The Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB) was established in 1993 to give potential buyers of a cappella music some insight into recent albums. RARB reviewers are experienced listeners of a cappella; they are also often current or former performers themselves, alongside wearing other a cappella hats (read about our reviewers here). As an outgrowth of this deep involvement in the a cappella community, RARB's reviews in many cases include constructive criticism: we enjoy seeing contemporary a cappella thrive just as much as you do, and we appreciate the value of expert feedback in a close-knit community.
At the same time, we work hard to ensure that potential conflicts of interest among reviewers and submitting groups are minimized. Reviewers never review albums by groups they sang in or produced, typically do not review albums by groups that are associated with a school they went to, and generally are not assigned albums whenever there might be a real or perceived conflict of interest. RARB is not-for-profit, staffed entirely by volunteers, and is not formally associated with any other a cappella organization.
The decision to submit your album for review should be made carefully. With RARB's purpose and format in mind, there are several potential pros and cons:
The bottom line? Many, many groups have had their albums reviewed by RARB. Many of those groups continue to submit each new album for review. These groups include high school groups, collegiate groups, and semi-pro and professional groups. It is worth noting that RARB does not review an album unless it is submitted to us.
Albums are eligible for review if released within the past year. (Possible exceptions may be made if your group has only just exceeded this timeframe.) More than one album may be submitted simultaneously, provided they are all recent enough; please let us know if you want to do this.
While RARB reviewers are all musical fiends, as a matter of expertise RARB only reviews a cappella albums. Albums that are primarily a cappella, with only one or two songs including instruments, are fine. If your album includes more instruments, please let us know; we may have you send us a CD for evaluation. To submit your album for review, you will mail a copy of the album to each of three reviewers, to Mike Marcus (RARB Interim Technical Director), and to Kimberly Sailor (RARB Interim Editor-in-Chief). A shipping service that does not require a signature is ideal. The copies mailed to RARB must be the same as what a purchasing customer would receive; CD-Rs and other burned copies are not acceptable, unless that format would be sent to a purchasing customer. Once your album is submitted, it cannot be removed from the review process.
After you've submitted your album, the three reviewers listen to your work for two weeks, decide what makes it tick (or harmonize, or thump), and submit their reviews via private online portal. (Albums are reviewed in priority order, with the first albums reviewed being those both received and registered; the order is indicated at our Upcoming page.) The reviews include written comments, as well as scores in overall categories (Overall, Tuning/Blend, Energy/Intensity, Innovation/Creativity, Sound/Production, Soloists; see further information here) and for individual songs.
The reviewers are instructed to give their honest opinions. Some comments may seem harsh, but we believe honesty is the best policy. We encourage you to look at some of our recent reviews, so that you can get an idea what they are like. Please keep in mind that some older reviews are in a five-reviewer format; all reviews are now done by three reviewers.
Once the reviewers have submitted their reviews, the reviews are edited by Kimmie, Catherine Lewis or Dave Trendler (RARB Editors) before being published on our site.
An announcement of the new review is sent to individuals on our mailing list. The email address you provide when submitting your album will also be notified when the review is published. If you would like to have other addressed notified, let Mike know.
Unfortunately, RARB cannot guarantee how long it will take for your submitted album to be reviewed. You should expect a period of several months, though quite possibly longer. Be sure to check the Upcoming list for the latest status.