criticism as a musician

How to deal with criticism as a musician

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If you want to progress, you’re going to have to learn how to deal with criticism as a musician and channel it to help you improve. Here are five tips to help you navigate the inevitable.

Getting feedback from a representative sample of your target audience or from a seasoned music professional is a great way to measure where you are in your career. But what happens when you get feedback that is the opposite of what you wanted to hear? You have to learn how to deal with criticism as a musician and even use it to help you grow and develop.

Don’t get discouraged, get motivated

Finding your true creative voice and sound, and finding an audience to whom you appeal strongly, requires a significant amount of time, patience, dedication, motivation, and effort. It also requires that you do a great deal of experimenting, practicing, training, writing, and creative thinking. Bottom line, it requires that you roll up your sleeves and work hard until you find your right path. Don’t let this process intimidate you, let it motivate and stimulate you. As AC/DC said, “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n’ roll.”

Use constructive criticism wisely

According to John Braheny, author of The Craft and Business of Songwriting, when the legendary songwriter Diane Warren (Whitney Houston, Faith Hill, Celine Dion) was still honing her craft and sorting out her style, she attended songwriting groups in Los Angeles. Every week following the critique sessions in which she received feedback, she returned with complete revisions of her songs. She did this with the utmost enthusiasm and wrote hundreds of songs following this process. That commitment to continuous self-improvement, in addition to pure talent, luck, timing, and planning, was undoubtedly what led to her writing over fifty top 10 hits and to being the first songwriter in the history of the Billboard charts to have seven hits on the singles chart at the same time.

Concentrate on the ideas with the most potential

Remember that a smart organization puts aside its weaker ideas and concentrates its resources on those that have the most potential. As Scott Austin, former A&R executive of Maverick Records and current VP of Authentik Artists, advises, “Never be afraid to put aside 50 of your compositions to focus on 10 of your very best.”

Don’t throw ideas away, shelve them for future use

Some ideas won’t always get the best reviews, but that may be because the marketplace is not right at a particular point in time for that idea. What doesn’t work now, might work later. Consultant Ira Kalb puts it this way: “One never knows when the opportunity will present itself to go through the vaults of older works.”

Don’t waste time

Don’t let the competition beat you to the marketplace while you mope around depressed about the negative feedback you receive or the challenges you face. How many times have you said to yourself, “I could have done that!” or “I thought of that idea first!” We’ll, you’re not going to let that happen again, are you? So what are you waiting for? Get back to work and get it done today!

BorgGuide_SmThe contents of this post are © 2014 by Bobby Borg BobbyBorg.com. All rights reserved. Not to be posted, printed, or used in any other way without proper attribution to Bobby Borg and Disc Makers.

Get your FREE download of Bobby’s new Disc Makers guide, The Complete Marketing Process: Creating and executing a complete marketing plan, excerpted from Bobby’s book, Music Marketing For The DIY Musician: Creating and Executing a Plan of Attack On A Limited Budget (September 2014, Hal Leonard). The book is available on the Hal Leonard website, Amazon.com, or at BobbyBorg.com.

Professional songwriters offer advice on how to write a great 
song

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8 thoughts on “How to deal with criticism as a musician

  1. Thanks for all the comments. Please find more tips in my book Music Marketing For The DIY Musician. I am also available for consolations if you need me to help you solve any problem. Thanks all. http://www.bobbyborg.com.

  2. I do appreciate you sharing your experiences. I must say I’m a musician grow up on the streets, and I composed my own music. Your tips means a lot to me. I’m just trying to find my way( true) great things to know. Thanks
    Kenneth OSBORNE Lloyd

  3. I played an open mic night at a club in Austin, TX in 1986 where I brought my accompaniment with me on a cassette deck. My instructions to the sound guy (who also was the MC) was to hit pause between songs. He made sure that I knew how much he hated the “techno thing”, and despite being shown where the “Pause” button was, he went for the rewind and fast-forward ones instead, causing needless disruptions of what should’ve been a flawless 3-song set.
    Three years later, that same club proudly welcomed the arrival of Timbuk 3. Fortunately for them, their “band in a box was onstage, and out of his reach.
    That guy was a dick. Now, imagine that guy giving you allegedly “constructive criticism”. When you’re done with that fantasy, imagine me as Santa Claus.

    1. “I played an open mic night at a club in Austin, TX in 1986 where I brought my accompaniment with me on a cassette deck.” There is definitely a bias, just about everywhere, against that method of performance.

  4. One of the guiding principles for my life in music comes from G.K. Chesterton (about a century ago): “The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs.”

  5. Great read! Reminds me of something that I heard Steve Jobs say in an interview one time (slightly off subject however I believe it still applies). He said, don’t concern yourself with how you can be better than your competition. Focus on how you can be different from your competition. This has stuck with me throughout my travels as a musician and a professional within the music community.

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