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

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How to Deal with Bad ReviewsHow bands should deal with negative press.

Without naming names, I’d like to tell you a story about something that unfolded a few years ago 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 concluded 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.

Listen to CD Baby’s DIY Musician Podcast episode #170 to hear Kevin Breuner and I discuss these same tips in more detail, and talk about a few of my more shameful experiences with criticism. 

Here are six things to remember about bad reviews, criticism, and negative YouTube comments

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 in my songwriting and recording. 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. As Abraham Lincoln said, “You can’t please all the people all the time.”

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 (because you’re not going to share that review on your site, and after a few months it’ll be old news on the reviewer’s site too).

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 will probably 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:

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