I recall preparing for trial on a case. I had worked so hard on the case and we were close to trial. I had written and argued numerous motions, gone through discovery etc. as part of the pre-trial process in anticipation for trial. On one occasion, I wrote a motion (court written papers where you ask the Judge to do something in favor of your client) and asked my fellow legal colleague to review and let me know her thoughts.
Mennnnnnnnh, homegirl tore it apart! I make no qualms about being a very direct person. It is who I have always been even as a child. I don’t know how to be anything else but myself. “Myself” is direct and to the point. But boy was she even more direct, at least it felt that way, than I am. She told me she had seen much better from me. She told me when I wrote, even in the legal field and in legal language, people reacted and moved! What I gave her, she informed me, fell quite short of what she knew I was capable of. Her words, to me, were harsh! Further, at that point in time when I received her criticism, given my extreme hardwork on the case, I was exhausted.
The last thing I wanted to hear was what she had to say BUT, I kept in mind that I was the one who solicited her input because I wanted and respected her opinion. So, even though I did not want to hear it, I sucked it up and did. I listened. Took a long break, came back and attacked that motion ferociously.
The moral of the story? Artists don’t ask for criticism if you cannot take it.
I am used to being solicited for feedback by artists, designers, filmmakers, fellow writers, legal colleagues, fellow business owners etc. I presume before these persons approach me, they have done their homework. I am not the woman you come to, to make you feel good i.e. “feely touchy” stuff. I am the woman you come to, to give you straight talk and no BS. Many times, that means you will be praised if you do great, great is determined in my own perspective. If I don’t believe your work is up to par, you will be told. Take it or leave it.
If you are an artist and you seek opinions of persons like myself, only do so if you have the thick skin to handle it. I have had a couple of recent instances where some artists solicited my feedback but their responses and actions after I gave them my opinion was immature and disappointing, at best. Here are 8 tips I think you all should keep in mind if you will solicit or you receive unsolicited feedback/constructive criticism from others, especially industry professionals/heads.
1. Make sure you trust and respect the people you solicit feedback from. Choose wisely. Be sure those whose opinions you seek truly have your best interest at heart. Do your homework before you solicit feedback. If people mean harm towards you, what they tell you can have a detrimental effect on you, if you are not strong psychologically to handle it. So, choose carefully.
2. Grow a thick skin – We are in a day and age where an artist can just pop into a studio, record a track on their computer audio based workstations, many times it is not even properly mixed and mastered, email blogs and BOOM! their songs are online everywhere; and in few instances, make it to radio. This trend has created artists with seriously over-flated egos and over sensitive feelings. Grow a thick skin. We are in the business of music. Today you are hot, tomorrow, you are really so 2000 and late. If you want to improve your craft and remain relevant, you need tough skin, especially where you solicit advice. Even when you don’t, the media and your fans have a range of feedback to give you. Expect it and learn to roll with the punches. It is part of putting your work out there to be criticized and ultimately purchased.
3. Show Respect – Those you ask for feedback do not have to give you feedback. They make time to do so. When they do, show some respect. Basic courtesy will get you far both in music and other fields. Plus, people simply do not forget how you rewarded them for taking the time.
4. Don’t be a people pleaser: People pleasing in the entertainment business is a sure way to kill your career. You cannot please everyone. It is critical, therefore, that you have your own STRONG core. Validate yourself. Don’t wait for others to validate your work. Be careful as you do this not to confuse it with ego. A step in the right direction to develop a strong core is to know the answers to these questions: what drives you? Why do you make music? What are your value systems? Answering these questions will make you stand firm and not be so needy or dependent on people’s acceptance of your work.
5. Think before you react to Criticisms: No one likes to be criticized. Naturally, we get defensive and want to lash back or depending on the personality, shut down. It is important not to react quickly. If you receive criticisms, take a chill pill and revisit the issue later when you are calm and can get a sense of where the criticisms are coming from.
6. Don’t sit on it: There is a tendency to want to take the criticism we hear, dwell on it, analyze and over analyze it. DON’T. Focus on the actual criticism, take it for what it is, learn from it if there is something to learn from and then be about the business of making even better music. Be mature about it and avoid discussing it with everyone, that includes putting it up on your facebook status and so forth.
7. Balance is key: If you are one of those who loves to receive only praises but simply can’t handle any criticisms even constructive ones, then you need to learn the art of balance. Learn more about yourself and invest in personal growth so you can learn how to take both praises and criticisms
8. You have the right to Reject Criticism and Make your Ultimate Decision – The world has changed and continues to change. It feels like people don’t have a clue what they stand for anymore and to the degree they do, the are so afraid to let it be known. Just because you are an artists doesn’t mean you forget who you are or your ability to think and make decisions for yourself. Have your own mind and voice for crying out loud. This means, you, the artist, makes the ultimate decision when you solicit criticisms or unsolicited criticisms is offered to you. Hear what people you solicit have to say, then make your own decision. Be your own man or woman and have a clarity of purpose and direction. Feedback from mentors, fellow artists, industry professionals etc. is exactly that “feedback.” It is not meant to over-ride your own ultimate decision.
Have the courage and conviction to trust your instinct, your values, think for yourself, make and move on your own decision(s).
I am a trial lawyer as well as the founder and principal attorney for UDUAK LAW FIRM, a firm serving the fashion and entertainment industries. You can follow me on twitter atwww.twitter.com/uduaklaw or www.twitter.com/africamusiclaw. I am also the President & CEO of Ladybrille Media Group, Inc. I have over seventeen years combined experience in the fashion and entertainment industries and welcome your basic Music Business Questions. Have a question for me? Send me an email: ([email protected]).