b][/color]
Please contact us at sputnikreviews(at)gmail.com - either the owner/administrator or one of the co-heads of staff will respond to your inquiry. They do their best to be as accommodating as possible to ensure that your album will be reviewed by a writer knowledgeable about your genre of music, so please give them time.
[b][color=red]Q: What may I review at Sputnikmusic?[/b][/color]
You may review audio CDs (LPs, EPs, OSTs for movies/videogames [provided they were released independently as an individual CD) as well as music DVDs.
Singles and comedy albums are not permissible; further, you may not review a bonus CD or DVD that comes with a release. Instead, you must review the entire package. Lastly, you cannot review movies here, no matter how you try to spin it; however, again, the soundtracks to movies are acceptable if the OST was released separately.
[b][color=red]Q: How can I post comments?[/b][/color]
You can't post comments as a guest, so you have to register with us. Once you log-in, find a review you wish to comment on, and it'll be pretty intuitive as to where you're supposed to type your comments.
[b][color=red]Q: What is Sputnikmusic's plagiarism policy?[/b][/color]
Plagiarism is absolutely not permitted under any circumstances whatsoever, from reviews to news articles. If you have written a review for another website, such as RYM, then you may repost it. If you wish to paraphrase or cite reviews/online music sites in your review, please provide proper citations, to showcase that what you are citing is not your own work. Do not copy/paste a review and then just credit it to another site if it is not your original work at all. Sputnikmusic was established as a place for reviews by the users of Musicianforums, and not for reviews written for/by other websites. If you plagiarize reviews or news articles without proper citations, you will be permanently banned.
[b][color=red]Q: I'm having log-in issues... what do I do?[/b][/color]
If you just registered with us and are having problems, make sure that you properly activated your account by clicking the link that was sent to you in your e-mail. If you did this properly, then you shouldn't have any problems logging in, but if you still do, try these steps:
1. Try logging in at [url]http://sputnikmusic.com/[/url] or [url]http://www.sputnikmusic.com/[/url]
2. Try clearing your cookies (i.e., in Firefox, go to Tools, Clear Private Data, and click "Cookies.") and then try logging-in again
3. If you are still having problems, visit the Sputnikmusic Community Forum at Musician Forums, and post your problem in the Report Problems / Ask Questions thread, which is typically stickied at the top of the page.
[b][color=red]Q: I submitted an album, artist, biography, review, etc. to the site, but I don't see my changes. What gives?[/b][/color]
If you have submitted your first review, it MUST be approved by the mederators, no exceptions.
Any changes that are made must be approved by the mederators. Normally, your changes will go through the same day you made them; however, the mederators reject certain changes, such as the following:
1. Albums that do not have the proper title, tracklist, release date, and album art, or are missing any of these things altogether.
2. Band changes that are obviously wrong (i.e. changing Britney Spears to Metal or Fall Out Boy to emo).
3. Duplicate albums to the database.
If you still believe your changes did not go through, please ask in the Sputnikmusic Community Forum in the Report Problems/Ask Questions thread. If you notice that your review has been removed from the site, there is typically a good reason for this. If you have no idea, then please inquire in the aforementioned thread.
[b][color=red]Q: What do I do if I want a review removed from the site?[/b][/color]
Reviews that you submit are your property, so you can do what you wish to see fit. If you want to re-write a review, for instance, simply go to the Report Problems/Ask Questions thread in the Sputnikmusic Community Forum and provide a link to the review you want removed, and one of the meds will oblige your request.
If you want all your reviews to be removed, mx will make all your reviews guest submissions, meaning that your username will not be affiliated with the reviews. The reason mx does this is because if you were the only person who reviewed an album, it is more beneficial for the site to keep the review on-site instead of it being removed, even if you think the review sucked.
[b][color=red]Q: How does the "Was this review well-written?" feature work?[/b][/color]
For non-staff reviews, users are given the opportunity to give instant feedback on reviews by deciding "Yes" or "No" in terms of how well-written a review was. Note that the question is "Was this review well-written?" and NOT "Do you agree with the opinion of this reviewer?" While providing comments is much more constructive and helpful, votes are appreciated by users because it gives them a gauge as to how acceptable (or unacceptable) their prose is. Across all of one's reviews, a percentage is calculated, and this is that user's approval rating.
[b][color=red]Q: My approval rating has dropped significantly, but it's not because I started to suck at reviewing. What gives?[/b][/color]
If you notice this, chances are you have a troll voter. A troll voter is a user who votes against all your reviews because he or she has nothing better to do. If you suspect troll voting, report the problem and one of the mederators will look into it.
Two important notes:
1. If you receive a solitary negative vote, it will not be removed, no matter how much you protest.
2. The mederators will not inform you as to who voted on your reviews.
[b][color=red]Q: In my user profile, what do objectivity, average rating, and variance mean when it comes to my ratings?[/b][/color]
Objectivity, in a very literal sense, means to pass judgment that is absolutely not influenced by one's emotions or his/her personal prejudices.
Here's an example: User A has a 90% objectivity, while User B has a 40% objectivity, and both users wrote a review for the same album. User A's opinion would more than likely be accepted than User B's because of User A's objectivity, or ability to review and examine the album with little personal bias. User B's review, meanwhile, would probably not be as strongly considered because of his subjective nature of reviewing.
As a reviewer, it's important to be as objective as possible in your reviews and to not allow any of your personal biases to infiltrate your writing. However, this does not mean that your rating has to be 100%, because that would be nearly impossible; instead, you should nevertheless shoot for a reasonable objectivity rating, such as 75% or higher. To be objective, you should only rate albums you have heard, while diversifying your ratings; to explain, it would be wise to have a multitude of 5's, 4.5's, 4's, etc. as well as 2's, 1.5's, and 1's.
Meanwhile, variance is statistically the square of the standard deviation. But what does that mean, exactly? In layman's terms as it relates to Sputnikmusic, let's look at an example:
Average rating: 3.30
Objectivity score: 89% (well-balanced)
Average rating: if you add up all of Jom's ratings and divide that number by the number of albums he's rated, you would get the mean score, or in this case, the average rating. In his case:
(total sum of ratings)
(total # of ratings)
... equals 3.30, or his average rating.
Variance, meanwhile, is the average of the squared differences between individual ratings and the average score. The variance of a list of ratings shows how large (or small) the differences between one's list of ratings are. How to calculate variance and what it means to you isn't important, but keep this in mind: the smaller your variance, the more consistent your ratings are from your mean score. That is to say, if your variance is small, then most of your ratings are close to your average rating. Clear as mud, right? Essentially, don't worry too much about variance, but do consider your objectivity when writing.
[b][color=red]Q: Where else is Sputnikmusic on the Internets?[/b][/color]
You can find us at our official mySpace at:
Staff reviews are also featured at [url]http://www.metacritic.com[/url]
We're also found on Wikipedia, but the entries are subject to frequent vandalism, and therefore aren't endorsed by our site, so they should not be taken as gospel. The same goes for any accounts that pop up on other social networking sites, such as Facebook: these accounts are not endorsed by Sputnikmusic, and therefore should not be utilized.
[b][color=red]Q: Where do I go to report a site issue, a problem user, or a site bug?[/b][/color]
Travel to Musicianforums via the "Community" link at the top of the Sputnikmusic main page. Scroll down until you see "Sputnikmusic Community," and then view that forum. Typically stickied at the top of the page, you'll see threads such as "Bug Reports" and "Report Problems / Ask Questions." Select the thread you want and ask away, and one of the mederators will assist you.
[b][color=red]Q: Where did my comments go?[/b][/color]
If you remember posting something but not seeing it, chances are your behavior was out of line. Typically, posts that are insulting, offensive, or otherwise trolling other users are not permissible on the site. Further, spam is unacceptable - if you derail discussion of an artist/album, you will be temporarily banned and your comments removed. If you have a habit for doing this, then your bans will get increasingly longer until you are permanently banned.
To limit unneeded fights and arguments, actions like deleting comments have to be done. This sometimes includes non-offensive comments, such as telling people to stop arguing. Sometimes, asking yourself, "Is this a contributing comment?" is a good thing to do before actually posting a comment. If you answer yourself with a resounding "No," then it's a very good idea that you don't post what you were about to. In parallel, avoid reacting to spam or feeding the trolls, even if you want to try to halt the arguing. Just report the problem to one of the mederators and they will take care of it.
That said, please let the mederators do their job, and don't tell them how to do it. Users are NOT to be vigilantes, because this makes matters worse. The mederators can be easily reached by e-mail, and our IM programs are constantly up and running in case of emergencies. However, most problems are NOT emergencies, so just use the Report Problems thread in the Sputnikmusic Community Forum until we can sign on and address the issue.
[b][color=red]Where did all my album ratings go?[/b][/color]
Don't abuse the ratings! Abusing the rating system to give certain bands or artist artificially low average scores will not be tolerated. If a user systematically rates certain band's entire catalogues (50 Cent, Britney etc. are always popular) 1/5, their ratings are automatically reset by the server. The best way to avoid this is only to rate albums you've heard and given a fair appraisal.
[b][color=red]Q: It says that I'm banned, but I don't know why. Where can I go to inquire about my reason for banning (alternate question: It says that I'm banned, and I know full well why. Where can I go to see how long my ban is)?[/b][/color]
99% of the time, users know why they're banned. However, the mederators try to keep a running log of bans they've handed out to inform those banned the duration of their ban, just in case.
Unlike Musicianforums, in which mederators can set a specific length of time to ban a user, Sputnikmusic's ban system works differently: once banned, you are banned permanently unless the mederator lifts it. To illustrate, if you are banned for three days for spamming a review, your ban will not be lifted automatically in 72 hours; instead, a mederator will have to lift it. That said, it's a pretty good idea to not get banned.
Also of note: if you are banned from Musicianforums, you are also banned from Sputnikmusic; however, bans on Sputnikmusic do not portal over to Musicianforums, which allows users the opportunity to inquire about bans or ask questions.
[b][color=red]Q: I have a question/concern/complaint, but I don't want it to be public on the forums. How can I get in contact with a mederator privately?[/b][/color]
Jom and Dave (Spat Out Plath) represent the Sputnikmusic mederating team both on-site and off-site, and they handle most - if not all - of the inquiries posed. Any questions/concerns/complaints you may have can be e-mailed to either one of them. Jom, in particular, tries to reply to users within twelve hours, so if you are seeking a speedy reply, he's the mederator you should contact if you have a private matter to discuss in confidence.
[b][color=red]Q: What is the deal with the ampersands? Why do they not show up correctly on the site?[/b][/color]
Because ampersands are not alphanumeric characters, the site has problems deciphering them when they are submitted. For bands and albums, please use the word 'and' instead of '&.'
If you see duplicate bands/albums, please inform the mederators, who will take care of these issues.
[b][color=red]Q: I have a problem/question/concern/complaint/suggestion that's not located in this FAQ - where should I go to address it?[/b][/color]
Please use the Sputnikmusic Community forum - this should always be your #1 option. If your issue needs to be held in confidence, then e-mail one of the mederator leaders (Jom or Dave/Spat Out Plath).
[b][color=red]Q: Is not liking [i]Appetite for Destruction[/i] a bannable offense?[/b][/color]
When Spat Out Plath is mederating, he won't stop at just banning you.
[b][size=5][center]STAFF & REVIEWERS[/center][/b][/size]
The Sputnikmusic staff is comprised of our head administrator:
mx, AKA Jeremy Ferwerda
mx's duties are manifold, and are so top secret, we can't tell you what they are, even though they're incredibly sexy.
Our Heads of Staff, who pull double-duty as site mederators:
Splat Out Immense, AKA Dave de Sylvia
Sputnikmusic also has a centralized team of site mederators:
The mederators' jobs include, but are not limited to: approving submissions through the queue (albums/artists to the database, first-time reviews, providing feedback and comments to first-time reviewers, etc.), creating listening parties, addressing problems that are reported in the Sputnikmusic Community Forum, and enforcing site policies.
Our userbase is comprised of different classes of reviewers:
[b][color=red]I. Staff reviewers[/b][/color]
The Sputnikmusic staff is a small group of writers and reviewers who are acknowledged as the most exemplary reviewers on the site. Staff reviewers are expected to exhibit a high level of reviewing prowess and activity on the site, consistently write at an expert level that is devoid of errors, and review new releases. Staff reviewers also contribute to the site through the "Staff Picks" feature on Sputnikmusic, in which they select recently-released albums (2005 or later) for their genre(s) of interest that they highly recommend to the community. Staff reviewers will receive the bulk of the new promo CDs coming to Sputnikmusic, and many of the staff writers keep in constant contact with record labels, artists, and artist management; in doing so, they receive promo copies and other inside information. Because of their position, the staff is entitled to certain perks that non-staff writers cannot receive (such as reviewing an album and submitting it to the site prior to the album's official release date, especially if they've maintained contact with the artist or someone affiliated with the artist).
Currently, the Sputnikmusic staff is comprised of:
Adam Downer (Electric City, United States)
Alex Silveri (StreetlightRock, Australia)
Andrew Hartwig (br3ad_man, Australia)
Cam Wilson (joshuatree, United States)
Chris Jackson (Zebra, mederator, United States)
Daniel Incognito (Liberi Fatali, New Zealand)
Dave de Sylvia (Splat Out Immense, Head of Staff, mederator, UK/United States)
Jared W. Dillon (pixiesfanyo, United States)
Jens Classen (Damrod, mederator, Germany)
Jeremy Ferwerda (mx, owner/administrator, United States)
John A. Hanson (Iluvatar, United States)
Jom (Head of Staff, mederator, United States)
Kyle Kage (Kage, United States)
Matt Wolfe (MinusTheFlair, United Kingdom)
Nick Butler (Iai, United Kingdom)
Nick Greer (DFelon204409, United States)
Ryan Flatley (IsItLuck?, United States)
Sobhi Adul-Rakhman (kingsoby1, United States)
Derek McArthur III (Neoteric, United Kingdom)
The Katz brothers (The Jungler, United States)
Trey Spencer (Williefisterbut, United States)
Tyler Fisher (FlawedPerfection, United States)
Tyler Munro (Cocaine, Canada)
[b][color=red]II. Contributing reviewers[/b][/color]
Contributors, in general, are acknowledged as writers who frequently review at a high level, but don't receive the perks and benefits of the staff reviewers. Contributors are recognized for their efforts, and while they may not be as strong of reviewers or are not particularly active, it is possible that these reviewers may become promoted to the Sputnikmusic staff through their continued commitment to the site.
[b][color=red]III. New reviewers[/b][/color]
New reviewers are users who have not yet submitted reviews or have not submitted many reviews. These users are encouraged to continue to review and improve as writers.
[b][color=red]Q: I am a New Reviewer/Contributing Reviewer seeking Contributing/Staff status. How do I go about achieving this new rank?[/b][/color]
To be determined thanks to the revamp of the Contributing Reviewer position.
At Sputnikmusic, we do not review leaked albums.
[quote=mx][N]o leaks. My only exception is if it is a staff writer listening only a few days before release to get the review up there.[/quote]
For those of you who like bulletpoints, this is what mx is saying:
1. Leaks are NOT allowed... ever. If you recall, Pelican's [i]City of Echoes[/i] leaked obscenely early, and a couple reviews for it popped up at the time. They were taken down, as per mx's no leaks policy. In parallel, if a Circle Takes the Square album leaks two months early and a bunch of you review it, they're all going to be deleted unless you're a staff writer; however, even then, you'd have to wait a week or two prior to the official release date.
2. Staff writers are exempt from mx's ruling because they earned their position on the site; therefore, they are entitled to more perks, responsibilities, and opportunities compared to the other writers, mostly because they [usually] have advance copies mailed to them in the post, so their source is legitimate.
[b][center][size=5]REGARDING ALBUM STREAMS[/size][/b][/center]
Streams are permissible at Sputnikmusic, but only under these conditions:
1. Streams have to be from [i]legitimate[/i] sources. The best option would be the artist's official site. The second best option would be the artist's label. If these options are unavailable for whatever reason, then the band's official mySpace, Clear Channel music, Yahoo!, etc. are acceptable mediums.
2. Illegitimate sources include sites not affiliated with the band in any way. For instance, some kid who is streaming the album from his own mySpace is not acceptable, and neither is a torrent or something you pulled from Soulseek.
3. If you are reviewing an album via a stream, [i][u][b]you must provide a link to the stream's location at the bottom of your review or as the first comment in the review[/b][/i][/u]. This is very simple: write your review in Notepad/MSWord/etc., and then at the bottom, copy/paste the link's location. Then, when you're copy/pasting your review to Sputnikmusic, Ctrl-X the link and paste it in a comment below your review (or just leave the link at the bottom).
4. There are NO exceptions to these rules regarding streams.
5. A majority of streams, as far as I know, are made a couple days prior to the album's release. If the meds see a review of a streaming album that's not really streaming that does not provide a source (much like a news article), it's going to be removed. No exceptions!
As devised by a team of our users:
1. Reviews can be seen as somewhat similar to writing an essay for school - you can't just turn in an essay without an introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs, and conclusion, for instance. Having these elements in your review is crucial because it gives your review a focus. A review without an introduction/conclusion and only body paragraphs will look less pleasant to read than a review that is more soundly structured.
Additionally, you have free reign over how much (or how little) you wish to write. However, please note that the reality of the Internet is that few people will read an extremely long review. You should strive for writing in a clear, concise fashion. This is completely subjective from one person to the next, so how you interpret your ratings and reviews is completely up to you. Keep in mind that if you don't feel comfortable with a full-length review, you can elect to write a sound-off, which is a shorter, more informal opinion on the album.
2. Write in the style that you are most comfortable with. Do not pay attention to people who tell you that you should write reviews a certain way, because odds are they aren't the greatest writers themselves. People tend to prefer reading and writing overall reviews compared to track-by-track reviews, but do what you feel is your strength. Most writers tend to start out with track-by-track reviews, and then develop into overall-review writers.
3. While reviewing, make sure that instead of just describing what you hear, qualify that information and explain how it reveals or represents a cool feature of what you're reviewing. Nobody wants to read, for instance, "Okay, there's a breakdown here, and another one at the end of the song, and at 4:14, there's a guitar solo where he switches from pentatonic scales to chromatic scales while changing from a key of E to C#." It's more important to know WHY you think it's good or not rather than it just physically existing. In short, avoid giving play-by-plays.
The most important aspect of your review is your [i]analysis[/i] of the album. This is YOUR review, so give YOUR take on it. However, you should support your claim with numerous examples. Say WHY you like/dislike [something], and provide examples as to WHY your like/dislike exists.
4. Don't be gimmicky in your reviews. Highlighting songs within the review is fine (bolding, italicizing, etc.), but do not be overly distracting with having a whole bunch of colors. The reader is interested in the actual review, not how flashy it looks. By all means, give life to your review, but don't do it via inside jokes. A review is bolstered with the use of transitions, for instance, and not what your best friend on the Internet said two weeks ago.
5. Run a spell-checker and a grammar-check before you submit to Sputnikmusic (Mozilla Firefox, MSWord, etc. all have spelling checkers, for example). If you do not have access to one, then e-mail your review to a friend or two and have him/her look it over. Remember that most spell-checkers and grammar checkers do not account for [i]human error[/i], so being your own critic will be beneficial. Some reviewers recommend that you don't post a review as soon as you finish. This is the same as with any other thing you've written; let it sit for a few hours, overnight, whatever. Re-reading it when it's not fresh in your mind will help you make sure it's actually well-written. Lastly, if you're reviewing something that already has a review, try to make sure you're doing more than re-iterating the same facts over and over; you should add a unique twist to it to make your review stand out from the other review(s).
6. If you get stuck or need help or another pair of eyes to read over a review before you submit it, by all means, [i][color=red]do not be ashamed to ask for help[/color][/i]. This is a community site, after all, and there are plenty of users on the site who will take the time to give you their feedback. If you are a peer editor, please give constructive criticism. If you are seeking a peer editor, don't take offense to their comments - they only are trying to make you a better writer. Simply ask in the community forum if you need help!
On Cinco de Mayo 2008, mynameischan contributed the following list to help out new users:
I personally don't advocate or endorse most of what's in his list but he did it for the lulz so it's legit.
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