"My mom thinks the song is great!" Yes, most moms are proud when their babies even just fart so that the source is not that reliable. Sure, you want people to like what you are doing. When you do the hard work and put your heart and soul into it, then you want people to like it. Still, you need the critics to become your fans.
I see it too many times, artists surrounding themselves with yes-men. Sure, it feels great with people that instantly like what you have to offer. It’s easy when you don't need to change anything. At the same time, usually, these yes-men can't take you any further. Since they already like you, they already spread that in their network or either they lie to you to make you feel good. In either case, it won’t take you further.
Okay, all critics are not good either. Letting a metal fan judge a folksong might not get the right feedback for you. But listening to your mom’s advice before the radio plugger can be a crucial mistake. The radio plugger has the knowledge of what the stations are looking for; your mom has no experience in that area.
One of the best stories is when Paul McCartney played "She loves you, yeah yeah yeah" and his father thought it sounding too Americanized and suggested, "She love you yes yes yes". Luckily, Paul didn’t take his advice.
The worst is that people are lying through their teeth in front of the artist. I just came from an event where the artist in the usual manner invited some industry people to see a show. They promised that it was worth our time and that we wouldn’t be disappointed. I had looked at some old videos and was already pretty sure it would be horrible. And yes I would like to claim my 40 min back. It was pure crap. The industry people that were with me had the same experience and we were almost trigging each other to find smart formulations how much it sucked.
The next day the band participated in the conference part and were talking to us. Suddenly the answers were "you were ok" "ok show" etc to the band. It’s like a big shimmer of white lies. And the yes culture has done this. People don't dare to tell the bad news. Instead, it’s the usual stuff that is ok and no feedback. Also, the fear of pissing someone off and later that artist breaks through. But without the feedback, I guess that will never happen.
The worst part is when you speak up and just tell the artist instructive criticism and they reply that their yes-men think everything was great. Especially when you know they just told to you that the part needed that improvement. It’s like they want you to find the right criticism that they also were thinking of. I guess here you need to make a choice are you the bad guy that actually brings the bad news or the yes-man that just follows along?
It all reminds me of the expression that Canadian legend Bobby Curtola said, “Never start to believe your own press!”
Editor's Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 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 SuperBowl.