10 Things Musicians Hate To Hear
As a musician you often get hit with many commonly asked questions and statements. Many people may not even be aware that some of the things they say to musicians may be extremely irksome. Below is a list of a ten commonly asked questions or statements that have most probably irked a musician or two at some point.
1. “You Know Who You Sound Like?”
For some mystifying reason, people cannot help themselves from telling musicians that they sound like somebody—even if it’s not even true or a far stretch. To some degree everyone sounds like somebody. It isn’t a compliment. There are absolutely no musicians who like that except for….impersonators perhaps. It’s inadvertently cutting and strips artists of their own identity. All artists have influences. That’s common sense. However, artists do not compose music to become successful “b” versions of someone else. If you’re one to do this habitually—don’t.
2. “Can You Play for My ‘bla bla bla’[ FOR FREE], You’ll Get Lots of Exposure.”
This is a big one. The world loves musicians. For a variety of reasons, the world will always find musicians and artists to be cool. Strangely at the same exact time musicians are of the most beloved and appreciated members of the society—AND the most exploited, unrewarded and taken advantage of. When you are a musician, even your own friends and family members call on you to do all sorts of stuff incessantly, but no one finds it necessary to toss a quarter in your direction. It’s really kind of sick.
Businesses and institutions sustain this gross practice of exploiting musicians by convincing them to work for things like exposure. “Exposure” is a word for which people should be slapped, and then “exposed” for suggesting it as payment for good musicians or to anyone. Exposure–to whom and for what? Can one pay rent with this exposure thing? Artists need money like anyone one else on earth, not exposure, gratitude, or free beer.
3. “Can I Get A CD?”
When some folks know you do music, they sometimes ask of you the most idiotic self-defeating things. Interesting individuals are always asking for free CD’s, T-shirts, free entry to your gigs and free hookups from bands obviously doing music hoping for support.
The only people entitled to free stuff are press. If you’re not press and you ask for things however—you’re missing the point. Your musician friend needs your support. Believe me, most of them want to hook you and everyone up if they could—but they can’t and that isn’t how it’s done. If you ask, they’ll probably try to accommodate you and many don’t say no. Musicians are cool like that.
4. “Sounds Good…”
Honesty and detail is always good when telling artists about their music. When you record original music and slave away in the studio for however long, the last thing an artist wants to hear is “sounds good”. If you truly don’t like the song, don’t like the vocals, or don’t like any element of the composition—I would always say so. Especially if a few tweeks could turn the song around. Critiques don’t necessarily hurt the artist’s feelings; they’re tougher than you think. They might appreciate the honesty and run with it. Honest critiques help the artist get better and fix what could be improved. For whatever reason people act weird and never tell the truth to artists and musicians —as if sparing their feelings helps them in the long run. It doesn’t.
If you do happen to like the song and don’t feel anything is wrong, there is certainly a better compliment than “sounds good”. They are creative—so be creative. Tell them what you like about it, as that always helps. Regardless “sounds good” NEVER sounds good.
5. “You Know What You Should Do?”
This happens to musicians and artists all the time. People see people from all walks of life doing their jobs and they are usually left alone. With musicians however, people often feel the need to offer advice and suggestions. It doesn’t matter how low on the totem pole anyone else’s job is, people always assume musicians are starving artists and that they need advice. Who sits next to the nearest janitor or McDonald’s employee and says, “Hey you know what you should do…” However and more often than not artists are told to try out for a TV singing contest, or to “put themselves out there more” without knowing anything they’ve done, and things of that nature. Artists are usually smart people. The advice you’re about to drop assuming you’re not in the industry, they probably thought of that already. Like, several years ago.
6. “Oh, You Can Sing? Sing Something.”
Oh you can sow? Why don’t you sit yourself down right here and sow me a sweater? Why do people feel when they discover a musical talent in someone, that that person is now at their service?
Understood—some artists love the attention and jump to it. Many do not. Lots of artists love to perform and put shows together. However, many of them would rather not perform randomly and on the spot at a Burger King drive-thru. If a person is a professional, they probably do it all the time and for hire. It’s no longer the cute or cool thing they used to do and they shouldn’t be badgered to do it on the spot anymore unless of course they want to, or if the person asking is also holding a large check.
7. “Can You Write Me A Song?”
No. Did Princess Diana posthumously commission Elton John to pen “Candle in the Wind”? There probably are no hits or good songs in existence that someone was told to write by the person the song is about. Never ask a musician to write a song—ever—for any reason. The only time its appropriate to ask a musician to write a song is if the person asking is writing too—a check. Songs come through inspiration. The second you merely suggest the notion of the artist writing you your own song either dead seriously or in gest—you just defiled the mere thought of it permanently forever.
8. “I Don’t Hear Your Songs On Radio”
The industry is controlled by a few big corporations and we hear the same 15 songs all day. It’s safe to say most artists are not on the radio.
People who don’t know much about the music scene or underground music often feel that most good artists are on the radio. Not so. Most of the people on the radio have corporate record deals and the corporations that own the music ensure their airplay. Independent artists still have successful careers without being played on the radio.
Even if the musician is on the radio, one should never ask questions that have nothing to do with the quality of their music, or ask questions that may lead to an awkward few seconds of silence if the answer is “no.”
9. “So What Do You Do For Money?”
This is highly annoying for a variety of reasons. When people ask musicians what they do for money, it actually isn’t a stupid question. It’s just extremely annoying. It’s also a little rude.
I do a lot of things as I’m sure many musicians do. Some people have learned how to navigate through life wearing multiple hats and making a living. Many musicians are successful and what they do is music. However, sometimes there are musicians who work jobs by day that they aren’t too proud of. Either-way, having that question hurled at you just might make someone uncomfortable.
10. “Is That You?”
I can’t count the times where I played people music I recorded. And after you just informed the people about to listen that this is your new track or song they light up if they like it and say something like, “Is that you?” In other words, if it sucked or was mediocre that would be completely fine and normal. If the song is actually pretty good they need to make sure it’s really done by you—like the whole song. Some people take it a step further and ask more extremely annoying questions like so who made the beat, who wrote the lyrics etc, etc. My answer under my breath is always “Dude, I am a “songwriter” and yes, I wrote the f&*(ing song.”
In an indirect way it still is a compliment and I do get it. It’s just annoying when it happens a lot. However, when people are sharing their music which is a huge part of someone’s heart, soul, and hard work, one shouldn’t be quick to assume they’re just pulling your leg.
The aforementioned sentiments is what many of your musician friends may have been thinking at one point or another in response to something said to them. Let this blog serve as a PSA on their behalf. In general, be supportive to your musician buddies. It’s courageous and commendable when people put themselves out there. Most of them won’t hound you for anything but it’s cool to help them out if they are following their heart. If you haven’t already, go to a show, purchase a download, and show them love for what they do from time to time. For most it isn’t easy but things are awesome when folks have your back. And definitely try to avoid saying ANY of the questions above if you can help it.
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