On How To Properly Respond To Criticism ...
It happens, I guess. Musicians tend ***SWEEPING GENERALIZATION ALERT!*** to be a sensitive lot. So too their friends and die-hard fans.
Listen: We understand that, when we run a negative review, it will most likely ruffle some feathers. Especially if those feathers belong to a group of musicians so firmly entrenched in the local music scene and so greatly revered around these parts as The King Bucks happen to be.
I don't want to say we expect a backlash when we run such pieces. But, certainly, we're prepared for it. To a degree.
This instance, though, has been a little different. Things turned fairly ugly in the aftermath of that initial post from Sophia Dembling. One member of The King Bucks, Danny Balis, who happens to be the co-host of "The Hardline," a popular drive-time radio show on KTCK-1310 AM The Ticket, went on the air the day after her post ran and responded to Dembling's take by calling her an "ugly, fat old bitch."
Not exactly the coolest of responses. Balis has since taken to Facebook to apologize for his comments, but, still, the imbroglio continues: Dembling has posted a response on another blog she works for, and local feminist blog Hay Ladies, penned by former Observer scribe Andrea Grimes, has taken a particularly strong stance against Balis' comments as well, first calling them sexist and then calling us out for not immediately jumping out of the gate and agreeing that his comments were sexist.
As for our stance here at DC9? Well, as we told Hay Ladies, we expect a jerk-ish response from bands we critique from time to time. It happens. I, for one, have been called every name in the book by various musicians. A few times, even. Got somewhat hilariously accosted by a heckler last night, even.
Still, that doesn't make Balis' response OK. Nor does it necessarily make any such childish remark made in response to a negative review OK either. Listen: We're just doing our jobs -- offering criticism to bands that either come from or play somewhere within our coverage area, more often than not in response to a band asking us to do so.
People send us albums. They invite us to shows. They do so because they want feedback -- and honest feedback at that -- because, let's face it, their friends and family more often than not will simply just tell them how great they are so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. That's where we come in, offering criticisms and praise as necessary, in part in effort to help push the act in question in the right direction.
It helps them, it helps the overall scene, and it helps our readers develop their own opinions on these acts.
It doesn't really help anyone when a band throws a hissy fit in response. So, in that vein, a primer of sorts after the jump, a reminder on how to best take critiques, you sensitive musicians you.
- Actually read the review. I can't tell you how many times I've been engaged in conversation by an act we didn't slobber over, who simply skimmed our take to look for words like "great" or, conversely, "terrible." More often than not, our takes tend to be longer than one or two words, crazy as that may sound. And, in this age of space being at a premium in newspapers, we could choose to go the less-is-more route. We don't. Instead, we try to flesh out our takes so we can fully get our thoughts across. Read the whole thing. Generally, we explain our stances in full in there. So read it. Don't focus on one or two words.
- Stop assuming we have ulterior motives. We don't actively try to give backhanded compliments. We don't have issues with you personally. We listen to the music, as it is presented to us (usually in disc form or in a live setting) and try to give it an open-minded listen, while judging it within the realm in which it's been presented.
- Stop dwelling on the negative. As I said earlier, space is mostly at a premium with us these days -- especially in print. And our staff, despite our output, isn't as big as you might think. So, more often than not, we take the high road and choose not to cover bands that we have nothing good to say about. Does that mean we don't run negative reviews? Absolutely not. But most times, when we do, it's because we see some potential hidden underneath the bad stuff. Otherwise, we wouldn't focus on as much.
- Actually consider our take. Don't rush to judgment and get upset because we didn't immediately hail you as the next Bruce Springsteen (which you're not) or the next Mumford & Sons (which you very well may be). Take a step back and read our take. Think about the criticism. Consider that maybe you're too close to the material to notice some nagging concerns. Maybe even consider applying our advice. It's OK to re-evaluate things every once in a while. Maybe our ideas might even help you. Crazy, I know.
- Don't resort to name-calling. You're not the first person to call us a name. You're not going to get under our skin. You're just going to look immature. Or, worse, you might upset a regional feminist blog that will start accusing you of being a sexist.
- Remember that there's no such thing as bad press. Hey, at least someone's talking about you. And, worst-case scenario, you'll have tangible proof to show your grandchildren when they don't believe your stories about your days in a rock band.