We get a lot of musicians coming to Drooble to promote their music who are still trying to find their own sound. Naturally, if you’re making your first steps, it can be hard to judge the quality of your music correctly, and it’s likely you’re either overestimating or underestimating yourself.
And that’s fine – eventually you get better at it!
The problem is that any audience that doesn’t consist of your mom and two best friends (if they’re not already in the band) rarely cares about your lack of experience and expects you to be exactly who you want to be from the first try. This is, of course, both frustrating and terrifying.
You know what usually helps? Help. No, it really does!
You need someone to tell you whether you sound good. Just ask. Embarrassed? Fair enough, but think of it this way: there’s no way in the world you’ll get good at music fast if you rely solely on your own senses (unless you’re someone like Mozart). Assuming you are not a rare prodigy, here are a few tips to help your progress:
1. People you know
Know any musicians? Asking them would be a good first step, of course. Especially the ones that are ahead of you. Asking the above-mentioned best friends or your relatives, however, can be a double-edged sword.
First, it’s a really good way to make yourself feel good if you expect to get mostly compliments. But that doesn’t really help you make your music better. If you’re easily pleased, your mom’s opinion would probably make you think you’re better than you actually are.
But asking people close to you to tell you what they think of your work is not an inherently bad idea.
For example, if your dad has been a hardcore stoner rock fan for the past twenty years and you’re trying to get that Kyuss sound, he may just be the perfect person to turn to. And if your friend Terry is a real jerk but you trust his judgment and taste in music, he may actually tell it like it is.
And if you’re scared your family members will give you a hard time or make fun of your music, you should probably run away and find a new family. No, please don’t do that.
2. Ask complete strangers
Years ago, a random guy stopped me on the street and handed me a set of headphones. “This is my music,” he said, “If you like it, I have some CDs you can buy.” I put the headphones on and immediately loved it. I ended up buying two of his albums, which I still listen to sometimes.
The thing is, I didn’t know this person. He wasn’t my friend. I didn’t owe him anything. I could have just refused and walked away without feeling bad about it, and he knew that. But I didn’t walk away, because I liked what he had created and since I opened up my wallet for it, he obviously got the feedback he was looking for. Impartiality is just one benefit of asking people you don’t know for their opinions.
The other benefit, of course, is that you don’t know them. The opinion of a random person on the street would probably have less emotional impact on you than that of a close friend – especially if it’s a negative one – and you can still get some good free advice. If you’re not the extroverted type, just think about bothering your family and friends with your music, and strangers suddenly become more approachable.
3. Ask online, duh
I mean, come on. These days, there is an overflowing abundance of online places where you can talk to people about anything. Drooble, of course, is the obvious pick if you’re looking for a large number of fellow musicians from different countries to ask about your new song, but there are plenty of options on the web with varying focus and different structures.
Just look for the right one or, if you’re feeling energetic today, hit all of them. What you’ll get is a variety of tastes, backgrounds, and viewpoints – which is exactly what you need, even if you’re not ready for it.
Anonymity is the perfect excuse for people to treat others horribly so if they hate your music, there’s a good chance they’ll let you know. And if they love it, they have no reason to be mean to a stranger.
Another good thing about online music communities is the context. People go to social networks and forums to write stuff and express their feelings and opinions. This means they’re willing to take the time to write an answer or comment and go into detail – if not to help you, simply to show off and try to convince others they’re smart.
Seriously, if you haven’t asked an online community by now, you literally have no excuse. Just do it now.
No, really, I’ll wait.
4. Paying for opinions is always an option
If you’re a fan of Karl Marx, you probably won’t understand this, but paying a person who’s working for himself to provide a service he says he’s good at can actually work wonders.
Contrary to what you might think, detailed feedback that makes real sense takes real time. A first listen is never enough and a good musician will take as much as is needed to dissect your song, point out what’s good about it, what makes it bad, and how you can make it better.
You know, listening to music and sharing your first impressions may seem like a pretty easy job that you can easily abuse, but it’s not. If you’ve ever met a musician in your life, you’ll know we take music very seriously.
Helping people become better musicians is what we do at Drooble, and we enjoy it immensely. But there’s no doubt that it’s also a great responsibility. Giving good, in-depth feedback is not a way to take people’s money. It’s a matter of pride and honor. As I often say to my friends, if I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t be a musician. A good website I can recommend for this is Audiu – check it out and tell us about it on Drooble.
5. Just go for it!
Here’s the scariest, yet most effective tactic. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge. A leap of faith, if you will.
Whatever other people tell you, even if they’re right, you alone know what you’re trying to achieve. When all else fails, just go on stage and play the darn song.
People will either love it or hate it; at least you’ll know.
The worst that can happen is that you’ll have to do better next time, which is basically what musicians aim at every day.
The first time is always the hardest but it gets easier the more you do it. This sudden act of madness can lead to bravery, which is the first step to confidence. And if there is anything crowds like, it’s confidence. Well, that and good music, but the whole point is to find out how good yours is. In any case, one leads to the other so go out there, give it your best and people will appreciate it. In the words of the late Chris Cornell, to be yourself is all that you can do!
The music, that’s what we love the most. If we want our music to be better, then feedback is an invaluable tool. So reach out to friends, strangers, online networks, paid pros, and unsuspecting audiences. They all have a valuable perspective to offer us – when we’re willing to accept the gift.