How should friends respond to a musician’s request for feedback.
My friend Peter just asked me if I wanted an honest reaction to my latest musical effort. Or did I want feedback designed to boost my self esteem?[sic.].
Good question, Pedro.
When I was in high school I played Judge Danforth in the Crucible and to the shock of my fellow cast members and teachers managed to remember and deliver my lines. Afterwards my father said, “It’s hard to believe the character and not see your son playing the part. But for a few minutes I really thought it was Judge Danforth.”
Wow! Thanks, Dad. That’s a compliment I remember.
Since my first and only acting performance, I’ve self-published four novels and created an internet musical presence through home recordings and self-made videos. I’ve learned to separate critics into three camps.
- Family and friends — not to be trusted — unless they’re truly cruel they’re going to as Peter suggested pat you on the head and say, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”
- Strangers — better because they see the art not the artist.
- Professionals–best because they comment on the intricacies of what you’re doing and can make suggestions that actually improve your mix.
Professional artists have big audiences because they have professional backing. Of course there are exceptions particularly in music where an artists can self-generate a large base of fans who will discuss and appreciate the music. But for most of us until we’ve found a publishing house or record label to invest, develop and promote our music or novels you’re going to be left mostly with family and friends.
So, I have a response for my friend Peter and all family and friends of artists:
No artist rises fully formed from the physiological storms that produce their art. Every artist must go through transformative stages to get to the point where his art can capture the imagination of someone else and take them out of themselves–the ultimate affect of art.
What I want from you depends on what stage I give you the project. If I send you a preliminary mix or draft then what I want is detailed feedback I can use to improve my art (e.g. bring up the bottom on that part of the song).
If I’ve sent you, as in this case, a mastered demo then I want you to hear the music not the artist and tell me when you forgot it was me up there and you saw Judge Danforth.