Honest Music FeedbackYour friends are not true fans

Look, your parents and your partner and your neighbors are not going to tell you that your music sucks. Neither will your co-workers, your church friends, or the people you play rugby with on Wednesdays. Your cousins, your counselor, your drinking-buddies, your favorite barista — nope, can’t trust them either.

They lie to you. They tell you you’re magnificent because they care about your feelings — or at the very least they have to see you on a regular basis and don’t want to have to deal with you pouting all the time.

Some folks even go so far as to lie about purchasing your music.

We see it from time to time at CD Baby: Johnny X calls up saying his friend Bob bought the new Johnny X album, and he wants to know why that sale isn’t showing up in his accounting section yet.

Well, unfortunately it’s because the CD is still on our shelves and Bob was politely trying to wriggle around the issue that he hates Johnny’s music. So he fibbed rather than say, “Stop bugging me, man! I don’t wanna buy your CD already. I’ve sat through your last 3 shows; what more do you want from me?”

Your friends are not your fans. Beyond their initial support of your musical endeavors (coming out to your early shows, liking you on Facebook, etc.) you cannot rely on them to sustain your career — or to give you the kind of unfettered feedback that will help you analyze your weaknesses, identify your strengths, and craft a better sound, song, or show!

An honest assessment of your music

OK, perhaps I’m being a little harsh. I’m sure some of your family and friends legitimately DO enjoy your music. But I’m trying to drive home a simple point:  you gotta get out of your comfort zone and let people who have no personal connection to you give their unbiased opinion!

Why? Otherwise, you’re like the delusional king who can do no wrong in his own mind because he only trusts in a counsel of yes-men. You’re like the vain queen who only looks at herself in magical mirrors, always reflecting an image back in the most favorable light. You have no realistic way of testing how your music truly moves people.

Luckily, it’s an easy problem to remedy:

* Play in front of a room of strangers and gauge their reaction.

* Post new tracks on SoundCloud (or to a SoundCloud feedback group page like THIS) and ask other users to comment.

* Send your CDs to music journalists who will critique your work.

* Contact bloggers and see if they want to give away one of your MP3s.

Seek outside opinions and listen to the feedback! You don’t have to accept every criticism, but at the very least — listen. Let it sink in; let it lift your spirits or sting accordingly; and after the dust has settled, if you think a bit of negative feedback has some validity to it, make the necessary adjustments. Your act will be far stronger for it down the road.

On the other hand, it’s healthy to remember the internet can be a cruel place, so brace yourself for harsh trolls and haters. As the much-maligned Richard Marx says in this recent story, “There’s nothing more subjective than music.”

The people out there who love your music aren’t wrong, but neither are the ones who don’t.

What do you think? Who do you trust to give you honest feedback? How can you tell if your music is “working?” Let us know in the comments section below.