You Need To Understand Critics Today

Submitted by Peter Åstedt

I have previously written about the new technology that allows musicians to just sit home in front of a computer and create songs. To understand the best songs in the world, you must understand how they are done and that is far from doing everything yourself.

Today you can easily do a song a week (I bet some think they can do a song a day) get it online and send it out to all the corners of the world. A bit like just throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.

I got into this fun conversation on Submithub the other day. I got a very mediocre song sent to me. It’s a party progressive rock with supposedly uplifting lyrics. For me, it sounded like Christian rock that you hear  in bad elevators in Texas. Just the intro of the song was like thirty-five seconds with just a guitar the whole time. I was already bored at ten seconds. Since I am required to send feedback on Submithub I wrote the following:

“The intro is a bit too long it takes almost 30 sec before something happens. The hook is not strong enough.”

 Since I’m nice enough to also let the artist respond, I got this response.

“Lol ok, thanks. Curators who don’t bother listening to half of the song don’t get future submissions and credits.”

In fact, the song is four minutes long, but sitting listening to a song that doesn’t hit you for two minutes just to reject it won’t do. Like I wrote I got tired after ten seconds I guess the average listener just skipped it after five seconds. At the same time if you want me to listen longer there is an option on Submithub for that. You can force us to listen for 90 seconds but then we don’t need to write a comment. I can say though that it doesn’t help to force people to listen to songs they don’t like. I hate to listen to songs when the artist is in the room, like during demo sessions or speed meetings. You get forced to listen to something and you can already after 20 seconds hear that this leads to nowhere. Still, you have to sit there and painfully listen just because the artist thinks that you can get to like a song.

You can actually force a bad song upon a person. In college, we had a parade, and when we built all the wagons for the parade we had two parade-building songs. They just took annoying songs and then for the whole week they played those two songs on repeat. With so many repeats after a while you start to like them, it’s the Stockholm Syndrome of music. The problem with this it never works in the real world. But I guess this is the thought of the artists that want to sit down and force you to listen to their music.

Back to my artist on Submithub. Trying to threaten that he won’t send songs and that not get paid is just stupid. I will rather be without the crap songs. So I wrote this response:

“Just take that we need to listen 90 seconds you get that. The problem is that a curator can judge a song pretty fast and keep on listening to a song you already know has no chance won’t make you choose it. Also, studies show that today’s audience gets bored if nothing happens within 8 sec due to the media climate, so that is a tipoff. Songs closer to 4 minutes are harder to place on the radio because of programming, another tipoff. But here’s the reason why not taking the song it’s mediocre. No technical changes will help. We are not here for the credit, if there was a way to get the best songs direct, I would easily go for free. As it is now, I have to go through hundreds of mediocre or bad songs to find one that fits. We do this to give indie artists a chance.  If we really didn’t bother then we would just take the submits from the big PR agencies.”

This is what is lacking today. The artists don’t get that when the great classics were written there was something called writing and then rewriting. The song went through the rehearsal room and several band members came with input. They sometimes even played it live to let the audience take a listen. Then the A&R person at the record label came with input. Then the producer came with input. Then the PR team came with input. Then it was released. Sure, many original ideas were thrown away in the process. At the end that is what made a great song, writing and rewriting. And in that, come critics. Today’s artist has a really hard time handling these critics. They think the critic is about the production, or that you should change the guitar sound. They even put in on Submithub a way that you can’t criticize the song since so many artists are sensitive. Sorry, part of the game is to handle criticism and understand it and use it in your favor.

If you can’t handle that go back and flip burgers.

Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 35 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. In 2021, he worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes Peter is a Managing Partner and Editor of the newly launched Record World International.