If you only have people “generally liking” what you’re doing - and no one leaving any derogatory “you suck” type of comments online …
You’re probably doing it wrong.
OK. Ummm. What?
I learned this little concept (that at least I believe in) from music analyst and the most powerful music blogger and overall music and cultural commentator on the planet, Bob Lefsetz.
Check out and subscribe to Bob’s essential blog here.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Huh?! I thought the goal is for everyone to LOVE me.”
If everyone simply, generally, casually “likes you” and thinks you’re “pretty good” … well that might actually be the worst thing for your career.
You want to avoid being “just good” at all costs.
I mean, even being “very good” can place you at the end of the day in the “unremarkable” category.
And with 50,000 + song releases per DAY (that’s not an exaggeration!), no one really cares about your new “very good” artist project, that doesn’t provoke any emotion or reaction.
Let’s look at it this way …
If the majority of people just “pretty much LIKE” what you do … it means you haven’t made a strong enough statement.
You need diehard fans, people that LOVE your music.
When you have that strong of a message in music … you’ll find that for every 10 people who LOVE your music … you’re going to have at least 1 out of 10 who hate or strongly dislike what you do.
And just like Tony the Tiger once said (yet another reference probably over your head, but hey, I try): “That’s GREATTTTTTT!”
Now, if you indeed receive some snarky or even harsh comments on line - you should, in my opinion, actually rejoice in that because it means you may actually be doing something right!
Now, of course you don’t want to have the flip side of this i.e. 2-3 positive comments for every 10 negative ones.
And when it comes to “haters,” keep in mind they’ll have no problem finding you and expressing their discontent in the comment section on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
So if you do get some negative comments on your YouTube video or a bad write up in a review (assuming you conversely have some amazing reviews), you should actually feel solid (or at worst neutral) about that! This means you’re doing something right. You’re creating a real statement and you’re receiving a reaction!
But also, keep in mind that a lot of these trollers are just angry and discontent individuals too - so whatever, bro!
But in general, feel good that you’re making music and your art is evoking a strong emotion.
The best and biggest artists have always had this going for them.
Just some examples:
Lady Gaga, Barry Manilow, NWA, Howard Stern, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, XXXTenacion, Yanni, Nickelback, Taylor Swift, Bob Lefsetz (previously mentioned!), Justin Bieber, Marilyn Manson … I could go on.
But these people have created a fan base of people who are diehard fans.
Equally, there are also a group of people who are diehard haters and can’t stand any of these aforementioned artists.
That’s a good thing! That means that these artists have a SONIC and ARTISTIC IDENTITY, a beacon of originality different from everyone else.
The secret here is so counterintuitive.
The wrong approach is to create music with the intention of just “fitting in” and hoping that no one goes about hating on your music.
Because that would just be “playing it safe.”
And with 50,000 releases coming out per day - it’s not a climate to play it safe … it’s a climate to absolutely take risks and stand out in the crowd.
On that note, one of the worst things I often see people doing (artists and writers) is “analyzing the charts” and seeing what’s working and deciding that because a certain style or trend is in … that consequently that should be the direction they’ll move towards.
How inauthentic is that?!
Where’s the “thumbs down” button for that artistic expression!?
You can’t make music that everybody is going to like. So, make music for you … music that you innately feel and that your niche hardcore fanbase is going to be CRAZY for.
The great thing about the state of music and the internet today - is there’s a niche and tribe and corner of the internet for everyone! If you resonate the true reflection of our art - your new fans out there will find you.
Because “fitting in” and “conforming” and being just “pretty good”… in today’s “new music business” is a disastrous FAIL in my opinion!
To be successful in the “new music business” you MUST stand out and you MUST be willing to accept that people are not going to like what you do.
As Bob Lefsetz said, if there’s no one that strongly dislikes what you do ... you’re just not doing it right!
So yes, you NEED haters, believe it or not.
To have haters is actually a good sign … assuming that you have a disproportionate amount of lovers.
In fact, when it comes to negative comments, you can flip the script for yourself. You might actually want to feel disappointed if you don’t find someone giving you a thumbs down!
And consequently, if someone rips you apart with a comment on YouTube - hey, there might be some truth in there to look at, too, but more so I would look at a negative comment as potentially a win!
You’re doing something right.
You created an emotion strong enough - that someone was moved to say something in the comments section.
In essence, you’ve fulfilled your job as an artist, you’ve evoked an emotion!
BRAVO TO YOU!
And don’t forget …
I remember that back in Howard Stern’s radio days, his biggest haters and complainers to the FCC were also some of his most frequent listeners.
Most likely, these people were also in a way, his biggest fans (as far as the amount of time spent listening to Howard’s show, and consequently the associated radio ads, which funded Howard’s show).
One other thing here.
I know way too many artists who unfortunately might see a few comments on their latest upload to YouTube - perhaps even loosely saying the same thing - and those 2-3 comments unjustly set some wheels in motion where the the artist decides to change their entire view or direction on their style or the song or the video - or worse - they get a few bad comments and they take the video and song down.
Look at it this way ...
One, solely negative, or even slightly negative user comment on your YouTube video can rightfully or unjustifiably be amplified to you emotionally, 1000x as the artist.
Comments like “Nice song but wow, that bass is so loud” or “Meh - don’t like this new direction - not as good as the last song!” or whatever - can get amplified by you like a magnifying glass.
It could be because 1,000 people might have also just read that public comment, and it’s very likely your internal voice might be saying: “Wow, I bet 1,000 people read that comment - I better do something about it. They called me out, etc.”
Quick example - I have one artist I work with who might receive one negative comment, like a mix note or something small - and on that one comment, that artist will be determined to get a whole new mix and master to satisfy one off the cuff remark from one person … that might not even be legit!
My suggestion is not to be super reactive to negative comments.
Now, if you get a bunch of the same comments - then, hey - maybe there’s something there.
And fortunately, that’s also what’s so amazing about the cold, brutal heart of the internet (and also the pure analytical data on any of your songs or videos and how they really are reacting). You’ll very quickly find out if you got something or not … vs. your mommy saying you’re a genius every time you make a song.
But no doubt - comments are helpful and are often vital help with pure objectivity.
As an example, how many friends are going to tell you your breath smells to your face? (And BTW the answer is “only your very best friends.”).
So in other words - use those comments as a barometer. There might be some truth in the comments section.
On the other hand, don’t go obsessing about your comments.
In my opinion, they’re good to read for a general compass, but at the end of the day, to each their own.
And look forward to finding your first haters : )
If you like what I’m saying here, and the proverbial “lightbulbs” are popping off above your head, the best book on the subject is Seth Godin’s, “Purple Cow.”
Really, reading this book was a total life changer and epiphany for me.
Just trust me … read Seth’s “Purple Cow” and your perspective on making and marketing music will never be the same.
HATERS. They will find you. You will get negative comments.
So look forward to them (in moderation, of course!) and take pleasure knowing the music is you’re making is evoking an emotion and reaction.