How supportive/critical to be in MeFi Music/Projects commentary? September 23, 2021 6:23 PM   Subscribe

To be clear, I don't plan on eviscerating anyone, but I do wonder if there's an existing "if you don't have anything good to say..." status quo. I've never been active in either, and don't have a feel for it. Personally I *hate* having my work presented in an insincere critical environment, and prefer to both give and receive "something good/something bad" style comments. I'm particularly concerned about MeFi Music, because 1) I've experienced sensitivity re: my own music 2) It's music! It's arbitrary! ...but you hold back development by having people blow smoke up your soundhole.
posted by Jack Karaoke to Etiquette/Policy at 6:23 PM (17 comments total)

You can invite feedback by making that clear in your post. Saying "I wasn't happy with the way [thing] turned out here, does anyone have any advice on [how to do the thing]?" would work. Or just saying "constructive criticism/ honest feedback welcome".

If that invitation isn't present, I just stick to positives (of which there are generally plenty).
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:44 PM on September 23, 2021 [13 favorites]

If someone is blowing smoke up it and it is your primary soundhole, I think I may have located the source of your sensitivity. Hurts less if most of the music comes out the other end.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:38 PM on September 23, 2021 [6 favorites]

"2) It's music! It's arbitrary" as if it's so abitrary it inverts itself, it's the most important thing.

One prominent art institute in the NE US promotes not negativity or cuttingness, but seriousness in design. This applies to music, too. Try removing "bad" or "liked/enjoyable," from the critique.

Without these qualities, what is it? Melodic? Chaotic? Abrasive? Are all sounds fully rendered and complimentary? Do any details need to be switched or changed?

I am not* a musician, but universal laws of creativity apply.
posted by firstdaffodils at 7:51 PM on September 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

If someone is blowing smoke up it and it is your primary soundhole, I think I may have located the source of your sensitivity. Hurts less if most of the music comes out the other end.

Are you talking about the secondary soundhole or the primary blowhole? Because one of those makes sense to me but the other is bananapants.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:35 PM on September 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

...but you hold back development by having people blow smoke up your soundhole.

Not a musician but I suspect the number of people who've had their development held back by random internet strangers being too nice is vanishingly small.

Good criticism can help, if the critique is insightful and new and most importantly the person it is directed at is in a mood to hear it. Given that Projects & Music posts generally get a tiny number of supportive comments I would assume that's what people posting there are looking for. I wouldn't even call it a "critical environment"--it's just a place to share stuff.

One hundred percent agree with Pallas Athena on this one, assume that if people want corrective feedback they can make a point of asking for it.
posted by mark k at 8:52 PM on September 23, 2021 [11 favorites]

I think it's important to consider the intent of the art. Like, if someone has a hobby project they're doing just doing to kill some time and have a feeling of satisfaction, I don't think there's any point to being anything but relentlessly positive about it. I think this is the case for the vast majority of what's posted to MeFi Music and Projects.

Maybe there's an opening to talk about technique -- "you might consider stepping back from the mic," "the kick drum seems a bit overpowering," "a bit more space would make the arrangement pop" -- but unless there's a clear expectation by the poster of commercial viability, anything more would seem unnecessary to me.

(Personally, I don't mind if you criticize / offer suggestions for my music because I'm long-experienced and I usually know when I've produced something substandard [and have already kicked myself for it].)
posted by uncleozzy at 7:07 AM on September 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

I've received well deserved criticism in Music. It was fine.
I teach a design studio. I never, ever, say 'I don't like this', or 'this is bad' or any negative comment directed at the person instead of their work.
I say 'I don't think this works', 'this could flow better if you X', 'see how this Y here creates a problem?', etc.
posted by signal at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Thank you all for your thoughts.

It's been a long time since I've been active on MeFi. Part of the reason I returned is the genuine and beautiful nature of the joint. But having been gone so long, I feel super unsure about interacting in areas of the site where I haven't really been before. Kinda like showing up to a new class. And part of why I'm back is because I'm tired of what I've found in other social spaces.

My big takeaway is that music and projects aren't incubators at their core. Maybe some people will be looking for crit, but it's a social endeavor above all, and there's nothing wrong with just being supportive.

Me... I'm obsessive about improvement. Maybe too much...

I'm definitely going through a lot right now. Part of me thinks that even asking this question was a meta brain trick to hear all of your words.

As I type this, I'm reading the "Note: Everyone needs a hug."

How true.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:52 PM on September 24, 2021 [8 favorites]

*sends Jack Karaoke an internet hug*
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:52 PM on September 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Awww hugs. I think it's fine to ASK for whatever kind of feedback you want for your own work, but in a general sense it's useful to give feedback that's supportive, even if it's supportive in a slightly lateral way. I think most of the people who spend a lot of time on Music are pretty good at being able to give feedback that isn't just "You've outdone yourself, mate!!" on everything.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:11 PM on September 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh, man, I forgot Music exists! Thanks for this MetaTalk. Off to check out Music again!
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 8:53 AM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

In Projects, I sometimes leave comments on things I like, but which I think could be relatively easily improved. I assume a lot of the projects that get posted are not necessarily gold shippable versions of whatever they are going to turn out to be, so if there are little bugs in them or feature requests that I can report and help the poster, then I will tend to do that. But only if I overall am interested in and like the concept of the thing -- if I just think the whole project / idea is bad then I won't bother, because I'm not trying to give a cutting critique to someone who put their work out there, just trying to let them know about things they might know about / have considered.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:26 AM on September 27, 2021

I’m not on Music, but I do look at Projects every once in a while. My sense there is that they’re not really works in progress in search of criticism, but closer to finished products. I could be totally off base.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:59 PM on September 28, 2021

Longtime intermittent mefi music poster here. I agree with others above that you should just ask for the kinds of feedback you want. Otherwise, the mefi music default, I think, is the poster essentially saying “hey listen, I made a thing” and everyone who comments writing something on a spectrum between “that’s great” and “I really like this specific aspect of it that proves that I listened carefully.” But in the past I’ve written “help me, I can’t seem to get the vocal mix to be right” or other specific requests for feedback. At least for me, the few times that someone has come in acting like it is a serious art school critique just feel kind of deflating and out of sync with the ethos of the space.
posted by umbú at 5:34 AM on October 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

My sense there is that they’re not really works in progress in search of criticism, but closer to finished products. I could be totally off base.

It varies -- some things are clearly finished, like an author announcing the release of their latest novel, and other things are clearly works in progress like a blogger announcing they've started a new blogging project. Other things are in-between. I don't think it's all that hard to tell from the tone of the post, usually.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:35 AM on October 1, 2021

Note: the art school mention goes beyond art schools. It hadn't been intended to bring pretention or cuttingness: it's intended to help the creator being a neutral sense of perspective to their work, without worrying about whether it's "good"/"bad"/pleasurable/corrosive, etc. This is done in formal critiques for technical or conceptual editing, all of the time.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:15 PM on October 5, 2021

Perhaps we could agree on some sort of shorthand for posters, like a "criticism welcome" and "Thanks, but keep it to yourself" tags?
posted by TheCoug at 7:43 AM on October 8, 2021

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