Dealing with bad reviews is always a struggle. No one wants to have to come to terms with a bad review and how it reflects upon their band. However a lot of bands react to a bad review in the worst possible way and this only leaves them open to more negativity. I think that realizing the appropriate reaction to a bad review is key if you want to maintain a web presence that isn’t viewed as little more than a bad joke. This is an issue I see even fairly major bands having a hard time with and we need to take the time to look at this in order to properly understand where it’s coming from and what the best responses are. It’s always a pain when someone insults a record you worked hard on, so how do you deal with that and turn it into something positive? There are ways, believe me, they just take a little maturity and tact, two things that unfortunately a lot of bands in the underground scene seem to be lacking.
First and foremost you see the bands who respond in a shitty way and are explicitly angry against not just the writer but the publication. This immediately locks you out from the publication. Any chance you could have had to maybe win them back over with a stronger release in the future is immediately shot down if you talk shit. I see this happen most frequently with bands on their first record. This is especially a problem because, what most bands don’t want to admit, is that your first record probably isn’t that good. It’s your first time doing this after all! Yet, because the bands aren’t used to receiving bad press they talk shit and shoot themselves in the foot. Instead of doing something positive with the press like accepting the criticism or just flat out ignoring it these bands have to whine to the whole world about how this writer ‘doesn’t understand their vision’. Well guess what, odds are that writer listens to a ton of music, so maybe it’s not their fault they aren’t digging it.
Furthermore, whining often causes an internet shitstorm. Everyone likes to make fun of an entitled band who are constantly complaining, don’t let that band be your band. No one ever respects someone more because they whine. They only think they are weak, and in the case of a band, unprofessional. That’s a pretty big burden to have to be facing, especially when you are just starting out. Hell, that’s a burden to face even down the line. Look at the way the internet flares up when established bands put out an objectively bad record and whines about the reviews. They inevitably get made fun of as a result, it happens all the time and the artist always is hurt. You don’t want anything to hurt your personal brand, and you need to find ways to move forward with it in order to make sure that you’re not just ‘that band who bitch a lot.’ Reputation is everything, and calling out publications is only going to hurt yours.
So what are some good and healthy ways to reply to the naysayers? Well first and foremost I would encourage looking at any negative reviews and trying to understand what the critic didn’t like. Odds are if a writer finds something in his music he specifically doesn’t like other people have that issue too and it’s up to you to ameliorate it. Like I said before, these people listen to a butt load of music and their ears are often pretty refined. You might as well trust the opinion they are giving you. The other thing to do, in most cases at least, is to just ignore the bad press. You read it, digest it and then move on. There is no reason to be obsessed with a piece of bad press or to let it get to you. Just try and understand and don’t share it around. If the writer was truly mean and you really think he didn’t get where you were coming from then maybe send him a polite message. There is no need to attack people, that only is going to hurt you in the long run.
A lot of bands who get their first bad review don’t understand because they’ve only gotten good press in the past. This is the part where I unveil an unfortunate industry secret: there is a systematic issue with PR that means that writers are incentivized to write positive reviews. It’s not because the PR companies are paying the writers, that’s largely a myth. Rather it’s the sense that if a writer writes a lot of negative reviews he’s going to stop getting material from a PR person, so if that PR person is working big bands the writer likes then he’s not going to trash talk smaller bands. This means that often times its only really established writers are going to go out and actually write a critical piece. Now I know that sounds really awful and biased but that’s the way the news goes. We need to accept that and move on. I know that this kind of pours salt into the wound of your bad review, but it’s just another important reality that is far too often ignored.
Long story short, bad reviews are just a part of life, even the greatest records get a few bad reviews here and there. Even the worst records get a few glowing ones. The world of music PR is an extremely tricky one and it’s something that is going to take a while for any band to figure out. Part of the issue is how particular it is to each subgenre and even individual band, so I can’t give any umbrella advice other than try to be mature about any feedback you get and embrace it for what it is. If you can’t accept that not everyone is going to like what you do all the time and that some of them might express that opinion on the internet then you might as well go and find a new hobby. Might I suggest underwater basket weaving?
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