Constructive Criticism

May 29, 2020 — Jt Spratley

First published on September 29, 2019

Many people explain what they like when, where, and/or how. What about the why? When I wrote free ways to support indie musicians, I said you can always share someone’s music even if you don’t like it.

But if you do listen to an independent musician’s work and don’t like something about it, don’t simply reply “I didn’t like it.” Why? Well, I can answer your question with your question.


Without the “why”, the criticism isn’t constructive. Remember the cliche “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Why say something that has no value? No, it doesn’t help me to hear that you don’t like my music. That’s not butt-hurt. That’s a waste of time and energy for both of us. There’s little there to reflect on.

That “little” goes both ways, though.

As the Creator,

I should be careful about who I ask for constructive criticism. I should know (or ask):

  1. What music genres and artists you generally listen to
  2. When studying, exercising, in general, etc.
  3. Why – trying to wake up, relax, concentrate; preferred moods
  4. Where and How – YouTube at home on computer speakers,
    Spotify in the car with a subwoofer,
    Soundcloud in the library with headphones; important depending on tracks’ dynamic range (between low and high volume)

If someone doesn’t have a preferred platform, I send my YouTube Topic channel.

For example,

I’ve released Hip-Hop/Rap, R&B, EDM, and royalty-free Creative Commons (CC) music these last two years.

I’m not going to ask my buddy (call him Jim), an aspiring rapper, about my Barracks Night house track. It’s ~8 minutes long and I’ve never heard him listen to EDM. But I’ll let him hear Real Man (Intro). It’s short and relatable.

I’m not asking my mother – this Lady J (YouTube) (because there are at least 4 Lady J’s on popular music platforms) – about Can I? (You Got my Lust). It’s a lustful LGBT rap with 90’s and IT references. Unique is more fitting.

But I was eager to share 2015 (Big Change Coming) with because it’s a motivational rap EP for the Veteran community.

As the Listener,

You’re unlikely to think of any of that upfront. You’ll just listen and say something after ~10 seconds of play. But your body language will likely respond faster, so your feedback should:

  1. Be honest
  2. Include the “why”


  1. Basic answers don’t provide constructive feedback. Put yourself in the creator’s position. When you finish a project, school assignment, or ANY art that you take pride in, you want feedback you can reflect on to improve the next one, right? “Pride” is in bold for a reason.
  2. Karma. Apparently, it’s Buddhist and unacknowledged by Christianity. Regardless, treat others as you’d want to be treated. If more people did this, it would prevent so many issues.
  3. Creatives respect constructive reviewers. And when there’s a way their art can help you, they’ll remember you.

Everyone has the power to influence because everyone has power. Use yours to make the world a better place.

By the way, I heard Take One got a shout out for this remix:

Tags: music, music-production