Taking Criticsm

Taking Criticsm

Sooner or later every successful band or artist will receive criticism.  Could be accolades or angry rants, but either way, it comes with the territory, so you better be able to take it.

Positive criticisms from music reviewers are, of course, the best kind.  They love your music, they love your show, Wow!  Who doesn’t like that?  But the flip side is that if you are putting your music out there, then somebody somewhere is bound to not care for it.  Someone will probably even hate it.

They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  It’s true, the worst thing they can do is completely ignore you.  A bad review might still inspire some people to listen or even to defend you.  Or what the reviewer describes might actually appeal to people with opposite tastes.  (For example: A jazz reviewer might hate your death metal band, but his review might inspire death metal lovers to seek you out.)

The first thing to remember is that this is not personal.  The reviewer has probably never met you and doesn’t want to. This isn’t about you personally, it’s only about your music, your recording, or your performance.  A well written negative review might even have hints or tips on how you might change your music to appeal more to that reviewer. Some reviewers are artists themselves and  have very good points to make.  Many reviewers, while not experts, do listen to a lot of music, so their opinions can carry weight and should be taken as constructive criticism, or at least as a call to up your game.

A badly written review might only tell you that the reviewer has some issues and has used your music as a vehicle to air those issues.  If, for example, the reviewer hates jazz, and yours is a jazz album, he might use the review to just rant about bad jazz, as demonstrated by your album.  There may be nothing useful you can learn from this, but you can make sure you never send him your music again.

But how should you respond to a negative review?

Should you even bother?

Most of the time a response is not needed. Just ignore it and, eventually it will go away.  In today’s faster than ever socially networked society, a review, good or bad, only lasts as long as people want to read it.  That might only be a few days.  It will live online for eternity, but unless someone is looking for it, they will probably never come across it after it has lived out it’s short news lifespan.

If you do respond, be aware that this will encourage more people to read the review.  Consider that before you hit send.  Do you want to all your friends and family online to read that negative review?   If you still decide you want to respond follow these guidelines:

Use only positives in your response. Trust me, as a reviewer, I can tell you that a negative response to a negative review doesn’t make you look good. And when I have written a scathingly bad review and then had the artist respond with “Thanks for the review. We hope our next album is more to your liking” (or similar) I always feel bad about having written such a harsh review.  I would probably listen to their next effort with a kinder ear.

But a negative response will either get ignored or start a flame war.

It’s usually a really bad idea to go on social media and trash the reviewer. If you do, avoid personal insults and opinions.  Writing is the guy or gal’s job.  She’s probably better at it than you, so you are unlikely to win a flame war.  And really this person is just doing their job.  You shouldn’t take it as if they just killed your child because they didn’t like your song.

Another approach that can work, is to let your fans weigh in.  Post a link to the review on social media and ask your fans if the agree or not. This gives your fans permission to tell their opinions and keep you from looking like a jerk.  Indeed you stay above the fray.  Of course there’s always the possibility that your fans will agree with the reviewer or don’t care enough to defend you, in which case, you really need to up your game, musically.