Taking criticism can be tough. It can often be difficult to not feel your heart pang and your stomach turn when you are critiqued on your work. Yet, criticism is extremely important to the learning process and is a vital resource if you are to truly better your work.
Yes, there may be occasions that the criticism is deliberately negative. However, even if you feel as though it is a personal attack or bias towards your product, the best course of action, in that case, is to respond positively and take on board what is being said.
I have experienced this myself. As a young, aspiring journalist and avid writer, I was offered an opportunity to review a gig for a local newspaper. I eagerly took on the challenge and as it was to be my first ever review, I immediately took to Google to research how I could make my review as professional as possible.
Through research, I discovered that the best way to write a review would be to highlight the positive aspects of the performance while balancing them out with fair criticism and vice versa. So, I did just that- I mentioned how the band were clearly seasoned musicians, who were well rehearsed, and knew their instruments extremely well. I then balanced this by pointing out that while the performance was extremely polished, I thought that their set choice could have been better as it was often difficult to differentiate when a song ended and a new started.
When this was published on the Newspapers website, I was met with harsh, and what I believed to be unfair criticism. For example, “Dear Editor, if you must send school kids to review gigs, at least edit out the uneducated comments before you go to print.” And “ I hope you will correct me if I am wrong, but, I think the inference is that the review looks like a child wrote it. I don’t know if it was or wasn’t, it’s more the style I feel is being referred too rather than the actual person. To me, this piece looks like it’s been written by a very keen amateur who reads too many music magazines.”
For a while, I was disheartened by these comments as I thought that I had written a great review- particularly as it was my first ever. However, after looking back upon it a few months later, I realised that what the commenters were saying was completely correct. While they could have expressed their opinions in a less aggressive, more poised manner, I took their criticism on board. The review was written in a rather, youthful, teen-like manner, and I knew that if I wanted to progress with my writing, I was going to have to read and mature my writing style.
However, a few months after this I had a sudden revelation. While reading through a number of reviews posted to the Newspapers and other local news websites, I noticed that very few reviews were balanced. Most all of them highlighted local performers as incredible and hurled them onto an untouchable pedestal.
Every single review that mentioned any sort of criticism was attacked in the comments section. One that immediately springs to mind, is a review of a popular local band. The reviewer had mentioned how the musicians were obviously talented. However, he stated that he had to leave early as the sound quality of the venue was unacceptable- the music volume being ‘ear ringing’.
Something I believed to be fair as the venue was, in fact, a local pub. However, the review was not met with kindness or understanding. The reviewer was ridiculed and bullied in the comments, “This is the rudest report I’ve ever read…maybe next time they play, they should send a reporter with good taste in music and who isn’t on his period,” “What a load of waffling rubbish…good boys in a good band…are we not trying to promote our local bands and local music?” “This is a pathetic “review”. Next time get someone who knows what they are talking about, this is quite utterly nonsense.”
This and the response to my review got me thinking. Most reviews will be balanced- highlighting both the positives and the negatives of the performance. Yet, it seems as though anyone within my local community who has an opinion that does not match the local agenda is ridiculed and quite frankly bullied into submission.
Yes, it is important to promote and encourage local bands and performers. However, criticism is one of the fastest and most positive ways of doing just that. It allows someone to see and understand how they can improve and better their product.
Perhaps, it is the sheer lack of anonymity in a small community that pushes people to suppress their honest opinion. Everyone knows everyone, and so to criticise a well known and well-loved performer in the community can often be seen as social suicide. However, this is paradoxical as the reputations of many local bands are sustained by the help of local media coverage. Those who do not know the performers may buy tickets because of what is being said in the media.
Or perhaps, it is because those who attend such events go to have a great time, and they do not want anyone to burst their bubble. A common misconception is that a reviewer is purposefully bitter and twisted, however, this is more often than not, not the case. The reviewer wants to have fun as well, but it is their job to scratch beneath the surface of a performer and discuss in depth, how their performance fairs.
As for the reviewer often being belittled by the public, and being told that they ‘obviously’ do not know what they are talking about. A reviewer simply cannot do their job if they do not love or enjoy the art form. Firstly, it takes time, and money to get to and from an event; as well as taking a few hours of sitting through the event just to be able to review it. A reviewer simply will not do this if they do not have knowledge of, and a passion for the art form.
And as for the readers, next time you receive or read a review or criticisms about yourself or a performer you enjoy, perhaps try to avoid playing into your initial feelings of offence. Most often, the reviewer is not purposefully trying to disrespect a performer- they are trying to provide a means to help them grow. Read reviews with an open mind, and try to comprehend what the reviewers thought process was, and why they have given the criticisms they have. As despite what the critics’ intentions are, you may still be able to learn, and improve your product from the points they are making.