Music Tutorials

Handling Criticism or Advice

We all get it. We all hate it to some degree. Who is this fucker saying I am not the greatest thing since sliced cheese!?! Blah, blah, blah. Boo hoo.

Firstly let’s make sure that the criticism is genuine criticism and not a Troll. You may feel aggrieved but it doesn’t make it Trolling. Trolling is usually obvious as the comments are emotive & unsupported by anything but their own circularity.

“You suck because you are a sucky person” is clearly trolling. It has no purpose other than to upset you, draw from you. Wonder why the person did it but that comment probably is more of a compliment as it says that you got their attention and they are upset that you are managing what they don’t have the courage to. Nuke that from orbit.

“Your song is ok, but the singing is out of tune” is genuine criticism. You may feel hurt that you aren’t immediately recognized as the next big thing but that it about you. If you are singing out of tune and aren’t addressing that then being told is the Universe doing you a favor – showing you a limit to be improved. The more you try to ignore this advice, the more you’ll get told.

Biting back at the person giving advice is painting you as a person who not only is proud of not giving your best, but will resort to trolling those who try to raise you up. Is that a good plan? Will people who matter help you get what you hope for?

N and O.

D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

We currently have a culture of only saying nicey-nice things to each other. We also go on about how no one is really entitled to judge or have an opinion on anything. It is not healthy.

buy the t-shirt

It is like the lady who said to me that art has to be be beautiful or it should not be allowed. She was wearing a New Agey t-shirt and went on to describe proper, allowable art as essentially: flowers, rainbows & unicorns in sunlit meadows. Sounds pretty but what about all the people for whom that is not a reality right now are they denied all right to speak? Her idea was that if everyone only ever saw & heard her idea of beauty then the world would be a lovely place.

D.E.N.I.A.L. is a divorce from reality. Doesn’t matter which way you spin it. It is Tyranny. It denies the ability to uncover & process other perfectly legitimate feelings & issues. Old Buddha Dude didn’t say to deny anger, he said to welcome it, understand what it has to tell you and then let it go as you let the way forward become apparent.

If you want people to like your art then they need to judge; to have some sort of opinion. You NEED people to judge so that when people say they “loved” your work, you know they loved your work, not just randomly hit a Like button to seem appropriately socially appropriate and wandered off.

To come full circle: judging and being judgmental aren’t the same thing. Trolling is being judgmental – “you suck because your skin is not the same color as mine” is not useful as it builds nothing. “I think your song is pretty good but I find it hard to listen to because you sing off-key in the verses” is constructive because if you fix that issue then you increase your chances of an audience.

The fact that someone took the time to tell you means they care enough to help you build. Why cut off that sort of support?

This article has been a long time coming and I have touched on bits of it before. Today there was a thread started on Drooble that was really nail on the head, here is all the background…

The Funeral Party

This is a post on Drooble:

Sometimes Drooble starts to feel like some version of Stepford Wives or something, with the majority of people who opine seemingly reluctant to offer up real critiques on what is sometimes the elephant in the room. It is possible to be nice and disagree. It is possible to dislike a song’s style and yet still have valuable input for making it better. It’s possible to hate a song and like the artist, as is the inverse of that. By being “nice” and liking everything, or saying “oh well, it was pretty close” you’re doing a huge disservice to other Drooblers. Be honest. Be nice, too. But be honest. Anything less is not “being nice”.

Greebly MorK

This was my response to that:

I have pretty well abandoned offering real feedback on random music, even if the person has asked in a post as honestly mostly I got abuse in return.

I fully agree tho that this has resulted in a situation where everyone says only lovely things. It isn’t just here either, I made a post the other day with a more cliche, positive-y Title and suddenly more reads, likes etc. We have a whole culture of only being able to talk about nice things: Hipsterism. It is not healthy or productive. Sure it is necessary to have a positive outlook but being constrained to only saying nicey-nice things is a form of Tyranny (or straight out evil).

Nothing Left But Faith

This reply also came up and it is fairly typical:

This topic comes up quite regularly! I hear what you’re saying. However, personally (musically) I’ve been through a massive learning curve to reach the point I am at now. Last year, a few harsh words would have had me throwing in the towel, whereas the support I received from people saying “just carry on” has been invaluable. Fair enough if the criticism is about mixing techniques etc (tips are always helpful), but as far as criticising someone else’s art?! It’s all subjective – I would hate to ruin someone’s day (or someone’s life if they are as sensitive as me!!) by offering criticism of something I don’t understand or that doesn’t fit with my particular taste.

Kat Torrie

My reply:

I get this but part of being an artist – a real one – is the ability to take input and do something with it. Artistry is never in isolation or a Silo. We try to pretend that, but art & life need each other. Close one door and you are closing both.

I get people being bent out of shape over a criticism but that is also part of learning to be a real artist. I sent some stuff to Tom Ellard of Severed Heads “Dead Eyes Opened” and he hand-wrote me a reply. I was bent out of shape as he said he didn’t think my “bleeps & bloops” approach was interesting enough. He recommended I look more at melody & story. I was pissed. Later I realized that Tom was 100% right. Actually exactly the same advice I found myself giving to howls of complaint 30 years later.

If people are giving you valid criticism, you don’t have to agree with them, but always remember that the effort they are putting in is not to troll you (you can spot Trolls as they say things like “you suck”) but to Support & Build you. If you then use that support as a way to damage yourself, that is on you and you alone. Putting it on others to manage your fragility is handing your power (responsibility) away. That is the opposite of being an artist.

If you read my other reply here you will see that mostly I don’t bother trying to help anymore because of that. Is that a win when the elders of a community are silenced for the fragility of a few? Also ask yourself: if advice from me raised negativity in you, would you feel the same if it was from Elvis, Katy Perry, Adhele?

Advertisements

1 thought on “Handling Criticism or Advice”

  1. All right, first of all let me say how grateful I am to you for writing this post. I have been searching for a way to tell the world how much you suck. You are an artless Philistine who makes artificial music with gadgets, instead of beating on a hollow log like a real musician.
    The immortal Mandy Moore showed us all how important it is to speak your truth, even if it’s bullshit. As long, that is, as it doesn’t say anything bad about her. Then you suck.
    I kid. I kid because I love. People really need to think about this, both when giving and receiving criticism, and you expressed it very well, especially for some stupid cobber with his head stuck up his ass. Now piss off.
    Your pal,
    Kenny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.