Weighing Different Opinions About Your Music
As a musician, you will hear a variety of opinions regarding your music. They could be regarding your live performance, choice of cover material, your musical career, your mix or just about anything regarding your music. But not all opinions are the same and not all intentions regarding the expression of the various opinions are the same. Some opinions are well-intended as advice but even those opinions have to be weighed because not all advice, even if well intended, should be regarded the same. So how do you weigh the various opinions? Here are some thoughts on the subject.
Criticisms Regarding Your Overall Direction or Attitude
As either a solo musician or member of a band, you probably have certain strategies as far as how you plan to advance your situation or career. You have ideas regarding where you plan to play, what type of music you plan to play and other things. Even how you run the band can get you some unsolicited advice or criticism.
In a number of bands I have been in, I was the guy that usually directed the rehearsals. That involved what songs to work on during the practice or what songs we should go over more than once or twice in order to get it down. And at the end of the practice, we would all decide what new songs we should be ready to try on the next scheduled rehearsal. There have been a number of times when certain people fell short on what they were supposed to have already learned in preparation for the rehearsal. When that would occur, I would express my dissatisfaction.
One person who was not a member of the band but was friends with all of the members of the band told me that he thought I was too critical and perhaps a little unrealistic in my expectations regarding the other members of this band as well as other bands I had been in previously. I didn’t believe so and I can easily tell you why.
You see, in order to play out steadily and make money doing it, you need to have a lot of material. That would be anywhere from two to four hours. Preferably four, if you really want to be able to perform regularly. In order to get to that point, everyone in the band has to learn the material they are supposed to learn. When one person doesn’t learn his part, it ruins things for everyone else in the band who took the time and made the effort to learn the material. So my expressing dissatisfaction in cases where people were not learning their parts, to me, was both normal and reasonable.
A few years later, I ended up as part of a musical duo. We got a lot of material together in a relatively short period of time and were out playing paid gigs regularly. It was pretty much every weekend. Those other guys that I had worked with in the past never did. So who was holding who back? My expectations regarding learning the material were not unreasonable or unrealistic. They were normal.
I remember going to see a band play live in a local bar one night. This was years ago before I began playing out regularly. During the band’s break, I struck up a conversation with the lead singer. I asked him how often the band played out and he told me it was every weekend and usually both Friday and Saturday nights. They also played some gigs during week nights here and there. They had a great deal of material that they played and obviously everyone was doing their part by learning the songs.
So, with myself not being in a well-functioning band situation where we were playing out regularly, I asked what they would do with someone who wasn’t learning the songs as he was supposed to. He didn’t even hesitate in the slightest when he gave me the answer. He told me straight out that you just get rid of someone who doesn’t learn the songs as he is supposed to.
I had always been hesitant to get rid of people when they weren’t working out in a band situation. I was always worried about having to look for a new singer, drummer, bass player or whatever. So I made the mistake of giving some people one chance after another, after another and so on. I then realized that it was not unrealistic of me to expect people to do their part. So the advice or criticism regarding my attitude, as it would pertain to my expectation of the other band members, was neither quality advice nor a qualified opinion. My expectations were not unrealistic or unreasonable. In fact, I was really too tolerant of being jerked around by others.
Criticisms Regarding Your Material
One thing I have learned is that you can never completely please everyone regarding the type of music or songs that you play. Even within the same audience, some will come up to you and tell you that you should play more of one band but someone else will tell you to play less of that very same band. This happens because not everyone has the same taste in music.
So one guy might say I need to play less songs from the Beatles and do more songs from the Rolling stones. Then the next guy will come up to me and tell me to do the opposite. One person will tell me to play more new songs and the next guy will tell me to play more classic stuff. So whose advice should I take? That’s when you have to weigh things out. One person might say I play too many fast songs and the next guy will say I don’t play enough. Not everyone thinks the same.
I remember one time someone from the audience told my bass player we played too many songs from a certain group and not enough songs from one of the bands he liked. Well, my bass player told me about it and basically expected us to suddenly start learning a bunch of songs from that other band. I said that we could add more songs from that band but I also told him that you could never know every song everyone wants to hear and since that is the case, you have to prioritize what songs you want to learn. The songs you choose to learn should be based on some sort of strategy or set of goals you have.
You just can’t change your overall musical direction and musical goals every week simply because you get a different opinion from a different person each week. If you were to do that, you would go crazy and you would never get anywhere. You have to have very defined and set musical goals. If your goals change weekly, you will never reach any goal. So some people would criticize me saying that I had an attitude like I didn’t care about the opinions of others. Well, it’s not true. It’s just that you will hear numerous different opinions and you have to weigh them all out because you can’t change your goals every week.
Some Opinions Matter More Than Others
I don’t mean to sound like a snob here but the truth is that some opinions matter more than others. If someone who has never been in a band that was playing out regularly or has never been in a band at all, his opinions regarding the subject of what needs to be done to get out and play will not be as valuable as the opinions or advice of a musician who is out there playing paid gigs on a regular basis. Also, if you hear a band who has a great mix or overall sound, you might show preference for their opinions regarding the subject of how to get a good mix over someone who does not sound as good. So, yes, not all opinions are equally as valid.
Now, if you hear the same opinion regarding a specific subject from multiple people on multiple occasions, then you may want to take that opinion more into consideration than most. Like, for instance, if you are always being told you are way too loud, you may want to turn the volume down a bit. Or if you are often told that the vocals are not loud enough, you may want to turn up the microphone. Multiple people expressing the same opinion on multiple occasions could serve as a sort of wake up call. So someone expressing an opinion you have heard frequently may matter a bit more than the one opinion you’ve heard only once.
The bottom line is that hearing the opinions of others can be helpful in many cases. They can also be harmful if the advice offered in that opinion is bad. Some people know what they are talking about and some people, quite frankly, don’t. Also, you need to have well thought out and well defined goals. They can’t change every week simply because you hear a different opinion from a different person every week. You would never get anywhere if your goals change weekly. So you have to carefully consider and weigh the opinions people offer.
© 2020 Bob Craypoe