View Full Version : E-mail from a famous musician

Stefinitely Maybe
08-10-2007, 03:45 AM
I have made a couple of edits to protect their identity:


Visited the site but being a friend means joining MySpace and I don't really want that on my conscience.

I have only one comment on the MySpace experience. I find the whole "comments" and rating scheme to be wildly offensive. To quote a French fan who's putting together a myspace site for us: "nobody has the right to rate a song, something or someone, so I left no possibility to do it."

What I think he means to say if he had command of the English language is, "Who the hell do you think you are?"

But of course, you know I am an old-school elitist. My dictum: "Self-expression should be left to the professionals. We are uniquely qualified to handle the overwhelming sense of failure and disappointment."

Which leads back to the comment/rating scheme. Two things are problematical. Any artist who seeks approval and/or validation is onto a loser. Any scheme which encourages this way of thinking is damaging. This is the Oprah Winfrey Effect foisted on a generation of men who, consequently, have no spine. Screw the audience. Ars Longa, audience brevis. If you create a product they want, they buy it. That's the end of the transaction. It's not friendship. It's not family. It's the marketplace - which is the only place where a man stands free and upright in the light.

Second problem: The audience, your "friends." It takes years of application to know what the hell you're talking about in regard to a subject matter. You need to study the history of the subject, the history of criticism in the subject and you need to be informed of any number of aesthetical issues and need to engage in grounded, informed analysis. To quote somebody, "You're free to have your own opinion but not your own facts." So this comments/rating scheme encourages a delusional state, a warm and cozy feeling that YOUR opinion matters and counts for a hill of beans. That you're part of a community, in this case a community of creative endeavor in which of course you have not participated in. It is an ersatz folk experience, more accurately a counterfeit folk experience.

When [X] came out we played a show in Cleveland to mark the event. A guy from a band called [X] came up to me and wanted to deliver a critique of the album. I said I'm not interested. I don't care. He went into a tizzy. He wouldn't give it up. He followed me into the parking lot, out onto the street, as I tried to get away. "How can you not care what I think?!" "Because you're not in the band. Because I KNOW what the strengths and weaknesses are and I'm not interested in anyone else's opinion."

Making independent music means saying Screw You! to everyone who is NOT in your band. If there had been a REAL punk movement that would have been the enduring message. But the real avatar of the punk movement, as you know I've said endlessly and fruitlessly, is Oprah Winfrey. Everyone is creative. Everyone has a (valid) opinion. Let's all be cozy together and respect each other. "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..." Blah-blah-blah. Well, harmony makes my flesh crawl.

Yours sincerely,


What do you guys think? I tend to agree.

08-10-2007, 05:22 AM
Do you think this could possibly be an avatar of the punk movement?


08-10-2007, 06:02 AM
Visited the site but being a friend means joining MySpace and I don't really want that on my conscience.

I love that line so much I'm going to steal it.

the rest of his email is rubbish. I mean I know what he's getting at -- just because some 15 year old in Glasgow or Indianapolis (or 45 year old in Phoenix for that matter) thinks an album is great doesn't mean it's great. I get that and agree. But he goes beyond that. He seems to be suggesting that (1) there is no place in art for art criticism and (2) people should keep their opinions to themselves. Both of these are hopelessly naive (at best) sentiments IMO. Criticism serves a purpose. And people are going to talk about what they like and don't like. He doesn't have to listen or care, that's his right. But he doesn't just not care, he says finds it 'offensive'. That's just stupid.

08-10-2007, 07:33 AM
I agree with Tom. The point of doing anything creatively, in my mind, is to create a connection between what you're doing and the outside world (audience). Artists do themselves a disservice when they don't at least listen to what criticisms others have to make about what they did. It doesn't mean you have to give it creedence, but not caring how others react to your art is selfish. If you're going to feel that way, don't perform in front of an audience, don't sell records of your music, just sit at home and play. If you don't care about your audience, why should you have an audience? This isn't to say that you accept all or most of the criticism you receive or you try to change what you're doing to please your audience. But you should at least factor it into your equation - if you're trying to do something that you want others to feel and respond do, than you should be willing to listen to what they have to say about it.

08-10-2007, 07:39 AM
I too, agree with Tom. I make and perform music, and feel that it is important to know the reaction of my audience if I am going to have them listen to it. It's sort of like writing a paper and having people edit it. You could use criticism for every creative process. As long as the criticism is helpful and not just insulting, then there is no reason to get all huffy.