Asking for criticism is a strange concept.
Seeking out criticism of your songs can feel like asking someone to trample on your dreams. Like, “Hey there, here’s something I put my entire heart and soul into. I’d love for you to tear it apart for me!”
… said no one ever.
For someone who’s never shown their work to anyone before, the thought of opening up to the opinions of others can be terrifying. Even worse — what if no one likes what you write?
Rejection can be paralyzing. It stops a lot of artists and musicians from ever sharing their pieces with the world. And that’s just sad! Music is social. It’s meant to be heard and enjoyed.
Ready for some cold, hard truth, my friends? Here it comes:
Fear of rejection is not a good enough reason to keep your music away from the world.
Yup. It’s a big excuse that no writer can hide behind forever.
Here’s the thing: We do not grow as writers and artists and musicians if we don’t face our weaknesses head on. Sometimes we’re aware of what our weakness are, and sometimes we are completely oblivious. Sometimes, we need a trusted friend or professional to keep us in check and point out what we’re doing well or poorly in order to become the best writers we can possibly be.
Keeping an open mind to constructive criticism will make you a better writer. If you’re still writing songs in your bedroom with the doors locked and all the lights out, or if you play hundreds of shows a year, everyone can benefit from constructive criticism.
If you’re still not convinced, here are 5 more reasons why constructive criticism can make you a better writer:
1. When you ask an expert, you get their expertise.
Asking an expert in their field to give you advice is really, like, the best thing ever. Can’t deny it.
If you happen to know a professional songwriter or composer, see if they’d be willing to give your music a listen and offer feedback. Their input will be invaluable since they’re working and creating at a higher level than you may be. These are the people you already look up to — why not ask them for some input?
2. Other people can listen objectively.
When you’re a creator, it’s impossible to listen to any of your own with without being totally biased. You made it. You can’t look at it objectively. Taking your work to someone, anyone, who is not yourself will serve your song. They’ll be able to see and hear things you never would be able to, simply because you’re limited to your own headspace.
3. How strong or not strong your concept is will immediately become crystal clear.
There’s nothing quite like sitting in a room with someone you respect, and playing your song on their boombox, patiently sitting and listening to every word while you’re wondering what is going on in their mind.
In moments like this, every little thing about your song becomes apparent. The good parts hit you in the feels and the mistakes are glaringly obvious. Being in that room, forced to listen in the company of another is like putting your song under a microscope.
Suddenly, you start to realize what works and what doesn’t even before they say anything. It’s ok, don’t beat yourself up or make apologies until they give you their input. Chances are, it’s not as bad as you thought. We are always our own worst critics!
4. You open yourself up to referrals and recommendations.
Sometimes amazing things come from critiques that have nothing to do with critiques at all. If your songs are great and your critique-er likes you, there’s a good chance they’ll recommend you to others who can help further your career.
This is actually the approach of a lot of mentors and song coaches. Typically, they want to hear many of your songs over time and see your grow. Once they feel like they’ve heard the right song, or you’re ready for the next step, they’ll personally recommend you to their contacts and friends in the industry. Seeking out criticism and honestly trying to better your writing can be the a great way to get plugged into a community.
5. Your songs get better.
This one is pretty obvious, but it needs to be said.
When you play your songs for people, you’ll get a lot of advice. Some of that advice is going to be crap. But some of it is going to be great. If you’re approaching constructive criticism the right way, you’ll find yourself disagreeing and agreeing with feedback.
It’s ok to be steadfast in your personal beliefs for the song. Conviction is a good thing, but being defensive is not. Listen to all the feedback you possibly can. Soak it all up like a sponge — then take it home, digest it, sift through the junk until you find the little golden nuggets of great input. Then, if you want to change your song, go for it. If you don’t no harm, no foul. In the end, your song becomes stronger because you chose to seek out all possible options.
6. You’re forced out of your comfort zone.
The comfort zone is the worst. Sure, it’s comfy, but it’s a lot like a big, cushiony bed. You could lay there on that pillow top forever and be nice and warm and comfortable, but you’re still just laying there in bed. Get up!
The best thing you could ever do for yourself in a music career is push yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Play your weirdest song for someone else. Get their opinions. People might hate it. You might hate it. Move on. Write more. Write different. Say yes to new opportunities. Do things you thought you’d never be able to do. Walk through doors. Don’t be afraid to ask. Be gracious and grateful. Write and write and write.
You can’t help go anywhere but up when you consciously decide to make yourself move.
If you’re still wary about this whole constructive criticism thing, you can still start small:
We challenge you to step out of that pillowy comfort zone and put your best song in front of someone you love and trust. Could be your significant other, best friend, your mom, your cooky, artsy aunt. Someone who loves you regardless. Tell them you’ve never done this before, but that you’d love their input on your song. They’ll be flattered, and they’ll treat you with respect.