Getting perspective on what you’re doing is one of the most important things you can do for your music. Not only are musicians too close to their art because they spend so much time with it and have so much emotional involvement, but they also know too much about what goes into the product. Some of the best advice I have gotten recently on my mixes and on my band’s live shows has come from non-musicians and those who aren’t walking musical encyclopedia nerds. While they might not be able to tell what kind of reverb you should be using live or notice that your room mics are phasing slightly, they might be able to tell you that your vocals aren’t clear enough or that you don’t move onstage as much as you could.
In a given song, there is often so much going on (especially if you also record your own music) that you can very quickly lose sight of some of the most important things about your music. Many times musicians spend so much time crafting a “clever” song they forget to ask – does it have a memorable hook? The average musical listener is much more likely to pick up on this, as opposed to the many intricacies you so carefully constructed. For better or worse, they layman’s point of view is often unfettered by all the “knowledge” that music dorks have lodged deep in their craniums. Sometimes asking a family member (who cares about what you’re doing but probably thinks Animal Collective is a group dedicated to saving the rainforests) or a friend who doesn’t play an instrument or isn’t a huge music dork can yield much more interesting advice than you might expect.