Writing for Bachtrack: You’ll need to register on bachtrack.com. To do this, click on the white “Register” button in the top left-hand corner of this page and follow the instructions. Please add your phone number (pref. a mobile in case we ever need to reach you for last-minute concert changes).
Writing for One Stop Arts: You'll need to register on One Stop Arts here. From there choose “Register as a new user”. Once you’ve done this, please let us know and we will make you an author.
2. Your profile on Bachtrack / One Stop Arts
Before we can publish your first review, we’ll need you to write a short biography and send us a headshot for your site profile. For Bachtrack, please write a 40 word biography which will fit here and link to your reviews. For One Stop Arts and London based reviewers we would like a different 70–100 word biography for One Stop Arts (as well as Bachtrack, if you review for both) which will appear here. Your headshot should be a minimum height of 270 for portrait-size photos. Your photo can be whatever you like, within reason!
We generally discourage the use of pseudonyms, but we will occasionally permit them if there is a very good reason why you can’t write under your own name. If you feel that it’s extremely important that you use a pseudonym, please call or email us.
3. Review deadline
We ask for reviewers to submit their reviews within 48 hours of the performance taking place or of the exhibition viewing. If there’s a problem and you can’t please let us know ASAP.
Bachtrack: Once you’re registered and we’ve accredited you as a reviewer, you can submit a review by clicking on “Write a review” at the top of the page on the left. Then just follow the instructions. After you've uploaded it, we will edit your review (and find a photo for it) as soon as we can, and it will then be published. The review will automatically be signed with your username. Alternatively, you can set a “Signature” to be used in place of the username. To do this, go to “Input” and click on “Edit...” next to “My user account”. Fill in the field labelled “Signature” with the name you want to use and press “Submit”. (You may also need to clear any password fields if the system has filled them in for you.)
One Stop Arts: Once you’re registered and we’ve made you an author, you can submit a review from the Author Menu on the right hand side. Select “Write a Review” and follow the instructions: you’ll need to choose the event you’re reviewing by category (art exhibition, play...) and then select the event by date. We will find and add images to your review. Once it is submitted, it will be reviewed by our editors before being published.
5. How to review and basic style details
Your first review on Bachtrack or One Stop Arts is a trial run – a chance for us to see if we can work with you and for you to see if you can work with us. If, after the first review, either of us is unhappy with how it went, we leave it there.
All London classical music/opera/ballet reviews submitted to Bachtrack will also be posted on One Stop Arts soon after publication on Bachtrack.
Your review must be between 500 and 800 words long, favouring the upper end of the word limit.
You must add a star rating to your review (1–5 stars, no half-stars) unless there’s a really good reason not to. Their intended meaning is shown below:
- Little good to say about this. You would have preferred to stay at home.
- Disappointing. There may have been some good parts, but you would have hoped for a better experience.
- An event that was generally good but may have had imperfections in one or more aspects or may simply not have been especially memorable.
- An excellent event that will be one of the best things you've seen this year.
- One of your best experiences ever. An event that you will remember happily and be talking about in five years time.
Note: Around 85% of reviews will end up being 3 or 4 stars. You may consider this dull but it’s in line with other publications, and hence a prerequisite for being taken seriously as a review site. Please think very carefully about what ratings you give.
Remember that all reviews written for Bachtrack and One Stop Arts are exclusive to our sites, and that you may not repost the entire review to your blog. See Copyright below.
Please do not include promotional material or “plugs”: the review is not a place to advertise the performers’ latest CD or other concerts in the series. If we see this kind of material, we will delete it.
For Bachtrack only: When you get to the box to submit your review, please note that you will need to use html tags for formatting – this will probably just be for italics. We italicise work names (though not song titles) so you will need to type, for example:
Wolf’s <em>Italian Serenade</em> is a wonderful program starter.
The text between the “<...>” tags will then display as italics when the review is saved.
For more advanced details and ideas on writing style, see: http://www.bachtrack.com/some-tips-for-writing-reviews. There is also a detailed style guide below on this page.
6. How we get your review tickets
Depending on what art form you review, this works differently. See Reviewing guide by art form below.
7. Editorial policy
We take editorial policy seriously, and read and edit all reviews before they are uploaded on the website(s). Editorially, we will check for spelling and grammar errors as well as adapting content and style to fit the rest of the website. We reserve the right to decide whether or not to publish your review, and we reserve the right to amend it. If we think the amendments would substantially change the meaning of what you’ve written (as opposed to its grammar or formatting), we will usually contact you to check. We may send a review back if there are too many errors – criticism is always meant constructively. If we’re sending back too many reviews or content is consistently poor or incorrect, we may ask you to stop reviewing for us.
8. Copyright and legal
By uploading a review to Bachtrack or One Stop Arts, you are granting Bachtrack Ltd a licence to publish part or all of your review in any way we see fit, including editing it. All reviews written for Bachtrack and One Stop Arts are exclusive to our sites. This means that you are not allowed to review the same event/exhibition for another publication or website, and also that you may not copy the entire review on to your personal blog. Although individuals and organisations may reproduce short extracts of a review (we recommend no more than 100 words maximum) and add that to their site with a link to ours, it is forbidden to reproduce the review in total. (The main reason that we enforce this is that we will be seriously penalised by Google’s search algorithm if our content is considered not to be unique.)
Reviewing guide by art form
1) Classical concerts, opera and dance
We will send out a review request email near the end of every month. Please reply to this email letting us know if you would like to review in the following month, and if so, what your concert ticket requests are. We will try to arrange tickets for all your requests, but please bear in mind that we may not be able to accommodate all your choices. If there’s something you’re really dying to see, please respond to the request email as soon as possible! Operas and major events will require more time so please try to request these types of events as far in advance as possible. We will be requesting tickets from venues or promoters for all of your requests, so when you have requested some dates, you need to keep your schedule free for all the dates until we tell you otherwise. We will always try to get you two tickets but we expect our reviewers to accept one where this is not possible. One ticket is the norm for much of London and Europe, especially for opera or more popular events.
Just a few general thoughts here on concert reviewing. The hardest thing about it is getting the balance right between technical detail and ease of reading. Remember that readers might not have knowledge of specific technical terms – and, even more probably, they might not be interested in them. You are writing for a general audience. Also remember that 99% of readers will not have been to the concert in question, and (assuming it’s a one-off event, as most are) will never get the chance to hear it. Therefore, you need to be quite general and touch on broad issues which will be interesting to everyone, or at least on thoughts on the artists in question (maybe people will try to catch them performing a different concert). Try and be vivid in descriptions, but not overly wordy. Avoid long, pretentious lists of adjectives.
Some more good guidelines from Terry Teachout here (via Alan Coady).
Examples of good concert reviews:
Solo piano recital in Cambridge:
National Youth Orchestra of GB:
John Adams in LA:
There are so many elements to opera that it’s impossible to cover them all in an 800-word review: therefore, you should choose those parts of the overall experience that seem most important for that particular evening. Generally, it’s essential to allocate some of the review to the singers and some to the staging and overall production. Bear in mind that in contrast to most concert reviews, people who read your opera reviews may well be able to catch future performances in the run, so think about what aspects of the performance might make people want to go or to stay at home. If it’s a work whose plot will be well known to most readers, don't spend too much space describing it, and don’t worry about spoilers (but don’t feel the need to include all the jokes).
Examples of good opera reviews:
La Bohème at Salzburg Festival:
Rienzi, concert performance at the Lincoln Center:
Most of the above guidelines for music/opera can also apply to dance reviewing, with obvious adjustments for the medium. Reviews of longer dance works should give readers an idea of the narrative involved, while reviews of shorter or more abstract dance should focus more on your immediate reactions to the works.
Examples of good dance reviews:
Ballet in the Old Vic Tunnels:
2) Art and exhibitions
We will send out a list of upcoming exhibitions at the beginning of each month. We will ask you to reply with which ones interest you most and a date that you can visit. If a preview date is listed on the sheet, please confirm whether you can attend. You are welcome to let us know of other exhibitions you have found out about that you would like to review in addition to these. Major exhibitions will probably be in high demand from our reviewers, so we cannot guarantee that everyone will be able to review all of their choices. Generally we will try and distribute these fairly – according to reviewers’ interests and strengths, and making sure that one person isn’t doing all the major shows. Once we have confirmed your choices, we will RSVP with the venue.
Reviews of galleries/museums, in addition to discussing individual artists/works/displays, should lead the viewer through the exhibition, and spend some time discussing the aim and purpose of the exhibition. Is it timely? Is it successful? What questions remain unanswered by the exhibition, and what further questions does it prompt? Why is this artist or art movement important?
Gallery reviews are not intended to be a forum for academic art theory and criticism. While you will of course want to discuss some of the issues surrounding an artist and an exhibition, please remember that you are writing for a GENERAL audience – most of whom will appreciate a more informal tone and personal style. You are trying to tell our readers whether or not they will want to see this exhibition and what they can expect from it.
Cancellations or changing your deadline
If you have to cancel or change the date you're going to visit, we need to know. We will normally contact galleries to let them know we are reviewing, so in order to maintain a good relationship it's important to keep them updated. And please always send us an email if you need more time to write your review. We need to know how much content to expect in a given week.
A few other "don'ts":
- Don't include too much personal information or talk about what you had to drink at the private view: we want to hear about the exhibition.
- While curation might be an important factor in your review, there is not much point in criticising the gallery's physical space itself as this likely cannot be changed. White Cube is going to have white, clinical gallery walls: that is well understood by now, and it is rather pointless to express disappointment in that fact.
- Don't be gratuitously rude: please try to make negative points politely. We may send back reviews that sound unprofessional.
Present or past tense?
When describing works, use present tense: "Smith's painting shows remarkable use of brushwork and is a great example of..."
When describing your experience or reaction, use past: "As I wandered through the gallery, the installation affected me..."
Examples of well-written exhibition reviews:
Pae White at South London Gallery:
Death at the Wellcome Collection:
Grayson Perry at Victoria Miro:
At Home with the World, Geffrye Museum:
We will be in contact with you about review options as well as asking you to email and call with suggestions – we don’t do specific review lists for theatre as we want to gear it more directly to you. Let him know what sort of thing you feel comfortable reviewing and ask for tickets directly if there are specific events you want to see. Either way, you and your respective editor will be in contact about your first review – a press ticket will be arranged for you, and you will attend your first event.
Theatre reviews should contain a breakdown of the play, in particular plot points that work and do not (unless it’s an unassailable classic), as well as moments where actors/the director has stood out for the right or wrong reasons. Do not worry about "spoilers" or the like – unless you feel giving away the details of a twist or final act reveal would negatively impact a reader who then sees the piece. A personal reaction is valuable, as is enough of an understanding to judge whether something is “good” or “bad” – don’t be afraid to mix these two! Judge the border between subjective and objective and don’t be afraid to stray on either side. The main things to make the review are readable and enjoyable.
Examples of good theatre reviews:
King John at the Union Theatre:
Style and Formatting
- Single space all reviews, and use only one space after a full stop, not two.
- Spell out from numbers from one to nineteen; use numerals from 20 to 999,999. (Exceptions: consistency within the same sentence. "There were between one and twenty-two people there" or in titles/proper nouns, eg. names such as "Room 14" or "Culture24").
- When specifying order use the same rules as above: "in third place" and "the 50th anniversary".
Thereafter use m or bn for sums of money or quantities, eg: £10m, 5bn tonnes of coal, 30m doses of vaccine; but million or billion for people or animals, eg: one million people, 25 million rabbits, the world population is seven billion, etc; spell trillion in full at first mention, then tn; in headlines use m, bn or tn
- Use commas to separate large numbers by the thousand: eg: 1,000
- Measurements. Hyphenate as follows: a four-foot pole; a 52-metre pole
Write "a twelve-year-old boy" or "an 86-year-old man" and "John was 86 years old when he died".
- Write "On 23 February, I went to see..." and "This was launched on 23 February 2009". Do not use suffixes (23rd or 1st).
- Use the form "1950s" to refer to a particular decade. Eg: "This was a particularly popular idea in the 1960s". No apostrophe before the "s". Exception: when using a decade as a proper noun: "The Roaring Twenties".
- Centuries: Use numerals "In the 21st century" and "19th century", but write "a 21st-century idea"; fourth century BC; AD2007. use lowercase "c" for century. Write "c.1630" for approximate dates.
- Use en-dash for a range of dates “1952–53”
- 3.30am or 8.25pm for specific times
- Write out “at four o’clock” or “at half past ten”
- Within sentences, use en dashes (–); not em dashes (—) or two hyphens (--). To make an en-dash type ALT+0150.
- Use hyphens only for hyphenated words: two-timer or double-barreled.
- Exception: use en-dash for a range of dates "1952–53", and for 'versus' cases, eg: "The Liverpool–Manchester United Game".
- For One Stop Arts, use "straight" quotation marks and not “smart” or curly quotation marks.
- If quoting a whole sentence that includes a full stop, the full stop should be inside the quotation marks; if quoting speech, the final comma should also be inside. If the quoted sentence includes a question mark, place this inside the quotation marks and use no full stop afterwards. Eg: Roger said, "What is this?" The audience …
- If quoting partial sentences, place all punctuation outside the quotation marks.
- Avoid single quotation marks as much as possible.
Titles of works
- Italicise all works of art, titles of exhibitions, titles of plays, TV shows, and titles of musical works.
- For artworks, include date of work if available, and format as:
"John Artist's piece, Untitled (2012), was included in …" (no comma after work title).
- Do not italicise venue names, artist names, or theatre company names.
- Use double quotation marks for sections within greater works.
- Avoid Oxford commas except when necessary for clarity, and consider the possible ambiguity of its presence or absence.
For example, in the sentence "They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and a cook", the Oxford comma implies three (or even two) people are travelling. Without the Oxford comma, "They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid and a cook" implies that Betty is both maid and cook.
In such cases, you might want to reword your sentence entirely.
- Avoid using dots in acronyms and abbreviations where possible.
Write US and UK instead of U.S. and U.K.
- When abbreviating proper names, such as J.S. Bach or R.D. Laing, use dots after each initial and no space between multiple initials.
- When using an ellipsis, put a space before and after. Eg: "There were ... no more."
- Use British spellings for One Stop Arts.
- American spellings OK for Bachtrack if you are reviewing in America.
Italicise foreign words unless they are accepted in current English usage. Eg: italicise pasticcio and au revoir but not première, cachet, or à la carte. (Music reviewers please note: standard musical terms in Italian, including for example crescendo, pizzicato, allegro, are sufficiently common not to be italicised.)
Last updated 15 March 2013 KM