Other people's comments, good or bad?

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Obviously members of 50/90 will be pro comments, they help spur us along through the challenge. But that's not the only context. I'm thinking of one time a collaborator reposted a song I'd written with her off of 5090 in another songwriting forum. They weren't just critical, it was a seemingly endless series of cruel jeers and insults. Some would say just take what's constructive from that and use it to improve the song, but it wasn't helpful initially, to me.

And that was totally innocent on the part of my collaborator. It did end up with a better recording of the song. I worked on that song producing several versions of it till I had one I would have been happy to share, rather than the original 5090 work tape version, but it wasn't a fun process like music making usually is for me. And I'm sure those twits would have ripped it to shreds just the same if they'd heard it anyway.

So here's an article on the subject of feedback and commentary, and also, what are your thoughts?


I think of FAWM and 5090 as a supportive place for works in progress. Since we're writing a lot, and rapidly I don't expect perfectly polished songs from myself - or from others. Of course, I sometimes am pleasantly surprised by the quality of others' works, as well as my own. As we know, there's a difference between critique and criticize. I would never criticize anyone's work here, and I would only offer what I think might be helpful to improving their songs - only if they ask. I hope others would do the same for me. I don't require critiquing of my work. I'm just doing it for fun, and hope other members enjoy my output - and input.

The point that I take from Clay's article is that the people who were giving him feedback were people in the business who knew what they were talking about. And let's face it: if that person is Reba McEntire, you do what she says. Likewise, I trust the people here to give me feedback that will help me to become a better musician and a better writer, because we're all striving toward the same goal.

Other platforms, not so much. And please remember the #1 rule of YouTube: Never read the comments.

IA's picture

@headfirstonly It is very dangerous to assume that everyone's striving toward the same goal.

For example, my goal is not to become a better musician or a better writer. It might be occasionally, but right now, my goal is to barf out the contents of my brain and share it with the good people of 5090. I know you said what you said to reiterate that the feedback people here write would largely be very useful to you. It just always makes me a bit worried, when somebody says something along the lines of "if you are here, you think like this". No no no.

What comes to the op @Calum Carlyle, yea it depends on the goals. If you want something to be the best thing that it could be, what does that even mean? For it to be popular? Like Miley Cyrus? For it to be artistically valuable? How would you define that? Something that people will talk about in 500 years? Something well-produced? "Well" as opposed to what? To make the highest emotional impact? There you might be getting somewhere. The point is... What is the goal?

And when you consider the goal, does it help letting outsiders dissect it? If you want to be the next Miley Cyrus... then yea probably! Not that many people know how to make anything commercially viable anyway... it's more about networking, I'd assume. But whatever the case. If you see the value in a second opinion, then it's probably going to sting when they tell you their very subjective view on what worked and what didn't. I mentioned this on another thread, but me and my friend have a very different taste in music. He tells me everything I like sucks ass and vice versa. Objectively speaking, we're both wrong. Because there are no objective opinions. All depends on the goal.

I don't currently see any value in letting anybody critique any of my songs, because it won't make them better.

It won't make them better, because they are currently what they need to be. They are perfect to me. Even if I hate them. They are what they are and I wouldn't change them. So, somebody's feedback is only going to piss me off. Not comments. I love comments. Hearing how my music affected somebody or how they perceived it. But if you're going to tell me "this worked and that didn't", then don't bother.

And people insulting something on a forum tells a lot more about them than about your song. They're insecure about their own shit. I don't care if you've got a shelf full of grammies. You go insulting something, you're an insecure baby... just hoping you'd one day make that one song that would fill that void inside you... make your mommy come back from the grave and tell you what a great job you did... or something. Hell, I'm probably one of them! Lol

Anyway, that's my take on this. Receiving feedback is a bitch. Don't pay the price unless you know you're going to get something really valuable in return.

AND not everyone takes feedback the same way as others. Some people are super nonchalant and objective about receiving harsh feedback and even insults. Good for them! I can't say that I know many people like them. The worst part seems to be that they have no idea what that same feedback feels to other people, and they're just treating you like a clone of themselves. "Just do this, just do that, it's not that bad!" Yea, maybe not for you! Not everyone is just like you. Other people are more sensitive about this stuff and you can't, read that again CAN'T know how they feel. So your feedback on the subject is of little help.

Wow, maybe I actually said all I wanted to say now. That's my rant! I'll be back for more, if anyone wants to read another wall of text. (I don't know if anyone really reads these.)

I generally do not want critiques of my draft works at FAWM or 50/90 for three reasons. Number one, they are drafts so I've not even had the chance to work on them myself (especially skirmish songs I wrote in an hour!) And number two, I do not know most of the nice folks I encounter here so I have no way of knowing what their qualifications are for critiquing my specific type of songs. And number three, at this point in my life I am mostly writing songs for fun and not for commercial success or the approval of others. If I like my songs that is enough for me.

Lately I have discovered that many more people are telling me that my comments made their day than my lyrics made their day, so I find this is a worthwhile area for me to focus my 'be kind' efforts.

From my looks around the forums and the like, I really enjoy the vibe this place gives off! Lots of people supporting each other and when criticism is wanted it is given, but not in what appears to be a mean way. Everything seems constructive here, and the comments I have received have been nothing short of amazing! I think if you don't like something you can voice that I suppose, but there is of course no need to be mean about it!

Hey @Calum Carlyle

It's a great question.

It gets asked, most every year, or literally it does, -- and I even see literally the same answers over time from the same folks, if even phrased a tad more friendly, civil now Smile hahhh. I guess folks do learn, -- you might have to live with these folks for a long time Wink not every one runs from a bully! Smile

- I will read that article, I have not yet, -- and if relevant to comment further, then come back.

I learn all the time, Wink so I think ? my answers change over time; and, I like seeing this question asked as you have, -- in a positive, constructive manner. (kinda why I posted that "love about music" thread).

So... ...

Well, I'd say that 90% of the folks I run into, and over many years, and I mean, decade(s), -- they can't write 10 Songs in a Day. Many here "can". Well, let's define "many"... ... ? (Lot's of fast folks here, indeed!)

Likely, of that say, (ball parking it), 2000 ish listed as members,
of which 250 ish post a song,
and then maybe 10-20 are FULLY engaged here,
-- well.

2% ish of 2000 ish is what ? 40 folks (Does that "look" correct? It does to me.)

So, consider that as perspective for feedback anywhere not CONTEXT and content related.
- Here.

See, the Wrecking Crew videos and a few still active members giving interviews... Carol Kaye, bass player and etc., literally 10 Songs a Day, (who knew? Smile ) hahhh! Well, many did, but not the customers or even many other musicians, -- how could they, -- no internet.

- I love this topic but am trying to write less, (I can write ALLOT! Wink anyone? amen? aye!?) ---- so... hmmm one other point:
Oh, there are lets say, two kinds (not really but lets say), two kinds of "Composers",
-- Method, strict, strict, strict adherence to "the method"

(And, they may/not have the "education" to go with it, - musically... "i been do'in dis for 5 YEARs so... you know I know! Wink ) ... and then,

- there are the, lets call'em "hippie" types (regardless of age... may not be that old)... no metho,
-- Who have had m - a - n - y years of "ejukation" (musically), and just found it all so made up Smile hahhh and just "go for it"!

Who cares, it's music and all subjective. An 8 yo singing, can be as entertaining as a juliard skooled pianist, -- more so? Entertainment. People do pay for it, - cable, satellite, cell-phone, internet access Wink et alia media... good?

What's good? What's professional?

Well, as I learned the hard way many years ago, ---- when I showed up with my 1+1 "folk" music to/in a BAIB karaoke "songwriters" Forum! O - M - G! Jah, "dey been a do'in it a full 4 - 5 yeazs they said". I only been doing it, well, for to long now, and have been saying no-thanks to invitations for more, since then. I'm just not impressed, nor try. You don't want to "make it"... hahhh! It's not what you think.

-- So, KNOW your room Smile indeed! hahhh... and well, I guess I can leave it there. (This is your room, there, was/not? Context, content, relevant application of -- "anything".)

I won't give my philosophy of commenting, (unless I did? apologies, apologies, apologies!!...) -- no one really cares, but they do want YOU to know theirs!!! (OMG! do they!, an so much!) ... so just,
-- Dale Carnegie -it Wink listen and they'll think you a great speaker! Hahhh, having said nothing! Unlike all this I leave here Wink hahhh, gotta laugh!

I have other kinds of issues with on-line communities but only in that, -- I tend to only comment on stuff I "like" OR I say *nothing... so folks can KNOW when I say "I like it...", it's authentically meant!, -- not for the millennial/centurian club list, is it?... for every Hundred you post to the list? If I get many to comment, -- it's 'cause, I like that many, and for real!

Usually, the only time you'll see me comment otherwise, -- is like this. Or, if walking along, minding my own business, doing MY OWN THING with folks who are "my people" Wink and letting OTHERS DO THEIR's, with their's... ... BUT, then, one, or they scheit on me/my/mine, or otherwise "WTF" me... well, then, that's *different.

(All you should do, is apologise, -- gives closure. And you do want closure? No, -- okay! Wink And so GOES the human condition, vwah lah, -- today.)

And as I say, -- careful, since you may have to LIVE with these folks for many years to come, -- a divided board is allot less fun, but hey, nothings perfect... not in this life, -- just the Next one... we, shall Sea! Smile

---- And so "here" we have a more evolved membership, most of the time, it seems; AND, it deletes itself and starts over every year... Wink so, there's that, too! Gotta love a fresh start... only on the internet? Wink hahhh! well, maybe.

So, I read that article,
------ and it actually has nothing to do with "songwriting", -- great to see it so obvious though.

So, snippets from it, that may lead to "how I hear it" Wink and why I say that.

- "...other peoples opinions on your song..."

Don't we need to know how folks may be "hearing" them?

Is there a difference?

- "... what they personally don’t like about my song is [*]not the bottom line ..."

100% True!

I may not "like" Chocolate Ice-cream, -- so what?
Also, (know your room) why is a vanilla eater anywhere near you unless knows good chocolate when eats it, -- nonetheless?

- "... not getting them excited and hitting the replay button ..."

That -- only may matter if their "feelings" have a track record, and -- regardless of like.

I taste allot of newly constructed meals in a week, and many I would not want to eat daily, but, -- those are gonna $ell! I just know it, and never wrong. (Same thing with "Code" I would, or not bother, to write, and why I got paid as I did, -- write it for what?, and be correct 100% of the time. Like has nothing to do with it. Being correct, is everything, the only thing. It's just business, nothing personal Smile )

- "Their jobs depend on them finding great songs and they don’t care where it comes from."


I'll leave that there and with these items/nuggets (homework Smile ) folks can vet theirselves "good/bad", "pro/not-pro" ? :

"Kansas", a Band, -- watch their docuvideo

"The Doobie Brothers", a Band, -- the vinyl was pressed and packaged, they had a track record, a following, and all ready to go with the next. And then?

---- > New kool kids took over the offices that week, and then? < ----

Nothing. Hmmm...

You ain't nothing, unless one of the kool kids Smile

If you are IN THAT WORLD? Smile hahhh... the only person you listen to is the one writing and signing the checks, -- period. It's a bit of a whore business... but then, what isn't today. You make choices about what world and Standard you want to live to.

---- But what does ANY of THAT have to do with * Songwriting?!?

THAT ARTICLE -- had NOTHING to do with SONGWRITING Smile (you may need to consider that over a shot and a beer and fat blunt, or your fav thing...) ... nothing, nothing, nothing at all to do with songwriting... if you don't get that, or what it was about... well, good luck. But, it's kinda why until YOU show up with a FOLLOWING that YOU built for your STUFF, that they then may market/EXPLOIT for profit... well, you just ain't gonna be one of the kool-kids Smile hahhh... But, then, why get signed? For what? To give your work away? What do you get in return? (All that upfront money, -- gets taken back! Wink first sales. No free rides.)

Moreover, you/I/us all, in that situation are one moronic comment, or attitude adjustment away from, -- the next person stepping in.

-- GREAT ARTICLE and TOPIC!!! But, it's not about "songwriting". (Though, this conversation, thread is. Good/not, pro/not, what is that?)

1) Architects get degrees, "proofs", so that they can exploit their 2) ART, "esoterics", and 3) Realestate agents get licenses to sell it... three different businesses munged, and so the Arts, go.

I doubt the "feedback" you got via your collaborator had anything to do with what you then did, other than to revise to your own standard of what you thought better of, -- it could be. And, developed some skills to do it. And you remain so to today.

-- Hate and Chaos can be a tremendous tool, if used by the Good, for Good Smile hahhh! But, how many folks do!!?? Apparently, you did.

How idiotic at first did Hendrix *sound and had to leave the country, Pink Floyd, Dylan (electric), The Stones (in Exile 45+ hours of Tape of Keith noodling one song?), [punk bands], [grunge bands], [early, first rap/break dancers], [funk, rock, r&b fusion] and et alia, hahhh, the first 20 Minute Prog Rock track Smile hahhh!

Break the rules, be part of the next major movement if even from your living room in bunny slippers sipping wine Wink Why not.

You know that old adage, "Know your audience?" I think it equally applies to feedback. Time, place, my mental state and the people giving the feedback all make a difference. There are arrogant assholes on every site on the internet (FAWM and 50/90 having a whole lot less of them than average) and I think the key is to avoid them as much as possible. Of course, sometimes I need to hear blunt criticism in order to improve. But just like an addict not ready to give up their demon, it will fall on deaf ears if I'm not in frame of mind to critically evaluate and either accept or reject the criticism based on as unbiased and objective perspective as I can manage.

re: qualifications. I get it. But I've received great feedback from non musicians and beginning songwriters. I've also received crap feedback from well experienced musicians. The key is I knew their qualifications. If I don't know then how can I tell if they are a troll (even if only for a few moments) as opposed to trying to be helpful.

In general, I like support but I'm not interested in criticism. The FAWM and 50/90 communities are great with support. A place like Reddit... not so much.

I like to think that traditional trolls challenge your identity. If you're sure of yourself, you are safe. If you're not sure of yourself, you work -- whatever it is -- is (always) so bad that you should just stop trying. Some trolls will knowingly provide bad advice, just to see if you're weak enough to accept it. Do you believe in your art, or will you destroy it yourself?

The thing is, if you see that as the _job_ of the troll, then... why would anyone keep going back to trolls to see if they like something? They're always going to be the same trolls. Follow their advice and you can only lose.

So, for me, at least, online comments are not all equal.

I tend to think the more a site is used by "everyone" the more trolls will be there, and the less value the comments will have. Basically: Facebook: stay local, YouTube: just turn comments off, Reddit: don't bother, Twitter: avoid. That sort of thing.

Smaller, well-managed user-bases can still have lots of friendly people. The various Mastodon and Fediverse sites with strong server rules and admin staff that protect their users have a much higher chance of friendly people compared to the big commercial sites. Trolls and gabbers are left to fend for themselves on isolated islands, and the rest of the community is more-or-less civil.

Ultimately, you can't develop community without comments. It's just that when sites are not well-managed, they can easily develop a toxic community.

I have a dear friend who is an online grammar stickler-- you know the kind. Unfortunately, our tools often contribute errors to our writing in the guise of 'helping' (autocorrect, grammar checkers, squiggly lines). She was a first grade teacher for 30 years and was raised when you were rapped on the knuckles (literally) for spelling mistakes. In our face to face songwriting group, she regularly points out spelling or punctuation mistakes on the lyric sheets we share while workshopping new songs.
My responses of, "Songwriting is an oral medium," are ignored.
Her main argument is: If you publish it, there should not be mistakes.
But a hastily typed lead sheet to take to a critique group is not "publishing". It is most certainly a draft.
I finally lost my cool with her a few months ago. Spelling and grammar corrections on the lead sheet do nothing to improve the song.

This is a very tricky subject; actually it's a concatenation of several very tricky subjects. I'll try to unpack it a little.

So let's see. . . some points I think are important:

1. The Intardwebz is a dangerous place where behind-the-keyboard anonymity emboldens a lot of people to be bullies, either just for fun or because it makes them feel better about themselves. They can't actually hurt you unless you let them, so don't let them. (A SIDE NOTE: I wish people wouldn't call that 'trolling,' because I am one of the people -- known as 'kibologists' -- who literally invented trolling before the World Wide Web was a thing, back in the USENET days. Bullying others and insulting them for no reason is FLAMEBAITING, not trolling. . . but that battle was lost years and years ago. For those who are interested, TROLLING has nothing to do with monsters who live under bridges; it is a fishing term that means to tow a fishing line behind a moving boat. Trolling as we invented and practiced it in alt.religion.kibology was the art of saying something obviously incorrect, getting overly-pedantic 'fish' to correct you, and then keeping them on the line with your faux-ignorance for as long as possible. Thus, "YOU SUCK, YOUR MUSIC SUCKS, AND I HOPE YOU DIE IN A GARBAGE FIRE" is not a troll; it's flamebait. "WHY DID MR. SPOCK FROM STAR TREK WRITE ALL THOSE BOOKS ABOUT RAISING CHILDREN WHEN HE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE ANY?" is a troll.)

2. There is, as @corinne54 notes, a difference between mere criticism and valid critique, and it's the difference between "I don't like that; it's shit" and "this is why I don't like that shit, and here's how you can make it better." Mere criticism should be politely ignored (so should vapid, empty praise), but in most circumstances it shouldn't be shushed. People have a right to express their opinions even when that expression is of no use to anyone, even if they're just being mean. Critique, on the other hand, should be carefully evaluated; it might be worthless nonsense from someone who doesn't know diddly-doo, but it may be incredibly valuable to your future musicking even if it comes from a non-musician (out of the mouths of babes, etc.).

3. If you make music to please yourself instead of to please an audience, then -- presuming you have even a modicum of good taste -- you cannot go wrong, and some segment of the unwashed masses will like it too. Doing it this way means that you can listen to both critique and criticism, take and use what seems valuable to you, and be entirely unaffected by all the bullying and bullshit the world can heap upon you. I don't really understand @johnstaples when he says he doesn't want critiques because (among other reasons) "If I like my songs that is enough for me." No offense to John meant (seriously, really), but if you like your songs and that's enough for you, critique should be utterly irrelevant to you, unless you find something in it you didn't think of before that is useful. To me, chafing at critique seems like clear evidence that you liking it ISN'T enough for you, because people disliking it obviously affects you badly. Again, no offense meant; I'm not trying to slam @johnstaples over this point, I'm just giving my own perspective on it; we are all the center of our own universes and see things the way we see them, so he's entitled to have his viewpoint and may see the sense in it even if I don't. Your mileage, too, may vary from both his and mine. My take, though, is in line with the old German adage "Let the people talk and the dogs bark." And sometimes when the people talk, you can learn things.

4. This site has a community tradition -- bolstered lightly by actual rules -- that absolutely forbids bullying criticism, and strongly discourages critique no matter how valid. I have mixed feelings about it; I understand that critique becomes far less valid when aimed at recordings made in a mad rush to do 50 songs in 90 days (or a song in an hour), but I like valid critique and am always eager for a chance to learn from others. If their valid critique turns out to be irrelevant because of the rushed format here, or is something I already know, then I have lost nothing; it's no skin off my nose to be told I could do things better, and it might help me, as long as I'm told HOW I could do things better. UNFORTUNATELY, the community tradition and the rules here are arguably a vital necessity, because of point (1) above: the Intardwebz have a lot of sucky assholes lurking around just waiting to pounce on an opportunity to crush some stranger's fragile ego, and without some structure we could very quickly be overwhelmed by them entirely. This being the case, I regretfully accept the need to go light and easy with the critiques; the world would be a better place if there were rivers of milk and honey everywhere and pillows had tits, too, but I can't have those things either.

dzd's picture

@motisbeard I won't link you, but they've done some interesting things with silicon implants and pillows Wink

IA's picture

@motisbeard re: "you can listen to both critique and criticism, take and use what seems valuable to you, and be entirely unaffected by all the bullying and bullshit the world can heap upon you"

I'll just copypaste here what I wrote in my message above, because for whatever reason, anything I write typically goes unread. (Maybe it's my face...)

>> AND not everyone takes feedback the same way as others. Some people are super nonchalant and objective about receiving harsh feedback and even insults. Good for them! I can't say that I know many people like them. The worst part seems to be that they have no idea what that same feedback feels to other people, and they're just treating you like a clone of themselves. "Just do this, just do that, it's not that bad!" Yea, maybe not for you! Not everyone is just like you. Other people are more sensitive about this stuff and you can't, read that again CAN'T know how they feel. So your feedback on the subject is of little help.

So there. You're probably old enough to understand that not everybody reacts to everything the same way as you do. Some people are deadly afraid of spiders. Some people are not. Telling the people with the phobia "you can just choose to not be afraid" is about the dickest thing you can say.

Interesting read about trolling. I love hearing stuff like that.

Anyway, I'm through with this topic. There are always assholes who feel justified and entitled to act like assholes because surely they must know better (even when people explain them their perspectives). Surely. I'm fine with not everybody knowing everything or being able to think about everything from everyone's perspective. But choosing to ignore what people tell them... that takes a real asshole.

Have a good day.

@IA Maybe this part of the same post of mine went unread for whatever reason:

"I'm just giving my own perspective on it; we are all the center of our own universes and see things the way we see them"

IA's picture

Yea, then you can switch the pronouns from third person to first. Lemme show you how.

"I can listen to both critique and criticism, take and use what seems valuable to me, and be entirely unaffected by all the bullying and bullshit the world can heap upon me"

@motisbeard said, "To me, chafing at critique seems like clear evidence that you liking it ISN'T enough for you, because people disliking it obviously affects you badly."
HA! Now that is some world class trolling! Biggrin

Personally, I'm a big girl with big girl pants. Any criticism I receive here isn't going to bother me because I know where my limits are. I used to put a "constructive criticism welcome" note in all my liner notes, but quite frankly, that's not the community. I can probably count on my fingers then number of times I got actual constructive criticism in the last 6+ years. I get why though. I mean, I don't really dish out too much either, and if I do, I'm VERY careful in the way I word it. There's so much diversity of ability, experience, knowledge, goals, and confidence that's it's really hard to critique effectively. We've got professional musician in this group and people who are trying out songwriting for the first time... and I guarantee you that there are people who are comparing their work with the work of others and it affects them. For most people here, my criticism is either going to be water on a duck, or it's going to actively discourage them from continuing. So I don't. But seriously, anyone here is welcome to give me constructive criticism if you feel like it. I'm not here for that specifically, but it won't hurt me and I might get something out of it.

Now some words on effective vs ineffective criticism. I've been getting the stuff since I was 11 or 12, so I've developed a relatively thick skin, but a few times that wasn't enough. Once when I was in grad school and I had bombed the listening/analysis part of my comprehensive oral exams I was in my professor's office trying to get some advice for my retake. Eventually she looked me dead in the eye and asked "Do you even know how to listen to music?" It was like a punch to the gut. After that meeting I went to my office and broke down, because the answer was clearly no. I needed to hear that, but man, oh man I did NOT enjoy it. I pulled myself together and figured it out and I passed the retake. That was effective (if painfully blunt) criticism.

A few years after that I was working at my local renaissance faire (what can I say? My interests are strange and varied). One of the directors ran a musical review show and my friend and I performed there as a duo. It was an absolute nightmare. Every show we were told how horrible we were. No one liked our music. No one understood our music. We were bringing the whole show down. This, by the way, from a woman who I've known since I was a kid, so... you know... ouch. It got so bad that I had made the decision quit. My friend convinced me to try one more time so we tried to figure out what the real problem was. We went to her and asked her "Do you mean that we're too quiet to be heard by the entire audience?" "Yes. That's it!" Felt like shit for an entire summer because we were two un-mic'd women with light voices in an outdoor show backed up by a wall of guitar players. I nearly gave up performing because of that experience, and it was all because the person criticizing me couldn't analyze what the actual problem was and couldn't adequately communicate with us. That was ineffective criticism.

Criticism can suck when you get it. My best advice is to try to take a step back and ask yourself "is it objective? Is it true? Is it relevant to my goals?" If the answer to those questions is yes, then learn from it.

Sorry, @IA, but when I make it explicitly clear that I'm expressing my subjective views, I don't give a paramecium's weakest nanofuck if you object to my using third person over first. I don't even know why we're having this exchange; it seems like you've just got some kind of hidden axe to grind with me, and that is entirely, 100% your problem and not mine. Given the tone of your, um, writing tip and your dudgeon at my daring to express an opinion that you don't share, I'm thinking perhaps you should have used the royal 'we.'

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