Any press is good press. True? I wonder…That’s the old saying, but when someone comes after you with a vicious review of a show or recording, how do you feel? All seasoned musicians have had their fair share of reviews, good and bad. Do you follow the bloggers and reviewers, and live and die by their opinion of your work? Art is subjective and so are reviews. At the end of the day it’s just one person’s opinion, even though it may be from a very experienced music industry professional. That’s not to say that you should ignore constructive criticism, critiques or comments on your work. “Constructive” is the important word here. There are reviewers who write snarky commentary because of some unfulfilled dream that has left them bitter and cold. Usually that type of review is quite obvious because it isn’t well written and tells you nothing of substance about the music, the artist’s influences, or WHY the work didn’t hold together. Perhaps the reviewer just likes certain genres and was told to write the review by their editor so they halfheartedly threw something together. Those kind of commentaries are the worst. But deep down in your soul, do you enjoy reading negative reviews of other artist’s material? Be honest! Do you secretly revel in the shredding of someone’s record who you feel has gotten more attention than you think they deserve. Hmmm…I wonder…
If you believe all the good press that you may be lucky enough to receive, then it stands to reason that you should also believe the bad press. Some people can ignore press altogether, or so they say. It’s hard to imagine that after putting yourself out there in the most vulnerable way through your music, that something written that is less than glowing wouldn’t hurt a bit. For all of you up and coming musicians who have yet to release a single, EP or full length record, take heed, it isn’t always pretty. Be prepared to toughen up and take whatever is dished out about your work and try not to let it derailed your progress. If it comes from a respected professional and is written in a thoughtful manner take the feedback and use it to become a better artist. We all need critiques and feedback to keep us level and to help us keep reaching for higher ground. You will never improve as a musician if you just have your friends and family tell you that everything you create is a masterpiece when it might be crap. You don’t need a Yes Man constantly stroking your ego; that will get you nowhere fast. Stick with professionals who push you to be better, who are helping you to develop as an artist and who genuinely want you to reach your full potential. Don’t be satisfied with where you are today as a musician, always reach to improve your writing, your stage show and your business skills. Yes, you need to fine tune your business skills as well as your art. Make a great record with no fan base and good luck. It will fall flat if you don’t engage your fans and reach out to new ones. It’s an every day for the rest of your life deal. No napping allowed! Ah, so much work to do…so rise to the challenge. If you do get some bad press try to be thankful that anyone is listening at all. Use it to fuel the fire and dig deeper in your resolve to be a great artist. It could be the motivation you needed to take it to the next level and get you off your ass. Always be a student of the music, never stop practicing, and be open to the music of artists from every genre. You might just learn something or find inspiration for your hit song. It’s a big world and you are just one small part of it, so reach out and make those global connections. No reason at all not to have fans all over the globe. Music is the universal language so don’t limit yourself to just your home town buddies when looking for feedback, networking and inspiration.
One of the most notorious negative reviews came from Rolling Stone Magazine about Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page was so angry that he wouldn’t speak to the magazine for years, which was a problem for the magazine during the skyrocketing fame of Zeppelin during the 70’s. The nastiest part of the review read, “In their willingness to waste their considerable talent on unworthy material the Zeppelin has produced an album which is sadly reminiscent of [the Jeff Beck Group’s] Truth. Like the Beck group they are also perfectly willing to make themselves a two (or, more accurately, one-a-half) man show. It would seem that, if they’re to help fill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have to find a producer (and editor) and some material worthy of their collective attention.” Ouch!
Radiohead also received a scathing review from, Robert Christgau on OK Computer that read, “Radiohead wouldn’t know a tragic hero if they were cramming for their A levels, and their idea of soul is Bono, who they imitate further at the risk of looking even more ridiculous than they already do.” Christgau is known for writing less than stellar reviews of major acts including Daft Punk. None of these artists seem any worse for wear.
Rolling Stone struck again when Gordon Fletcher massacred Brian Eno’s first solo recording, “Here Come The Warm Jets”. Fletcher wrote, “others will… join with this writer in taking exception to this insane divergence of styles and wish that the next time Eno makes an album, he will attempt to structure his work rather than throw together the first ten things that come to mind”. Most wold agree that Fletcher totally missed the boat on this stunning gorgeous piece of work. Musical genres and style don’t have to be traditional to be brilliant.
Most importantly while you are reading this blog, hear this, Lou Reed was given a horrible review in Rolling Stone for his record, Berlin. We as a music community are grieving the loss today of one of our most innovative, ground breaking and brilliant pioneers. I can’t image where music would be today if it weren’t for the vision and creativity of Reed and The Velvet Underground. RIP Lou…we love you. Take a moment to check out this amazing performance of “Sweet Jane“.
So you see even the best of best made it through lots of bad press. And they Pressed on. So take it for what it’s worth, the good with the bad and keep moving forward. If you get a bad review, chalk it up to the process of becoming a real artist. You are putting yourself out there every day for the masses to judge. You asked for this life so deal with it. Lou Reed did and he did it with style, vision and passion for his craft. He lived a rough dark life at times but kept telling his story through the music. Keep telling yours, and make it a tribute to those who forged the way so you could be out there getting all those horrible reviews. 🙂