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:

Get Your Music Featured in the 

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In this article

Join the Conversation

  • Deborah Harris

    We, (Shifty Chicken Shed) were turned down for radio play on our local radio station in Shropshire. The reason….we were too niche for their listeners! Funny how one man can make that decision, but it did tell us, thank goodness we’re not like everyone else…two months later we supported Half Man Half Biscuit….later that year The Lonnie Donnegan band iith his son Peter Donnegan, John Otway, Dr Feelgood and The Blockheads, we have since been played on a Manchester radio, followed by a live session on air which pushed our music to indie radio stations in the USA. I say sometimes, stick to your guns. If you don’t enjoy what you do yourself, what is the point. Our debut album launches 29th June, called TOWN

    • Mole Harris

      Half Man Half Biscuit! Haven’t heard them in forever. I’m jealous that you got to play that gig!

      • Deborah Harris

        …just got confirmation we’re supporting them again in November in Northhamptonshire. Very happy!

    • ian at the flying vendettas

      I hope you pointed all this out to the guy in the barn in Shropshire running his hay bale radio station. Actually a Hay Bale Radio Station sounds a pretty cool idea.

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


    • Mucky Badger

      the ultimate review is really whether or not people will buy your stuff to support you as an artist… in the face of overwhelming negative reviews just find your audience…,,,.

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


  • got a somewhat dismissive review from a local indie paper for one of my releases. my album was electronic & eclectic, with soul, world and ambient songs. the woman who critiqued it was the goth and hard rock reviewer. evidently my songs weren’t vampiry enough.

    a song from that release was later covered by a multiple grammy-award winning singer. many of the other songs from the CD got licensed. 10 years on, i daily see youtube searches for songs from that recording.

    that indie paper is no longer in business, and the woman writes dictionaries.

    so: ignore the bad reviews… but if you do, you should also ignore the good reviews.

    • john mobley

      I got an “uninterested and UN-impressed” comment from a reviewer at an online roots site, but it was sent to me privately- the reviewer basically declined to write about the song and video, but said the story of the song was intriguing, just not a very amazing song. I hurt for about a minute and then decided my next song was gonna have some more effort in the lyrics and editing and have since written 20 songs I consider better and recorded 10 of them. I intend to thank her for motivating me and send her a Cd in the mail with a thank you card later this year.
      Also, one Grammy-winning songwriter/guitarist likes my songs enough to play in my net album so I feel like I am moving in the right direction!

    • Archaeoprof

      You mean she’s now a lexicographer? That’s a Goth’s dream job!

  • Really great advice on negative criticism. I particularly like #2 and I don’t feel that it’s said enough.

  • 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.'

    • Junius Richard Huxen

      Years ago, one of my bands performed at a local venue in Atlanta. There was a paper that did reviews on live shows. I was excited to see what the review would say, because we always got a really good response. The review read, “Pompous, overbearing noise.” That just cracked me up and I thought, “Okay!” For quite a while afterward when people would ask me what style of music I played, I would reply with a straight face, “Pompous overbearing noise.” The thing that DID peeve me quite a bit was that I found out from another source that the reviewer wasn’t even at the gig! How do you review a band when you’re not even there to see and hear them? That critic was on my s**t list from then on and I “outed” him on that for some time.

  • 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.

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


    • Kendo Nagasaki

      You refer to music as a product? You may as well make dinner plates.

      • Michael Atkins

        Not to be a jerk, but your art is a “product” of your hard, passionate work. I guess I could make dinner plates, but I’m just not passionate about that particular product.

    • Michael Atkins

      I just wanted to post a link to an interview that came as a result of posting here in this thread. Thanks to all who made it possible!

  • Nice. Self-deprecation works wonders.


    • Vampness


  • 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."

    • Michael Atkins

      You know, that actually brings to mind another challenging issue. The issue of being in a scene. Where I live (New Braunfels, Tx) Alt-country is king. Just to the north of me (Austin, Tx) it’s indie rock. To the south of me (San Antonio, Tx) it’s still Metal, and Tex-Mex music.
      The music I put out is Pop oriented (think Maroon 5, one republic, Keane, Gavin DeGraw all mixed together). It’s really hard to find a scene to fit into. It’s out there, just hard to find.
      Just keep doing what you do Richard.

  • 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…



  • 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.

  • 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.


    • Cory

      I think this example would be perfect for linking to said article and letting your fans do the dirty work while you stay polite and professional

      • Daniel

        Not really. Lady GaGa, for example, gets ragged on constantly for her fan’s reactions to comments made by news journalists. When she doesn’t say anything in the defense of these said critics, she gets criticized for promoting “bullying” and “bigotry” and whatever. Again, it’s a matter of the individual case. If an artist is eloquent and can comment on a critic’s slander better than their fans can (or will), then they should do so. However, that’s left to the discretion of the people around them and also of the artist’s own displayed maturity. To each his own, but generalized rules don’t apply well in this particular instance.

  • 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 , 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 🙂

    • Michael Atkins

      I just saw your comment this morning I’ll get you my info ASAP! Many thanks!

  • 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

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


      • 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…

  • Infinite Music Source

    I think if I received a bad review, it would mean that I’m actually doing something right for my music to be noticed. We have to expect the bad with the good. With that thought, I’d better get back in my studio and start working on my next CD and stop being afraid of the bad reviews.. I’m getting stifled by the thought, but this article helped me realize I’m not the only one out there who will receive bad reviews, and it doesn’t mean my music is bad. Thank you!

  • gofigure

    Good advice probably. For me though, I don’t give a bleep anymore. I’ll make music the way I want to whether critics like or don’t like it. I have fun and occasionally people enjoy what I create. You can’t please everyone anyway.

  • Jack Radcliffe

    As has been said in show biz for decades,” As long as they spell your name right…”

  • Jose Mills

    I would thank the person for his reveiv and hope he will continiue too see and hear more future music and shows too come.

    Jose Mills
    Daytronic Records

  • Daniel

    I’m on the fence about this. There’s a difference between a legitimate critique and outright slander. Some of these “music journalists” will say ignorant comments in the name of a “professional review” and I believe that it should be called out as such. However, when a critic actually knows what they are talking about and shows specific examples (other than, “I don’t like this song” or “this song was alright”), then it’s just a matter of taking it in and learning from the commentary. To give the general advice of “staying quiet” is bull, especially when part of your artistry is about speaking out on things that are not right. To each his own, but to come up with these generalized suggestions without understanding that every case is different is a weak argument at best.

  • mlaperle

    I’m with Mike. I’d love to get any review too. But, I have learned to take negative feedback about my songs with grace after having spent a few years as a member of the Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association. Those song critiques, or putting your song through the “wringer” has helped thicken my skin, and more importantly help my songwriting. If I ever do get a bad, but HONEST review, I hope I would contact the writer and publication to thank them for the feedback and let them know that I will consider what they said, (even if I don’t necessarily agree). Again, only if this was an honest review and not something nasty for the sake of being nasty. In that case, silence is golden.

  • Vampness

    Good advice. We got some rave reviews and also the exact opposite – totally trashed. After a while we did realize that they had some decent points in there.
    But we posted all of our reviews up in 3 different sections. The Good, The Not-Quite-So-Good, and The Ugly
    After we got over the sting, we would read it for the laughs. :)-

  • Wendi Maxwell

    I sing jazz and have a small combo. I haven’t gotten a bad press review but I did have somebody tell me (a year later) that their audience didn’t like us and that’s why we couldn’t play that venue again. Hurt a lot. I didn’t see it that way at all. Half the audience followed us to the gig. Everybody stayed till the end and we sold several CDs. I asked the band how they thought we had done, and we all agreed we sounded great. Then I took a look at what jazz acts that venue had booked in the past. They were all instrumental, and mostly smooth jazz. (We’re straight ahead, swing, bebop, blues – bigger, louder.) I got over my hurt feelings, and now the guy who told me the audience didn’t like the music plays in my band… And when I get a mention in the paper I always send a big thank you to the reporter and his editor. And during the holidays, I send a thank you card (imprinted with the cover of my CD) to the reporter, editor, and all the venues we’ve played.

    • ian at the flying vendettas

      Yeah, charm works don’t it?


    I remember when we released our bucket list first CD.. It was so hated by reviewers. I was devastated. 5 years of work down the drain.. But after a week, I thought.. Hey, I do this to have fun, not to make reviewers happy.. But the reviewer did have some helpful suggestions. So as we continue to write and record, we have 500 new fans on, our sound is much better, and we continue to grow.. A bad review?? Fuck em and move on. If being a musician is what you love, than be one.

  • Burningguitar

    Led Zeppelin got creamed by the critics in their day, and look at them now… When you have something good, you will be found out if you don’t quit!

    • ian at the flying vendettas

      The very name comes from a comment made to Jimmy Page from Big Jim Sullivan (the other session musician who, between him and Jimmy, played on most of the soundtrack to the nineteen sixties. “That idea will go down like a Lead Balloon” so Jimmy renamed his New Yardbirds ‘Led Zeppelin’ – later on Big Jim decided to start a band of his own, but it bombed. He tried middle of the road pop, which was wrong for the time.

      • Burningguitar

        I remember the story. Keep the faith, that’s the lesson! 🙂

  • McKinley

    I sent an email to a critic that gave me a bad review (for a musical) thanking him for taking the time to see the show and write it up. I’m currently rewriting it for a bigger theater that is interested (and had some of the same notes for me as the critic.) It makes me feel like a real pro if I can take the good feedback with the tough stuff. It felt good to laugh it off, learn from it, and move on to a better version. Seriously. WAY better. 🙂

    • ian at the flying vendettas

      I think it is quite a clever idea to get the critic ‘on board’ as it were. When a previous band of mine received a poor review, and we let it be known we weren’t pleased, the critic then tried very hard to join the fan base, issuing apologies and retracting. As this critic couldn’t spell, couldn’t write properly, we declined the offer, and refused to withdraw our unspecified threats of dire consequences. But hey, that was Heavy Metal! The guys from that band have all since cut their hair, got married, had kids, got really good jobs etc and play a bit or work in the business, and I’m managing a new, very different kind of outfit, who do things in a different way.

  • Mark

    STEEL WOLF once got a scathing review that I loved and found so funny (because they had listened so intently) that I used it as lyrics as the follow-up album’s opener!

  • Cheryl Boutz

    Yah, thats what I wonder here. Someone said its just good to have someone talking about your music. But how do you even begin getting these reviews in the first place?

  • Timbucky

    Oops. Are you supposed to respond to a good review with a thank you note? Ditto with a poor review?

  • Blueming Sounds

    I have never received a critique from any publication but I have had plenty of feedback from the general public on Youtube. Here is just a sample of what those folks had to say without naming names:

    “you should not post videos there horrible!!!”

    “my little sister from 5 can make the same s*#@ haha”

    “circus song? awful..”

    “subnormal -.-”

    “wtf is this for a stupid remix!!!!!!!!!!!”

    “wtf is this suppose to be ?”


    “my unborn child could make a better dance tune and keep the beat steady and at the right tempo!”

    “this f%#@n sucks a@# whoever made this is a gay fag”

    As you can see my music is well liked.

  • Diana Diaz

    Depeche Mode celebrated their worst reviews by incorporating them into their greatest hits albums. It was clever and makes them seem so human and down to earth.

  • Diana Diaz

    Having been on the reviewer end I have to say it’s tough too. I have
    made friends with some bands and it’s crushing to write a bad review.
    With one band it was too difficult to do at all. I really really like
    them but this one was a clunker and the tour is not as good as before
    one of the members left. In the end, my silence was better because the
    album didn’t do as well on the charts and it seems they got the message.
    Sometimes when I get a clunker album I find something good to say and
    just don’t say very much just to crank it out.

    I’m a musician
    too and I would prefer that everyone keep trying. Not everyone can be
    at the top, a top hitmaker, or even chart. I’ve certainly never charted
    – but I have been paid for my work. Just keep doing something
    original. And unfortunately, because time have changed, there are some
    very real things to face. Many “journalists” aren’t certified
    journalists, they just schmoes who want to write and many aren’t even
    paid. And that’s part of the problem. At one time the major papers had
    a budget to send writers out to see shows. Those days are over. There
    are skeleton crews left. Once great papers like the LA Times are even
    looking at selling their buildings. Freelancers and staff work from
    home – often churning out an article a day or more. Just keep playing
    for your fans. As for me, I get paid in page views and that pay keeps
    dropping. When I have written about major bands, not only was I slammed
    on their website even though I said positive things, I was accused of
    only writing about what got me page views despite the fact that I was a
    legit fan singing every word at their concerts. To add insult to
    injury, fans on the forums copy and paste your article to give you less
    page views. Sometimes I’ve gone way out of my way for no pay at all and
    the page views just weren’t worth it to do anything. Just think, at a
    penny a page I get about $10 per 1000 Facebook friends who actually
    check out your review or interview – and that’s after driving an hour to
    your show and an hour back home and standing through a few hours of

  • 808independent

    There is really no counter to someone saying they didn’t like your music. The experience of music is mostly subjective and either you find it pleasing or you don’t. It would be like saying someone doesn’t like vanilla. How do you counter that? Of course, if they are critical of the actual performance or sound system, then that would fall more into the objective realm, but again, you can’t stop the haters.

  • junMaf*ckn

    I Got A Bad Review For My 3rd Album By, a very popular website for HipHop Music Back In 2009. I Got 2 Out Of 5. I Debated With The Writer, Who Eventually Admitted That I Should Have Gotten A Higher Grade. He Also Compared My 3rd Album To A Free Mixtape I Released Prior To The Album And Said The “Mixtape Was More Versatile.” I Eventually Thanked Him For The Coverage. The Site Never Covered My Material Again. I Still Like Them As A Site Too. Sometimes You Just Can’t Trip.

  • official13winters .

    My band’s second album had one reviewer write “This is just another terrible album from what must be one of the worst bands to ever disgrace my postal box. This album is so bad I wasn’t even going to offend my ears by listening to it. The vocals are horrible and off key, the lyrics are retarded, and guitars are off time and out of tune. The solos are poorly played and the keys are unoriginal crap. This band is what happens when stupid trendy kids think they can start a metal band.”

    And he didn’t even listen to it.


    I think part of the problem with bad reviews is the reviewer who likes a certain style of music. For example, if you like Justin Beiber, Will I Am, or Niki Minaj, I do not want you reviewing my songs. If you like rap, then get he hell away from our songs.If you like the crap from the 90’s, go away. We know who our fans are. We sound like an 60-70-80’s band.. We are proud of that.. We cannot change, Our fans like that type of music.
    So when it comes to reviews, you really need someone who likes your style of music instead of some idiot who is trying to prove they know good music. For all those that have had a bad review, I’m sorry. But if you love what you do, keep on going. We have..


    Oh .. and by the way, we were so pissed at the reviews we got, we wrote our own (fake) and put them up here.. Please realize, I’m not asking you to listen to our songs (especially when most are the old stuff). But we were so amused by the idiocy of reviewers, we decided to review ourselves,

    Look at the review section..

  • cjpr

    One of the many benefits of getting a Bad Review is the opportunity to Blast the Critic who criticized your work. Who dares to criticize a creation of mine? Since all I ever get is bad reviews (consistently), I’ve had many, many opportunities to Blast the Critics — (Bad Fools that they are). And I keep getting better at it. Maybe my creations aren’t progressing, maybe my reviews aren’t improving. But my comments Blasting the Critics are becoming minor masterpieces, by leaps and bounds. Practice Makes Perfect. It’s a matter of consistency. You must keep at it to stay on top of your game. NEVER Stop Blasting the Critics — if you really want to succeed.

  • hahaworld

    The best response to bad reviews I ever saw was when I was living in New York City in the late ’90s. Lost Highway had been in the theaters for a week or so, and there were several bad reviews. Lynch put posters up all over Manhattan with all the bad reviews posted in bold print at the top of the Lost Highway movie poster, and at the bottom of the poster it said, “MORE GOOD REASONS TO SEE LOST HIGHWAY!”

    He took the bad reviews and used them to his advantage, and of course, I went right out and saw that movie just because of that.

    I tend to side with Brenda Ueland who said that the “great murderer of the imagination is unceasing, unkind, dinky, prissy criticalness.” She went on to say, “I don’t like critics. . .it is so easy for them to annihilate us, first by discouragement and then by shackling our imagination in rules so that we cannot work freely and well on the next thing. . .One of the very worst self-murdering lies that people tell to themselves is that they are no good and have no gift and nothing important to say.”

    We can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, though. There are some great critics out there (Peter Filichia, for one) who really know what they are talking about and have elevated the practice to an art. We should pay attention to erudite geniuses like this.

    I think it’s a good idea to take any review you get with a grain of salt. No one will remember it tomorrow anyway.

  • Jeremy Thomas

    I covered 40 or so bands at a festival last week. The ones that were shite, did not get mentioned by name. – they didn’t earn it. Is that vindictive?

    I’ve also noticed that people who don’t have enough of a critical ear to listen to their own music will tend not to listen to me either. However bad reviews are great fun from a reader or writer perspective.

    All here. Feel free to lay in.

  • Xan Angelfvkk

    You gotta watch those Underground “fanzine” reviewers though. More often than not you run across those who think they are Dr Metal or some such thing, and are more concerned with showing off their so-called “prowess” than giving your material a decent and descriptive review. I couldn’t care less about these a**holes now, my band – Beltane – is at a point where I am happy with the creative output, yet I do not expect to get rich or famous i.e. “make it” from doing it. Nor do I follow trends (which indeed do exist on the Underground). So, they can trash my material all they want, but NOT through the benefit of getting a free CD though – if they want to review it, they can BUY it. At least then they support us with a few bux. 😉

  • Heeps

    You’re never as bad as your worst review or as good as your best!!

  • ian at the flying vendettas

    Although we haven’t had bad reviews as such for TFV, I used to manage a Heavy Metal band, that obviously are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but we felt were owed the respect that we’d give, for example, a soul outfit or a folk duo etc. Some tin pot critic decided to make their favourite band’s candle glow brighter by trying to blow ours out, and so posted a bad review. We just issued heavy threats of unspecified consequences, and y’know what, it never happened again. The fact that the review contained multiple spelling mistkaes and grammatical errors was also commented on (‘ere, you a proper critic or wot) but I agree, flaming people is best left to your fans, within the business we all try to be nice to each other, don’t we? I think the critics ought to try to suspend prejudices and comment fairly. When they do this, we can take anything they say on the chin.

  • 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.


  • Yeah. That's true.


  • ; ) Thanks.


  • Thanks, William.

    Good advice.


  • That's good to remember.


  • YouTube comments sections are frightening places.


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


  • Sounds like time for a CD Baby plug! Check out this guide for tips on getting your music reviewed by the press:


  • Beetles? Never heard of 'em. ; )


    • State of Psychosis

      hehe sillyboots 😛

  • 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?


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


  • Haters gonna hate!


  • MH

    YOU SUCK!! ………haha just kidding. GREAT article!

  • YESnack

    Musicians get criticized for their music.

    Critics get criticized for their opinions.

    Music advisers get criticized for their advice.

    Everybody is a critic, so don’t be hypo-“critical”.

    You need to maintain thick skin, a sensitive heart, perseverance, openness for growth
    and most important love what you do. Don’t bitterness poison the happiness you
    try to bring to the world.

    Keep up the good work Chris!




  • 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.


  • Good perspective. Thanks for sharing it.


  • 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.

  • State of Psychosis

    everybody gets a bad review at some point no matter who they are so definitely don’t shoot yourself in the foot by doing what they did.
    A note of inspiration:
    Even the beetles were told they would never make it
    so don’t take bad reviews too personally.
    Music taste is subjective after all 😉

  • Jessica Valiente

    Welcome to the club? In 18 years of performing together, Los Mas Valientes has never had a bad review. We have lots of press, all awesome. But hypothetically, if we did, if I felt it were invalid, I would respond by simply posting a link back to our music and let readers judge for themselves. But if I thought it was valid (and you know in your heart if it is, even if you’re angry), then use those criticisms and go back to the drawing board. I think that’s one reason we’ve done so well, we’re extremely self-critical and set the barre very high for ourselves. Learn and grow. If you have reviews on both sides, I disagree with some of the advice in the comments. I would absolutely use the good ones to my advantage and ignore the bad ones. Promotion and marketing is a bloodsport. That’s why promoters are NOT nice people. Post, share, quote, etc the good reviews, and if someone wants to find a bad review of you, the burden is on them to go hunting, don’t make it easy for them.

  • Jeff Gold

    A few years back, when I still had a “real” job not related to music, I
    was walking down a hallway and heard one of my songs coming from
    someone’s office…I thought this was really cool, so I stopped in to
    thank her for listening. She told me my songs really helped her to
    relax and focus on her work. Music to my ears!!!! But then, as if on
    cue, someone else walked in and asked, “What’s that Crap you are
    listening to???” (I got to say…”That’s my Crap!”) I learned right there that not everyone will like my music….it’s best to concentrate on the one’s that do.

    • Randy Hansen

      Once a band that I was in was conducting a sound check and one of our friends went outside to smoke a cigarette. While outside he overheard two people who were walking by comment on what they heard coming from the club. One said “Hey they sound pretty good.”, the other replied, “I think they suck”. Our friend commented to them as they walked away, “hey thank you and f**k you.”

  • Benjamin Kantz Hughes

    I actually love seeing my name in print good or bad. So I’m usually excited at the fact that someone either liked or hated us so much, they had to write about it! My feeling is you’re doing something right, if they’re paying attention. One of my favorite reviews… “They are the musical equivalent of your kitchen junk drawer”. The fact that we provoked that kind of humor and wit in a review makes me smile.

  • Chester Field

    Yo, when negative stuff comes up, watch how amazingly fast it fizzles and fades if you just leave it alone and get on with you’re there for – magic music making. Don’t give in to the instinct to fuss and bark back because that will prolong it. Just, uh, turn the other cheek, meaning turn away and get on with your business.

  • We (3RDegree) just post it on Facebook (and eventually our own site) and say something like “not everyone ‘gets us'”. Lot’s of uberfans usually weigh in and make us feel better about it all. No big deal.

  • Randy Hansen

    I haven’t had the opportunity to have a press review, but I did allow one of my songs to be reviewed by anonymous reviewers on a music site. Though I won’t do it again, the experience was insightful (not because of the negative reviews, which were plenty, but because most of the reviewers were poor writers who could barely articulate what they thought was good/bad about the tune). My point in doing this is to simply reiterate that taste in music is subjective and you should keep that in mind. Here’s a few samples:

    “Lyrics were cheesy and sounded like they were written by a high-schooler.”

    “Lyrics were deep and mature”.

    “The sax solo was poor.”

    “The sax was fantastic.”

    “Obviously produced by amateurs.”

    “The production was first rate.”

    “These guys should be run out of town on a rail and their music banned!”

    “This band could be the next big thing.”

    “The guitarist is one of those dopes who thinks he can shred but he can’t.”

    “The guitar solo made me want more.”

    My favorite assessment came from a guy who really hated the song. He was really venomous (in the true spirit of an anonymous reviewer) and with much derision said “This song lacks any modern touches and is totally old school.” Little did he/she know that was the best compliment of all. 🙂

  • 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

  • Haha. Well played.


  • Vagelis Stefanopoulos

    I was really proud to get one dislike on Youtube for the cover I made on Gershwin’s summertime…It means that I did something with it!!!

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


  • Aaron Gibson

    Sometimes it is better to hear “YOU SUCK”. Bad reviews are one self esteem killer, but this one takes the cake for me. I emailed a site that I won’t mention (free music download, or sound trade site) about their featured artists/albums. They emailed me back after checking out my music saying that it wasn’t good enough for their “primary features”,..or their “Secondary features” and We don’t think it would work for our new and notable section, but would you like me to ask that editor if they will take it? Take it? These are all PAID advertising spots. I got turned down for paid advertising!!….. It was much easier to take the review I got a few years ago calling my music “nonsensical trash”, I actually liked that one (next album title even, maybe?). Point being, you just have to keep on your own path, if that is what your goal is… And maybe they just thought that it would be unfair for me to make all of their other advertisers look bad :). Ok, keep a good attitude.
    Peace be with you guys!

  • Alexander Quinones

    Which band was it?

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


  • Glen Laughlin

    Many years ago Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator responded to a negative review in a major British music publication with a lengthy analysis of the review, exposing factual errors, misguided assumptions and questionable aesthetic conclusions. The reviewer reconsidered his review and then published an apology. I don’t mind whether an individual likes or dislikes my music. But there IS accounting for taste if you are a knowledgable and capable reviewer. If you don’t care for a particular genre or are not knowledgable about it, either don’t review the work, or disclose it. All art takes meaning from context. By neglecting to consider the context, your points of reference as a reviewer are deficient if not necessarily invalid. What is valuable from a reviewer but absent from most independent internet reviews, is a knowledge-based description of the work and an enlightened interpretation of the work, whereby an informed public can make up its own mind. It is high time that artists, whose work is always on the firing line, respond to unqualified, self-appointed critics of their work when that work is unfairly disparaged. The reviewer is an artist as well and they must be responsible for their work. I do agree that asking critics to support their comments is quite different than simply complaining and/or slagging them off in return.

  • Juliox

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

  • Juliox

    We just got a terrible review that reads more like a vendetta against me (the keyboardist and producer) than than a review of our music. You have to click on the Translate to English button (unless you read Spanish):

    But I ran across this great quote from Theodore Roosevelt that really made my day, so I’m feeling much better about things”

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is
    actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  • Well said, Ted.


  • 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?

  • MIchael Kennedy

    John Gielgud, one of the greatest actors of the 20th century said, “A bad review will ruin your breakfast, but not your lunch.” Wise words.

  • After I released my second album, a bit of an experiment with 5 loud rock tracks followed by 6 acoustic tracks called ‘Aliens Ate My Amplifiers’, I got a bad review with a silver lining: The reviewer loved the last song on the record. It was the only track recorded live and somewhat removed from the experiment.

    I sent the editor an in-depth e-mail explaining the experiment and that he wasn’t the only one who didn’t really get it. The rock fans wanted more of the first half and the roots crowd wanted more of the second half. Usually I mix them up a little more but this was a concept album where I did a sort of reverse ‘Dylan goes electric’ halfway through. Most of the lyrics have an extra layer of meta commentary that a lot of people don’t pick up on. It didn’t pan out and the reviewer definitely had a point when he tore me a new one.

    The magazine published my email, saying they applauded the novelty of my experiment and they tried to get people on board with it. The album is still a tough sell and the individual tracks do a lot better on Spotify, but this definitely helped.

    Don’t be angry, just try and get people on board.

  • Tom B Stone

    I’ve seen a lot of comments in this thread about not being able to get any kind of review at all. The answer is really very, very simple – hire a PR person (in this scenario it stands for Press Relations). A good PR person will get you coverage but you have to be prepared for the worst.

    My band has had some fantastic reviews and some outright hatchet jobs since we released our first full-length album. It does really sting when a bad review comes along and you want to punch the reviewer’s lights out. It wouldn’t be so bad if the reviews were written as positive criticism but, when they are just somebody being a douche, it is very difficult to turn the other cheek.

    This article has some really good insights and I am glad I read it 🙂

    • Happy to help. And yes, you’re right about getting reviews. A publicist/PR person makes it much easier (as long as you have the budget).


  • Yes, good point. The “grain of salt” method or receiving criticism. Thanks for sharing.

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