If I listened to everyone’s opinion, I’d be dead.
Dramatic, I know. Sorry. But I will tell you this: taking to heart every bit of unsolicited (and even sought out) advice and opinion—no matter what career path you’re pursuing—is seriously toxic. It can be absolutely crushing to the core. And when it comes to establishing yourself in the world of music, the criticism and judgment are tenfold. Everybody—from your friends, to your parents, to the stranger passing by on the street—has something to say. More often than not, their intentions are good, but it can wear down even the toughest of spirits.
I guess I didn’t fully realize the extent to which I’d be judged as an artist. You’re probably thinking, “um, duh. Are you a fucking fool?” Please don’t answer that.
“The fact of the matter is, the more you put yourself out there, the more people will pick you apart. Unfortunately it comes with the territory.”
The fact of the matter is, the more you put yourself out there, the more people will pick you apart. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory. We all know that. That’s why it takes a certain type of person to pursue this particular passion. It is both a blessing and a curse, and sometimes I find myself pissed that I didn’t grow up wanting to work in corporate America. Nope, apparently the path of the “starving artist” was mine to follow.
So how do I cope with all the judgments and criticism that comes with it? I walk around wearing imaginary ear muffs like the kid in Old School. I peruse Instagram for daily inspirational quotes about success and positivity. I even talk to myself in the mirror. Does that shit help? Meh. I’d like to pretend that the bullshit doesn’t get to me, but I am human after all. I still have feelings, no matter how hard I try to drown out the negativity. But here we are, folks. It’s not something you can know or prepare for before you’re in it, in my experience at least.
“I often find myself asking the same question: is my gut wrong? I’d like to think that I am self-assured, but when all these comments come at me, it’s confusing to process.”
Even more destabilizing than the constant judgments and contrasting opinions is the confusion and self-questioning that follows. As a young artist, I often find myself asking the same question: is my gut wrong? I’d like to think that I am self-assured, but when all these comments come at me, it’s confusing to process. “Dumb down your lyrics, Hannah, stop being so poetic—no one actually pays attention to the music. They just want to be able to sing along.” followed by, “I like the melody, but the lyrics are so simple. I need you to dig deeper.” And I shit you not this came from the same person.
Or how about, “What sets you apart from others? You need to be unique. Weird is good—it catches people’s attention.” And then, “hmm, I’d like you to be a bit more mainstream. Weird is a little too unrelatable. Put music out that coincides with the pop charts right now.”
Um, hello? Can’t I just be myself???
So here I am left with this: Should I be listening to everyone? Am I doing the right thing because it’s what I feel is right, or am I being stubborn and should just listen to what they’re telling me to do? I wish I had a concrete answer, but the truth is I don’t even think there is one out there. All I can do is take in the mass amounts of advice with a grain of salt, whether it’s from a clueless friend or a distinguished A&R at a major label. If I can stand proudly by my project at the end of the day no matter how much it succeeds or fails to catch with the public, then I can fall asleep at night…I think.