February 3, 2009

Song Writing Workshops - Design by Committee

Last night I found myself in front of a small crowd, listening to 'feedback' regarding a song I wrote with my band, Fortune and Spirits. The feedback was legitimate and honest, and I want to say up front, that I appreciate the time and effort of the individuals involved.


I don't think I'll be acting on any of this feedback.

The fact of the matter is: song writing workshops are like design by committee. If I put together a song curtailed to the acceptability of all 25 of the people in the room the result is boring, lifeless, and sterile. Universally tolerable, but definately not something I'd want to listen to.

The effects of this type of song writing are hugely prolific though. It's all over top 40 radio stations, and some people even think they like it (those people don't listen to much music).

I'll quote jeff atwood, of coding horror and stack overflow fame,

well, if you're not pissing *someone* off, then you're not very
interesting. C'est la vie.
I intend to stick to my guns. I may use some of the advice they gave in future writing - the ideas themselves weren't necessarily bad - but I'll be maintaining my quirks, and you should too.

I'm not saying you shouldn't get feedback, just that you need to get it from the right people. The first people who give feedback from will have the most impact so choose them carefully. They should be...

  1. Someone who's writing you think is better than yours - If you want to get better, that is.
  2. Someone who is at least open to your style/genre - It's preferrable that they have experience writing in the genre too, but most important is that they will respect the choices you've already made and focus on helping you improve the song.
  3. Someone willing to put in a little time and effort - It takes time get get to know a song. The first impression is very important, but you want to find out how the song holds up to repeated listening as well... which means this 'someone' is going to have to listen to it quite a bit over a period of time.

Finding someone who will do number 3 is gonna take some searching, and it's definitely ok to have a small group of people who you rotate so that you don't have to ask one person to spend so much time on your music.

Get to work on those songs! Good luck!

**edit**: I found this post by derek sivers (of cdbaby) on where people go to get feedback. The comments are the part you care about ;)

© 2008 Jim Robert