It can be fascinating how much music is out there that seemingly doesn’t deserve the hype. Everyone has their favorites to hate on (DON’T ask me about the new Kanye or Daft Punk record). But at the end of the day, Kanye or whoever else we might hate on, is way ahead of us because they actually did something. They put out an album, video, tour, marketing idea, or whatever else. The took a risk, got feedback, and probably learned something important in the process – unlike those who aren’t producing anything.
It’s much better to be critiqued than be just a critic. Critics don’t sell albums or merch, go on tours, make magazine covers or get groupies for a reason (although you wouldn’t know that by the long list of hecklers from the cheap seats). Rather than complaining or lobbing insults at those who aren’t up to your standards, your energy is better spent making something and getting it out there, as opposed to telling everyone (including yourself) how much better your (unreleased) material is. Sure, the new Empire Of The Sun album might not be your favorite, but better to put out your own tracks and show them how it’s done versus critiquing in the abstract.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t listen to music with a discerning ear. That’s part of what shows you have insight and are paying attention (and it indicates that you’ve learned something about your art). But unapplied knowledge is just that – knowledge. At heart, we’ll all music critics. Just by your own record collection, you’ve made choices about what you value in music and probably what you aspire to. But in order to separate yourself from the armchair quarterbacks, you need to throw some passes in an actual game yourself.
People are much more likely to forgive your failures if you put out something great. In fact, most “failures” go unnoticed because people are looking for something amazing and they tend to ignore the rest. So don’t be afraid to let your experiments be just that. Better to always be producing something new than second-guessing yourself and worrying about critics (or being one yourself). Music critics can serve a very important role – I used to be one, and frankly, it was a great job. But not as good as being the lowliest artist. You probably couldn’t name 5 music journalists off the top of your head if you tried. Without the music to critique, all of them would be out of a job. Believe me when I say I’d rather gargle a box of rusty nails while tap dancing on a lava-soaked dance floor than listen to Kanye or whatever other (IMO) overrated artist, but just as important as what an artist did wrong, is what they did right. Sometimes you can learn just as much or more from your enemies as your friends (which is why I bit the the bullet and downloaded his Unholiness’, ahem, I mean Kanye’s new album). Being a critic is fun and easy (that’s why everyone has an opinion), but hardly as rewarding as doing something yourself. The real difficult job is making art that matters to you and others. That’s why rock stars get treated like, well, you know, rock stars. Better decide which side you’re going to be on.