You Want the Truth?!?!

Dave Business, Cracked Up (Blog), Creating, Engineering, Music/Audio, Opinions, Personal, Ramblings 5 Comments

I’ve been re-writing, re-jigging, re-recording, re-mixing and just about re-everything on the few masterpieces I’ve written and consider to be “songs”.

For those of you who haven’t followed my posts lately, feel free to check out the last four or five that kind of document my escapades in getting five or six of my songs ready for a potential EP release starting with this post.

Well, this one is highlights some of the challenges I think every artist who wants to step out into the world must come to grips with:

“What is Joe Public going to think about my music?”

Objective Opinions: Need Not Apply?

Anyone who creates music (or any art for that matter), at one point or another plays their creations for others. Most of the time, the initial objective is to get feedback and opinions.

As a part of this whole “EP” endeavor, I’ve been striving to do just that – get opinions on my music.

I started out with my family and friends, moved on to my peers and I’ve even “released” my songs to a bigger audience such as podcasts and music / songwriting forums to “see what sticks” when I throw my creations out there.

I got some positive reinforcement, some creative criticism, but all in all a majority of “thumbs up” feedback. All par for the course, and frankly, it’s what I expected.

Not to belittle, dismiss or be thankless for that feedback, but when I really looked at it, those opinions are not really objective, are they?  Pretty well everyone who sent in a response to my “will-you-tell-me-what-you-think?” request has some sort of vested interest in being, at the very least, cordial.

Whether it be email, text, facebook, phone, chatting … what have you, by canvassing feedback through those routes, there is some sort of “traceable” connection to me.

In other words, they all know that I know who they are. Regardless of how far removed or tenuous their connection to me is, without some sort of “guaranteed” anonymity in place, I truly have my doubts that many people (myself included) would feel comfortable giving a truly unbiased opinion.

So, I set out to see if I could get some truly objective opinions!

That Rascally Needle!

I found this easier said than done.  Short of standing on the street corner, and pretending I’m a third-party market research analyst, it’s actually quite difficult to get a truly objective opinions on your art … without paying for it.

There are a lot of sites out there that try and connect new artists with music consumers.  They usually run some sort of charting system as well – Soundclick is a good example of this kind of site.  One of the more interesting sites is The Sixty-One – they host a lot of new as well as “B” list artists and employ a kind of scavenger hunt / rewards system for listeners to encourage listeners to try and gain status by finding new artists and providing feedback.

Unfortunately, beyond those music consumers who enjoy that kind of “game”, they novelty wears off quite quickly

What was missing was the value proposition – I needed to find a way to get Joe Public to WANT to listen to my music AND give an opinion on it too. You don’t get something for nothing after all.

Careful What You Wish For

After interacting with a few songwriting twitter feeds (@ravenousraven and @songwriterspace to name a couple), I came across Music XRay.

Music XRay is facilitating a more efficient, lower cost, and less risky A&R process. Our growing platform enables the industry to open the doors of opportunity to musicians and songwriters everywhere and to harness the most powerful tools ever built specifically for those who conduct A&R.

We help musicians and songwriters get deals and to get feedback from professionals who want to help them succeed. We help them access the gatekeepers in a way that makes it rewarding for both parties.

When you register, you can choose to be an “Industry Professional” (someone who offers opportunities / provides a service to artists) an “Artist” (someone who uploads their music for consideration / consumption), or a “Music Listener” (someone who listens to and provides feedback to artists).

I came across the “killer app” of the site after I’d uploaded a couple of tracks.  I got an email a few days later stating that I hadn’t used my “free” focus group opportunity yet.  After curiosity got the best of me, I logged in and started looking at what this was all about.

It was essentially what I was looking for – a group of random individuals who listen to your music and give their opinions!  I inferred from the page that these listeners get paid because the more people you want in your focus group, the more you have to pay – at the rate of $1.00 per person.  You can specify a range of 20 to 100 people you want to get polled.  The free focus group is limited to 25 people.

And there it was: the value proposition.  This site pays cash for people to give their opinions on your music.

How it works:

You chose one of your songs, make up three “Yes” or “No” questions and submit it to the site.  Over the course of a few days, the opinions start to appear and the site gives you feedback from each user who listened to your song.

I picked one of my more quirky and odd songs to throw up against the crowd – “I’ve Given Up“.  It’s not the most “standard” kind of song. I don’t think it’s entirely radio-friendly but I thought I might as well see how the “outlier” does for this experiment.

It’s been both an enlightening and brutal (if my ego was fragile, that is…) experience.  I’ve received 15 of the contracted 25 respondents and the song currently has a 2.33 stars out of 5 rating (considered better than 4% of music on MusicXray none-the-less!):

I’ve received a couple of 4 star reviews and comments like:

“I loved the music, it reminded me of Vertial Insanity. but the vocals reminded me of a parody song in the first verse.I like the vocals on the chorus. and in the bridge.” and
Off The Chain Swagg!!!!! Interesting….Pretty sure a lot of people probably dig this already….No harm No fowl…Some instrumentation is a bit corny sounds like a xxx track in some parts….LMAO

At the other end of the spectrum (1 star review) the comments are more like:
I hated everything about this song“,
The style is very unusual and not in a good way.“,
Not good.
and, my favourite: “This artist needs to give up singing.

You can do your own data mining if you like – dive into the profiles of these reviewers (sans name or contact info) and get stuff like where they generally live, their employment status, their income, and their music tastes.  The site even gives you tools to filter comments / scores with a huge arrays of parameters, and if you’re a total analysis nut, you can Export it all to Excel and analyze things until you’re blue in the face.

I’ve written about criticism in blog posts before, and you’ve got to take it all with a grain of salt.  Regardless of the fact that I can probably ignore the opinion some dude who claims he’s an A&R rep and doesn’t like my music (even though he’s stated he’s an unemployed student earning less than $10K), this has all got me re-thinking of a few things.

If I’m going to release this stuff to the “world”, then it definitely wouldn’t hurt to shore up at least one of the shortcomings I’ve been conveniently ignoring recently.

Even though I can technically sing, I have to admit, I’m no lead singer. Perhaps with some training and practice, I could perhaps get part-way there, but for now, it’s probably easier for me to accept and concede.

My next post will most likely involve seeing how I can convince someone with real pipes to help out…

Comments 5

  1. Was Bob Dillan a great singer?

    By pure spec alone, many very successful singers aren’t that “technically” great, but their substance and emotion show through.

    Don’t give up on yourself yet! The chicken man isn’t that foul. 🙂

  2. Dave, that tune is fantastic. Don’t listen to the trolls who offer “constructive” comments, as if they believe they’ve been named the new Simon. It’s very catchy and doesn’t make me want to turn it off…so that’s a great thing. I’m listening to it again right now…

  3. Post

    {sniff} you guys are beautiful! I love ya!

    I wasn’t really thinking of that tune (although I was thinking of changing up parts of the verse to be spoken word ala “Rock Me Amadeus”).

    There are a couple of other tunes that I kind of know I might have better luck having someone who’s been crooning taking a crack at it.

    Nothing wrong with experimenting!

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