I remember the first time I got publicly shit on. I remember like it was yesterday.
But it was actually nearly 8 years ago. I was included in the Minnesota Daily’s (the official newspaper of the University of Minnesota) “Freshman Survival Guide” as one of the “Worst bands of Minneapolis.” I was number 1! Ironically, at the time, I was selling out the 800 person Varsity Theater in Minneapolis and had just played in front of 3,200 people opening up for Ben Folds – also in Minnesota.
I guess I had reached a level of awareness where the haters came out to play.
I wasn’t making offensive music — or so I thought. It was pretty straightforward singer/songwriter pop. But the reason the writer claimed I was “the worst band of Minneapolis” was because of my wardrobe, my favorite movie choices (listed on my personal Facebook profile), my show promotional techniques and my fans — or so this writer believed were my fans because he had actually never been to a show of mine.
He literally never even discussed my music in this hate piece.
When I started writing for Digital Music News in December of 2013, I received LOTS of hate. And still do. Just last week someone called me “a never was, never will be.” Someone said, why should anyone listen to my writings about the music business because I, as a musician, don’t have a million Spotify or YouTube plays? Even though songs I co-wrote do have a million plays, but because I’m not the artist on those, it’s impossible to find that out easily. And all the while disregarding my 600+ shows, countless synch placements and other little career victories (like making a living with my music) that can’t be measured in YouTube or Spotify plays.
People have literally hated on me for everything from my music to my wardrobe to my hair to my income (or so they thought) to my music taste. I get shit on almost daily in DMN comment boards for my opinions.
And for the first year it really, really hurt. I’d be lying if I said the Minnesota Daily piece (and some DMN comments) didn’t destroy me to the point of wanting to curl up and fucking die. But now I’m able to just brush the hate aside. It took lots of practice, self-reflection and meditation.
Hating on musicians is a lot different than hating on politicians. Musicians are sensitive. We’re artists. Attacking someone’s music is attacking their inner being. The core of who they are. Their soul. Attacking a politician is expected because it’s a battle. There are winners and losers in politics. Music isn’t a competition. But many reviewers like to try to make it one. And, I guess, the Grammys is kind of a competition, but if you get nominated, you’re pretty much already winning on a massive scale.
I eventually became OK with the haters, because I realized I had reached a level where people were paying attention.
That’s the thing, you WANT haters. It means people care enough about what you’re doing to hate you for it.
I know it doesn’t feel good. I know this first, fucking, hand. But it’s a badge of honor and you should wear it proudly.
You are never going to please everyone. That’s impossible. Some people hate the Beatles and Bob Dylan. No one gets a pass.
You don’t want to please everyone with your music either. As Derek Sivers put it in his book Anything You Want, “You need to confidently exclude people and proudly say what you’re not. By doing so, you’ll win the hearts of the people you want.”
“The best art divides an audience. If you put out a record and half the people who hear it absolutely love it and half the people who hear it absolutely hate it you’ve done well. Because it’s pushing that boundary. If everyone thinks “aw that’s pretty good,” why bother making it?” – Rick Rubin
That being said, haters are going to come out of the woodwork when you start to achieve a level of fame and recognition. And they will try to attack you on everything. Do not engage with them. It belittles you and brings you down to their level. It makes you look small. We all remember John Mayer and, the great agitator, Perez Hilton, having a public Twitter spat. It ended up with John Mayer quitting Twitter for a couple years.
It’s not worth engaging with the haters. Let your supporters duke it out for you.
I’m not going to admit I’m perfect when it comes to this either. Even with all of the practice, some comments still get under my skin. Sometimes I get into Twitter battles. However, I’ve tried to stop reading comment boards because of all the anonymous hate. I’m healthier for it.
I know of YouTubers who have their interns go through all their comments and remove all the hateful comments and ban those users. You don’t need that toxic energy around anything you do.
Above all, don’t let anyone define success for you. People throughout your career will try to rip you down to prop themselves up and make them feel better about their shitty lives. Your success can only be defined by you. Did it hurt when someone chastised me for having fewer than a million YouTube plays? It sure did. But then I remembered I’m making a living doing what I love and I let it brush right off my shoulders and into my guitar writing my next song.