I spoke with a client the other day, who mentioned that although his latest song had a bit of appeal to his friends, overall they don’t seem very enthusiastic about his music. His songs simply aren’t very well received by them.
I empathized immediately. Over the years, my closest friends never really seemed to care whether I had a performance or a song release unless it was already part of a high profile, popular project such as when I performed in RENT or The Lion King. Anything else I personally produced was simply not that interesting to them. It was not their taste, or not worth spending the money to see or support it. I used to feel offended and hurt, but I have come to learn that it is absolutely their prerogative to support my creative endeavors – or not to. My friends’ lackluster response simply let me know that they were not my core audience, nor were they songwriters or musicians who could reflect to me a helpful professional opinion.
So who can you TRUST for useful musical feedback when you’re ready to receive it?
A key moment for me about quality feedback, had been in realizing that I had to put a bit more thought and consideration into the music – beyond the artistry of it.
- Become very clear about who I am seeking to serve with my art, song by song. Once I figure out who a particular song is for, it informs my song’s direction. In the end, knowing who my audience is, very specifically, I usually have a much higher quality song. Writing for bold women who want to dance is very different from writing a song for my grandpa.
- What do I hope to accomplish with this song? What will the listener do with my song? Will they dance to it, meditate to it, put it on as background during dinner, will it bring them to tears and move them through an emotional journey, or make them laugh?
- Get the right critical listeners! Knowing my goal informs my ability to understand the feedback better. I can ask myself, “Did I accomplish what I desired?”. With a quality critical listener, you can get this answer, and gain perspective on so much more.
WHO are your good listeners?
You can find quality critical listeners in other places though. These listeners don’t have to love your style, but they can understand the goal of the song, and they can speak constructively about what elements stand out that are working well. A critical listener can let you know how the song structure reads to them. They can let you know where the lyrics become confusing or where the song loses their interest. This is not personal, it’s work. Importantly, in this forum the listener should have the musical vocabulary, the ability to actively listen for 3 minutes. This listener can tell you how the song makes them feel, and hopefully they have the insight to let you know why they are feeling affected the way they are by your song.
This listener’s thoughts are particularly helpful for me during the songwriting process when my own ears have heard the song so much that I no longer feel like I can hear the song objectively. The critical listener’s fresh ears and thoughts can act as a “reset”, helping me to move forward with a new perspective.
My personal go-to place for quality feedback on my music is other songwriters whose work I respect. I also just took on a Songwriting Mentor for her guidance and suggestions. A mentor’s bird’s eye view of your journey can be very helpful.
WHERE are your good listeners?
Look for musical community at FAWM fawm.org, at your local songwriter’s association, with Nashville Songwriters Association International https://www.nashvillesongwriters.com/, or you can find like-minded reputable songwriting groups on Facebook. There are also services you can pay to listen to your songs, such as Audiu.net.
Pro Tip: Often if you participate in any songwriting retreats (virtual or in person), you will end up with a quality connection of at least 2 other trustworthy songwriters. That’s really all you need. They can be your extra ears, and you can be theirs. Everyone benefits as your music moves towards completion – and into the ears of your waiting listeners who you choose to serve with your unique flavor of music. 🙂
Key takeaway (TLDR): Know who you are seeking to serve with your song. Know what you desire to accomplish. Then get constructive feedback for your songs by getting them into the right listener’s ears.
Peace & Blessings,