To the editors:

In Mr. Wyman’s March 5 column, he mentioned that the R.E.M. album has sold nearly ten million copies worldwide. In the next line he says that “it is like a tree falling in the midst of a crowd and everyone paying it no mind because it doesn’t have a PR person.”

Could it be that maybe the record buying public doesn’t need reviews by idiot rock critics to decide whether it wants to buy something? If everyone is paying it no mind, what does he call ten million people who have shelled out their hard earned cash to buy the CD or cassette? Or is music not valid unless the critics dissect the music and the musicians involved? Maybe R.E.M. has the right idea! Eliminate the critics from the mix, and let the audience decide whether they like it! Unfortunately, that might leave Mr. Wyman out of a job!

Paul Natkin

N. Racine

Bill Wyman replies:

Two small points. For the record, I wrote that R.E.M.’s previous album, Out of Time, sold nearly ten million copies worldwide. I said that their new one, Automatic for the People, was platinum. (It’s since been certified double platinum.) But my point was not that the album wasn’t selling; I specifically said that it was. It was that there didn’t seem to be a fix in consumers’ minds as to what the record was about, despite its high marketing potential. I contrasted this with the case of Clapton and his cannily promoted “Tears in Heaven.”

As for Natkin’s suggestion that critics be eliminated entirely, let’s consider the implications. If he really wants audiences to decide for themselves, we’ll have to silence the record companies and put an end to all that promotion and marketing. But that, of course, would leave rock photographer Natkin looking for work as well.