Lessons to learn from pianist Dejan Lazić's attempt to remove a critic's bad review

I never heard of the pianist Dejan Lazić until a news article about him started circulating: he was upset about a 2010 review of a concert of his, written by a Washington Post critic. Because a link to this review appeared high in Web searches of his name, he asked the Washington Post to remove the review under the EU’s “right to be forgotten” law. The result: this article in the Washington Post about the situation that came to my attention from music blogs I follow.

I don’t have much to add to the commentary about the important questions about politics or philosophy regarding the “right to be forgotten”; there are very complex questions there.

In any case, Lazić claimed he has a right to control his public image, to make the Web reflect the “truth” about his concert performance.

But what about unintended consequences?

Unintended consequences

Obviously, one could argue that the law has resulted in unintended consequences in people trying to use the law for more than what it was in spirit aimed to do, which was to protect people from defamation or a past that no longer reflects who they are.

The main unintended consequence, however, as far as I’m concerned, is what Alex Ross said without words, in his blog post here with a screen shot.

Basically, what Lazić did is to make himself a household name, with one of the top Web search hits now being exactly the article about him trying to remove an article. Talk about going meta! He has pretty much guaranteed that he will be known for possibly the rest of his career as “the guy who was upset by a negative review and tried to have it taken down”. I don’t think he intended for that to happen. This article about his trying to remove a bad review is surely going to be the top hit for his name now!

Many actions have unintended consequences, if you didn’t think far enough ahead or have contingency plans. And even if you are powerful enough and arrogant enough to think you have everything figured out, and don’t consider what reaction you might get from your action, and entire chains of actions and reactions, then something further down the road can still wreck everything you tried to start; for example, the Iraq War and the entire “War on Terror” has destabilized Iraq and the entire Middle East, and has created more terrorists than existed before it.

I don’t think there was any realistic scenario under which a lone pianist looking for fame could have killed that bad review in a major newspaper. An obscure pianist could kill a bad review in an obscure blog, probably. But once you are big enough, anything you do is news in itself.

Ignore negative reviews

I would advise Dejan Lazić to focus on making good music, getting more positive reviews from many sources. It is definitely possible that critics can kill a career, and certainly in the past, vicious powerful critics have silenced musicians, but in today’s world, people do know to look at more than one source of trusted information. I for one would not rely solely on one random Washington Post music critic’s review of a musician to determine whether to give that musician’s work a listen: actually, I would just go look for audio or video samples to hear for myself. The world is different now than when the critics really did have more power than they have now.

If you are a musician, do you agree with what Lazić tried to do? If so, why?

If you are a music fan, how seriously do you take the top negative hits when you search for an unfamiliar musician?

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