3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Let Critics Shape Your Music

Whether songwriters like it or not, critics and tastemakers representing blogs and media outlets are a major part of how music is vetted, marketed and sold, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. With how important music criticism is to the success and longevity of a release, it can be tempting for writers to try and make their music sound like something they think will please critics, but they shouldn’t. Here are three reasons why:

1. Music written for critics comes off as insincere

Music that manages to stay relevant, genuine, and impactful almost always comes from a place of longing, dissatisfaction. and true emotion in a songwriter. Music critics and listeners will be able to discern whether your music comes from a real place of honesty and thoughtfulness or if it’s aiming to imitate the feelings and ideas of someone else’s. While you write music, make sure you’re working in a way that honors your unique thoughts, ideas, and story.

2. The sort of music that resonates with critics is always changing

With thousands of artists writing and releasing music more than ever before, it’s almost impossible to predict what ideas are going to last over the ones that will entertain the masses for a year or two and then fade into permanent obscurity. Shaping your music in a way that fits current stylistic or thematic trends is a bad idea because you run the risk of making something that sounds tired and dated the minute it gets released. Songwriters have to walk a delicate balance here between finding their own unique voice while recognizing that the music around them is constantly shifting and evolving.

If you find yourself wanting to imitate the trends you hear in the music around you, take some time and ask yourself what exactly it is you resonate with so much. Whether it’s the vocal manipulation techniques currently employed in so much electronic music today or the folk “whoop!” heard in so many songs back around 2010, many trends in music are short lived, so don’t put them into your music to please critics.

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3. It won’t work

Probably the biggest reason not to create music to please critics is because it most likely won’t work. Despite what you might think, music criticism isn’t an easy job, and an experienced critic will be able to tell if your music is written to cater to them after a few seconds of listening. Your best bet is to do the hard work of creating music on your own terms that honors your own ideas and story. The trick here is to recognize your influences and interpret them rather than to imitate them outright. That’s no easy task, but it’s something you’ll have to do if you want to make impactful music.

Also, it’s important to recognize that critics of any artform shouldn’t be the final say of whether something is good or not. Whether it’s a giant music blog with lots of traffic or a Youtube commenter, remember that criticism is merely an outside perspective. If your main motivation for songwriting is pleasing other people, neither you or your listeners will be happy.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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Rebecca3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Let Critics Shape Your Music

6 comments

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  • Crictime - January 9, 2018 reply

    Thanks, Rebecca, your article is very useful and deep, now I will never be in dilemma when some 1 say wrong about me, I will remember these points and I will be fine. 🙂

  • Raylan jasper - January 10, 2018 reply

    This article is a great reminder and I couldn’t have read it in a better time how was starting to doubt my music my family are not big fans of my music which didn’t like the things I write about because it’s against everything they believe in I would like to thank you for putting out this article since I produce my own music in every aspect you can think of I have 100% control of my music I was thinking of making it guess more commercial but as of now my family is going to have to keep on hating on music thanks to this article thank you perfect timing I tell you God works in mysterious ways

  • AA Charlie Heaney - January 11, 2018 reply

    I write song that having a meaning to me…and I hope I make a connection even if it’s only to one person out there …my songs are songs from the heart…thank you for your article

  • Stanley Sikorski - January 11, 2018 reply

    I never cared what critics think. Do they think? Or are they just there to kiss up to their sponsors and do the bidding of the suits who run the quickly atrophying iron beanie music corps that have controlled the industry for so long? Anyway, I don’t care about them or what they do. They are never right anyway. Music is a personal choice. If you have a soul, then you don’t listen to anyone else when choosing what you like to write or listen to. If you want to be the next ‘whatever is popular’, by all means suck up and be the next potted plant. Otherwise just do what you do and if people dig it then all the better.

  • James Carbonaro - January 11, 2018 reply

    Watch Blind Melon’s music video for No Rain and put yourself in the place of the little tap dancing girl in the bumble bee costume.

  • vR Sarti - January 13, 2018 reply

    In hte end I have to be happy with the song before anything else matters. Hopefully the fans like it too. It is a funny business. Some of the songs I really love don’t get the kind of response that some of the songs I like less do. Sure, I like to please an audience, hopefully what does it for me does it for them too. As for critics, I value feedback from other musicians most.

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