Whose Opinion Do You Listen To?

listen.jpgRecently we have been talking about crowdsourcing. Though we are huge proponents of the idea having many people giving you opinions, it can get really confusing. Often times you have to consider what are people’s hidden agendas are when giving you advice. If that weren’t enough a lot of people talk a lot despite not having an educated opinion. Who do you listen to? Who you listen to is a lot of what makes you who you are as an artist. After the jump we will get into the nitty gritty of whose opinions you should listen to.

Your Songs
People will often give you an opinion on your songs and since everyone loves music most opinions have at least some validity. However there are times when the average listener’s opinion isn’t always the one to cater to. For example, if your producer or a skilled musician is telling you a part sounds sloppy or cluttered and you then go home and play it for your friends/ significant other and they tell you it sounds just fine, this may not always be the opinion to listen to. Many music listeners are not trained in hearing the potential a song can reach like a great musician or a producer. So they may tell you something sounds fine but really their ears aren’t as tuned in to every detail as someone who has devoted their life to listening to music and don’t hear the flaws that a novice can’t quite put their finger on. Often times we tend to want to take the easy way out and listen to whoever gives us a convenient opinion but holding ourselves to the standards of people who are good at nitpicking is what can ultimately lead to achieving something great.

On the reverse side, if you friends and family who are not trained musicians tell you something is wrong with a song, this can be a scary thing. When something jumps out at a untrained ear, you may have really messed something up bad. Bands will often come to me after we record a great song and say, “that’s the first time my mom has actually liked one of our songs.” If you can please your Perry Como listening mother with your latest prog rock track your probably on to something. However if you play a song for your friends who listen to your genre of music and they tell you your songs go on forever, odds are you are doing it wrong.  

There are stories of a famous LA producer who would invite strippers down to hear the songs after they finished a mix (I am sure for other reasons aside from what I am about to explain), he would often say if the girls didn’t dance or complained about one of the songs it was time to nix it from the album and make it a B-side. Ray Davies of The Kinks was quoted as saying something similar when they needed to redo their hit song “You Really Got Me” because “it didn’t make his girlfriends panties wet.” Keep it classy Ray!

It always amazes me when some of my friends bands listen to the advice of people without thinking about their agendas. Unfortunately many people give advice that will benefit themselves more than you. Not everyone acts in this way but it is all to common and you need to be aware of it. I will often have band members listen back to a vocal part where the singer really belts out a part, and the bassist will say “I hate that.” It isn’t because the belting is bad, it is the bassist hates any part that is belted in anyone’s songs. You need to take into account where the people who give you an opinions
biases, hangups and agendas are before you grant them rule over your

If agendas were’t enough, there is the problem of some people having the toal void of one. Some people will tell you they love everything you do just because they are so enamored with you or insecure in their opinions. While this is good for your ego, it is not always what you need if you are trying to get a good objective perspective. One of the most valuable things you can have as an artist is people who will give you an honest critical opinion whether it is good or bad. 

Questions To Ask
When I am getting advice on a situation I always try to ask myself a few questions about each piece of advice I got:

  • What was this persons agenda, if any?
  • What does the most educated person I know think of this situation and are they stuck in the rules of the past?
  • What is the hard road? Often times we have a tendency to look at the hard answer and want to find a way for it not to be the road we need to take. I try to keep going back to what is the hard road and decide if I am copping out or if I really did find an easier solution to any decision I may have to make.
  • What does a lament think of this situation? Often times people with no experience can see the forest instead of each individual tree so you need to consider their opinion as well.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • Parablue

    Yep!! This is the common difficulty in producing music…
    Much is worse in genres that are not popular. The common people are akin to contemporary popular music, even genres like R&B, Alternative have become so famous. I once produced a trance track, (and as you know, trance tracks don’t get to the ‘point’ in the 1st 30s), and showed it to one pop music A&R, and the guy told me i had to get to the point fast. That guy probably never hear much trance stuff in the 1st place.
    Most people have heard popular music played over and over on radio, and as much they may not actually like it, their subconscious are still receiving those msgs. People want something they can relate with, and when i show Song A (pop) and Song B (metal), most would prefer A since it’s something they can relate with.
    There is always the problem of styles, so ultimately, if i’m producing a song and many people tell me to change this and that according to what they relate with, and in the end i feel soooo unhappy listening to the song, there is something wrong that other’s agenda isn’t meeting mine. At that time, i have to take a step back and not listen to the song for a week or 2, then go back in and listen, and i will see better whose advice to take. Ultimately, whatever style it may be, the biggest question is whether the song’s emotion is well brought out. Cos as much as everyone has different cultural upbringing, we all have similar emotions, we are all human!!!