Can’t Take The Criticism? Grow a Thick Skin


Hi. It’s Jilli. This week has only just started and it feels like the longest week ever. As I was walking Puppy through the neighborhood, I was listening to a song from a potential client who emailed me his demo.  Now, as a critic, I do give my full ear to the music. I happen to have enjoyed many submissions and some, not so much. However, the criticism is always constructive, and not negative in nature, with careful consideration to help the artist grow and not feel berated in any way.

I hit play and started listening. As the music filled my ears, I tried my best to be completely objective. However, his song was without real structure or without a memorable hook.  There was nothing that stood out about his song that would prompt me to call him back with any excitement. However, there was one thing that he did have and if used properly, would get him very far: Potential.

Some artists feel that when they hear the word potential, it’s a nice way of saying, “No, thanks, we’ll pass.” But in my opinion, potential is a good thing. You want to have potential in your music or in your abilities as a songwriter, musician, or recording artist. Without potential, what else do you have?

I gave the song a listen for a second time and nearly a third before I had decided what I was going to respond to him. When I returned from my walk, I let Puppy loose, grabbed my coffee, sat down in front of my computer, and proceeded to respond to him. My response, loosely worded here, was basically stating that his song had potential, but it wasn’t exactly what the radio stations and music directors are looking for in terms of airplay or licensing. However, that did not mean it was over. It just meant that he needed to either re-work the song to give it more of a definition, or consider something different. I also encouraged him to seek out other opinions from music industry professionals, and the like, to see what their reactions might be- as my opinion is just that- an opinion. And by God it isn’t the only one.

Well, imagine my surprise when he retorted almost immediately that I was wrong and didn’t know anything about music. He was irate that I didn’t get what he was trying to do and he went on and on about all the different instruments he had used in his music and how he was doing something different and he was sorry that I didn’t see that. I re-read my initial response to him, and quite frankly, I could have been awfully mean to begin with, but I wasn’t. So, I took a couple more sips of my coffee, and then decided to respond with the following: “If you’re going to be in this industry, you must grow a thick skin.” There was no response after that.

Artists, you know when someone is being mean and you know when someone is being nice. You can tell in their tone, mannerisms, and response. However, you should be able to differentiate between criticism and constructive criticism. When you send your music out to be reviewed, it’s like you threw your heart out to the world for everybody to see. Trust me, I get it. But if you want to share your music with the world, then you must understand that it will not be pleasing to everyone’s ears, that not everybody will like it straight away, and that some people will tell you in a mean way to not quit your day job. But the ones who do take the time to listen, and provide feedback at length, these are the people that you need to listen to, thank, and get pointers from. Seek like minded people who will not just say yes or no, but provide constructive insight about your project.

So now that I have had my, um, how do you say, “arse” chewed out, I expect that I will not hear from this artist again. But, that doesn’t mean that he won’t hear more from me or other people in this industry like me…and chances are, they will not be as constructive as I was. All I have to say is, if you’re going to get in the ocean, you better learn how to swim. -Jilli