Constructive Criticism

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May 27, 2013 by DJ Elroy

I’m asked to review and critique quite a few different DJ mixes from both big names and bedroom DJs, as well as promo tunes, remixes, and other projects. Maybe it’s because I  come across as somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to house music or breaks or trance or techno or (ugh) “EDM” or the electronic dance music culture in general.

But what does one say when something is truly bad? Sure, music (like most art) is subjective. One person may really like something while the next guy hates it. That’s something an objective reviewer needs to keep in mind when writing a review or leaving feedback. If I don’t have anything good to say I find it best to simply keep my opinion to myself unless it’s either A) asked for by the artist or B) expected from the music label.

First things first. List what you did like. Most songs or mixes have some redeeming qualities. Start there. “The mix had a great flow and fun songs.” “The programming was tight and the vibe was unique.” Sure, these may come across as “she’s got a great personality” type compliments, but don’t be afraid to say as much if you really mean it.

But do not bother leaving disingenuous feedback.

And when it comes to what you didn’t like, be tactful. You’re not out to hurt feelings. Be up front and don’t sugar coat the issue. Often a simple “Not for me” or “Not my style” is good enough. Some things will simply be a matter of opinion — “I didn’t really dig the setlist in this mix” — and that’s fine. Some negative points may be more technical — “You’re out of key” or “The bass is clipping”. Sometimes you’ll just need to point out shoddy work. Remember, good DJs and producers will take the constrictive criticism to the studio and hopefully learn from it. Often we as musicians will listen to our projects so often we start to miss little things that may jump out at somebody else.

I started this email wondering what I was going to do about a new album I’m supposed to review, but to be honest, I hated it and I’m not sure why. I don’t have a problem writing negative reviews, but I do enjoy the swag and promos I get from a lot of these companies and a bad review may end the gravy train. What do you think?

PS – The only time I really tear into somebody while leaving feedback or writing a review is when the artist is so full of himself that he needs to be brought down a few levels. Petty? Sure. But somebody’s got to say something.

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