So You Got a Bad Review — Welcome to the Club!

June 13, 2013{ 47 Comments }

shutterstock 123409759 300x300 So You Got a Bad Review — Welcome to the Club!How bands should deal with negative press

Without naming names, I’d like to tell you a story about something that unfolded yesterday on Facebook.

A certain band got a somewhat unfavorable review from a local publication. The band members’ feelings, understandably, were hurt; they’d worked hard writing, rehearsing, recording, and mixing an album they were proud of — and they expected the whole world to love it too. One music critic, however, didn’t love it. And it was his job to say so in print.

While we’ve argued in the past that posting a link to a negative review on social media can be a good way for bands to blow off steam (and let your FANS do the trash-talking), this band went and did something we would never recommend; they did the trash-talking themselves, insulting the ears, taste, and discernment of that critic, and concluding with an F-bomb aimed at the publication.

It backfired. People came to the defense of the critic and called the band out for seeming both insecure and insensitive. On top of that, the band pretty much ruined their chances of that publication ever printing a nice word about them in the future.

Thankfully the band deleted the post later in the day (and hopefully apologized to both the writer and the magazine).

Anyway, I’m not writing this to beat up on the anonymous band. They seemed to have already learned from their mistake. And besides, we’ve all wanted to respond to bad reviews in this way. But there ARE more productive things to do in the face of negative criticism.

Here are a few things to remember about bad reviews

1. Bad reviews can be a learning experience —

One of my early bands got a review that really stung. For a couple weeks I put up my proud defenses, saying to myself, “Ah, well they just didn’t GET it!” But ya know what? Some of their criticisms were dead-on — and I eventually realized it. The next time around I didn’t make the same mistakes. This brings us to….

2. Bad Reviews hurt, so just go ahead and hurt —

I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel the sting. Someone just said your precious baby was ugly. Let yourself get angry or sad or whatever. Just don’t lash out at the critic. And after the wound has healed a little, you can check out that baby with fresh eyes. Maybe it IS ugly. OR maybe the critic just didn’t like you, but thousands of other people will! Which brings us to…

3. Always remember that you’re not going to be some folks’ cup of tea —

Mathematically speaking, most people that hear your music will probably be indifferent to it, somewhat enjoy it, or somewhat dislike it. Your most loyal fans and your crazy haters are going to be in the extremes on either side of that wide middle-ground. So don’t be upset if most music critics don’t think you’re the reincarnation of Mozart.

4. Bad reviews can boost your website’s SEO power —

Think about it; if a highly-trafficked online magazine or blog reviews your music, when they link to YOUR site in the review it’s going to help your own SEO power. And as your site moves up in the Google results, no one has to know that it was a downer review which boosted your search ranking.

5. Remember your manners —

It makes good business sense to stay quiet — or at least polite — when you get a bad review. If you retaliate (like the band mentioned above), you run the risk of being blacklisted by that publication. And that reputation might follow you elsewhere too.

6. You’ll seem cool and confident by staying calm —

You’re the best band in the world, right? Well the best band in the world wouldn’t be phased by one bad review from a paper in… what town was it in anyway? Oh yeah, right. We couldn’t care less. Because we’re on tour right now and having so much fun. Are you coming to the show tonight?

———————–

I’ve known some artists who’ve gotten very negative reviews from certain magazines, only to get glowing press from the same publication for their followup release. That probably wouldn’t have happened had they sent back a nasty letter or blown up on Facebook about it. They stayed calm (outwardly, at least) and kept on!

How’ve you responded to negative press? Let us know in the comments section below.

To read about how to get GOOD press for your music, check out our free guide:

Get Your Music Featured in the 
Press

[Thumbs down image from Shutterstock.]

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Great advice there at the end. If you ignore the bad ones, you can't let the good ones go to your head!

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Thanks. Glad you liked. Hopefully you don't need to follow these tips too often!

    @ChrisRobley

    • http://www.teenjazz.com/ Shannon Kennedy

      Thanks Chris.

  • Robin Stammers

    Generally, I defer to Jean-Jacques Burnell of The Stranglers in such matters; ' The fact that his band were denied the respect of his peers sat like a huge chip on his shoulder. Considering he was a karate black belt, this was no small detail. "I was hurt by everyone ganging up on us. I didn't think we were that bad, actually. We never got decent reviews, and it became a concerted thing." Thus in 1979, Record Mirror journalist Ronnie Gurr was kidnapped, NME's Deanne Pearson was left stranded in the Portuguese desert after a video shoot, and – most notoriously of all — French journalist Philippe Manoeuvre was gaffa-taped to girders 300 feet up the Eiffel Tower.'

  • Michael Atkins

    I'd love to get ANY review! Good, bad, indifferent my music continues to fall on deaf ears while those outside the sphere of the reviewers seem to like what I do. I feel I have a quality product, but I am having difficulty finding a reviewer to give it a listen.

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Tried all your local papers? Niche blogs for your genre?

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Nice. Self-deprecation works wonders.

    @ChrisRobley

  • King Hitz

    I recently got a 6.1/10 on one of my singles I recently released. While that isn't horrible, some of the reviews were. But for every 1 bad review I had 2 or 3 good reviews. Some people hear different things when they listen to music. Some people prefer you to sound unlike others. Some would rather listen to you because you sound like their favorite artist. Just take the good with the bad and build on that. Everything else will fall into place.

  • Richard Osborn

    My problem is not bad reviews. It is getting great reviews but from places that do not have any influence on the music scene I belong with, the larger acoustic guitar scene. It's then the old corporate saying that "Working here is like peeing in a dark suite: you get a nice warm feeling but no one notices."

  • Tony Alderman

    I got a pretty 'flat' review in Sound On Sound magazine, it hurt…
    But it's ok, you can't win them all!
    And you know what Clint Eastwood says about opinions…
    After all, it goes the other way as well. I've read glowing reviews for LPs and movies and when I've experienced them for myself, I've sometimes come away scratching my head!
    Keep the music alive!
    Tony Alderman

  • Alex

    I got a bad review for my first album I released in 2010. I thought it was the one at the time, so was really excited to receive my first (and only) review for a project of mine. Being some time ago, I had not matured as an artist by that point. I got mauled, but still courteously thanked the site that reviewed me. There were definitely good points in that review (despite the fact that it felt like a personal attack) that I was able to slowly absorb into my development as I matured over time.

    I then proceeded to create a song as a creative outlet that tore the reviewer to shreds. It was subtle enough to stand on its own two legs, but could still be acknowledged as a response if people paid attention to the content. If I want to vent nowadays though, I'm going to keep it more general. These people aren't worth an iota of the attention given to them. If the advice is good, take it. BUT some people do just want to wind you up because they can. I know. I've been dealing with this from day one of my artistic development. I've just been too stubborn to give up, and haven't let the lack of support phase me.

    Nowadays, if people lay into me after I've performed live (which I do regularly at open mics) or say they hate what I do, I let them. It doesn't affect me as badly nowadays. I am humble, and the road is too rocky to let any small or big thing affect me. In the live environment, it has become very easy to read people carrying this type of vibe. I just pander to them, because it strokes their ego. The honest truth is that I don't really care what they say (unless I hear a few decent nuggets) so I will stroke their ego instead. I don't have time to get mired in this stuff anymore. I'm more than happy to admit fault and poke fun at myself in the process. I know what I do (after working so hard and growing so much in the process) is finally up to a standard I can be proud of. I do not care what others think anymore.

    This is just my take on bad reviews, expanded also to personal criticism when playing live…

    Peace,

    Alex

  • Laurence cooper

    I released an EP after 4 years work to get it out and hit the streets to sell it in stores. The first place I went to was the local record store where I'd bought many CD's. I said to the microbe in the store I've got an album. Her didn't even look up and merely asked what sort of music was on it. I said original songs and some blues tracks. He said blues doesn't sell. When I got out of the store I cried. But then got better at it and just said to stores sale or return which meant they didn't pay me anything unless it sold. That way I at least got it out there. But it is devasting when your baby you've nutured gets rejected, so persevere is my advice as it does get better(PS I still hate criticism though and unless a reviewer has some constructive things to say better to ignore them and just keep on with your music.

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well, I suppose my advice was intended for the situation where the critic hasn't said anything… untrue. But staying at least polite-ish is probably wise even if they are unprofessional. No need to shout back at them if they're already coming across as a jackass.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Kenneth Bailey

    Their is no such thing as a bad review. As long as someone is talking that is a good thing. It's when no one is talking that you have a problem.

    Ken Bailey
    Master Peace

  • CamdenMonthly

    Write to matt@camdenmonthly.com , i am the Music Editor for Camden Monthly.. I'll try and get you a review on Camden Monthly newspaper…! Good luck with your music :)

  • Linda Vee Sado

    I got a bad review on an online radio site I get play on and then a couple of weeks later, they ran a contest and I blew away the rest of the competition who BTW all got great reviews and was voted number one band. So you really have to take that stuff with a grain of salt

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      There's often a big gap between the tastes of critics and the tastes of… everyone else.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Linda Vee Sado

        Thank God hahaha I was the only one who got slammed by him too

  • Mark

    Thanks for the article, Chris… very timely, as I'm getting rather nervous about the eminent release of a very personal album I've been working on for two years now and, even though your point #3 has been my life-long mantra, you can't help but hope that there are more tea drinkers out there! And your second point is so true; a previous album of mine received a very negative review in our city's major newspaper, and the critic didn't even address the music! He just wanted to hammer on the band and went on and on about how much he hated what he thought we were trying to say, but not one word about the music itself! Not only did his ranting really hurt (and perplex), but I also completely lost respect for him as a reviewer. Just gotta love what you do and roll with the punches… and kudos. It is what it is all the way around, so be true to yourself, and pour some more tea…

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Glad this found you at the right time. Break legs with your new release!

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    I know someone who similarly took something "negative" from a review, and then turned it into the genre description for her music and it fit perfectly, and positively. Nice going.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Yeah. That's true.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    ; ) Thanks.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Thanks, William.

    Good advice.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    That's good to remember.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley
  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    YouTube comments sections are frightening places.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    I don't think critics expect that, but a quick email couldn't hurt.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Sounds like time for a CD Baby plug! Check out this guide for tips on getting your music reviewed by the press:
    http://members.cdbaby.com/campaigns/request-10-mu

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Beetles? Never heard of 'em. ; )

    @ChrisRobley

    • State of Psychosis

      hehe sillyboots :P

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    That brings up a good question. How much do bad reviews "stick?" Do people forget them? How does Google change our memory of band reviews? Do they keep coming back to haunt you? Or does anyone even read them?

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Sounds like you won him over by staying somewhat calm. Hey, maybe they'll review your next release.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Haters gonna hate!

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Wow. You really got pulled in two directions there. Reminds me of poetry workshops when half the class wants you to change something about your work, and the other half says you can't change that element because it's the best thing about the poem.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Good perspective. Thanks for sharing it.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Matt Mccourt

    a bad review is one thing BUT a scorching nasty review by someone who was in the bar ofr the entire set of aband is another…. ( it happend to good firneds of mine here. in pdx. by a guy we call rubie mosquito who starte doff as a humble narrator but now after a dozen shows or reviews under his belt ,the smarmy "in the expert" try to impress me" is surfacing as ive seen countless times.. it would have been different if… this fella had actually spent some time watching the band rather than tryin to be american idol judge panel ….ive been a writer and tehres a big difference wbetween reporter and reviewer.. (personally i think reviews are a waste of retail product when it comes to a release) and more of a waste for a concert… ive written for euroepan magazines and locals… since 1982…) .. i NEVER do reviews… i wirte an entertianing tale of thenight.. BUT our real job as a "reporter " or what peopel call publicity is to GET PEOPLE TO THE SHOW.. by doing ADVANCE publicity…to sell tickets…i was taught by Andy mcckaie in 1980 when he produced my first lp.. he was the head of cbs publicity dept in the 60's 70's later went to arista with clive davis.. and wa son his way to mca when he helped start the indie label i was on …) and today he is the VP of the universal music division…) i wish everyone who calls themselves "press" could hav had that education i got from him…but most are in it for the free cds tickets passes and braggin rights… much to my chagrin(as a label owner i despise these people.. and make them BUY the cd form cd baby IFthey want to review it..( because 99% will NOT accept a cd burn of a release or an online download….no they want the retail cd verison which im sure they sell on ebay or just add to their "collection"

  • Matt Mccourt

    my advice to ANY band..about reviews . is.. DONT READ em.. and dont let your bandmates do it either….. today with cdbaby.. i think the music is more pure by the nature of the DIy because its made for art not steered to be popular due to some one els's popularity of a similar style. if you think about it.. the greatest artiists we know of van gogh, gaugin, monet, da vinci… never made a dime while they were aive BUT it never stopped them from creating!. it wasnt til after they were gone that people took notice.. and the body of work was examined…and k like herman brood whose studio i visited in amsterdam his art his on the wall of his studio in chronological order (and you can witness the develpment and demise of the man by his art ..that way) i think if more musicians would focus on this rather than… the shiny sports car that label pinmps get ya to keep you from looking in the accounting..better music would be made and the people who make it more happy..*

    • Randy Hansen

      Great advice Matt. I always say what's great about toady's DIY music biz, is that everyone can do it, and what's bad about today's DIY music biz, is that everyone can do it. :) But I mainly fall into the former school of thought. When the music biz had arbiters who got to chose what was released it became a big, bloated commercial mess. Now that you don't need the backing of the suits to get your music out there it's back to being an art form, where it probably should have been all along.

  • http://www.singingdave.com/ David R. Mohr

    I haven't received any press (good or bad) as of yet, but have had a lot of face-to-face observations. I did have someone dislike one of my songs and were very articulate about it. Another fan questioned why I didn't get upset or try to defend it (they, liked the song). I pretty much did what you mentioned above. I gave them their rights to their own taste and moved along. I also had the same thing happen with my first novel. It's just part of life.

    I certainly don't like everything I've seen and heard – even from some of my favorite artists, so how could I expect anyone else to absolutely love everything I've done.

    Yea, sometimes it hurts, especially when it's something you feel real passionate about but the fact is: "variety is the spice of life!" So if you listen to it, glean what you can from it and then let it roll off you like water off a ducks back you'll come out okay.

    Oh, yes – that person that person mentioned above really liked my next song – they even ask me to perform it when we're out doing Karaoke. I'm sure that if I lashed out at them they would not have liked my next work…even if they really did.

    Keep rockin, ya'll!

    David R. Mohr
    http://www.jango.com/music/David+R+Mohr?l=0 https://www.createspace.com/3946321

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Hey David,

      Thanks for sharing. Good attitude.

      @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Haha. Well played.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    That's awesome. Thanks for sharing. Late Greats, great song! Can't hear 'em on the radio.

    @ChrisRobley

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    They already got pelted a bunch back when this happened, so I don't want to name names.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Juliox

    You can turn on the approval feature on YouTube and simply not approve the tasteless comments

  • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

    Well said, Ted.

    @ChrisRobley

  • The Spiral Sequence

    I worked as a music journalist doing live reviews and interviews for several music magazines after my first band had a brief run of success then imploded, but I've since quit writing about other bands to focus on writing my own music again. The Theodore Roosevelt quote sums up the reasons for the course I've taken. It is a thousand times easier to criticise someone else's work than it is to actually create your own. I'd rather read a negative review of my own work than write a good or bad review of someone else's work, because at least then I'm having a go at doing something that might at least make a lasting impression. Who remembers reviews, or the reviewers that wrote them a year later?