Now shipping....

I received a very disturbing and somewhat comical phone call tonight from a young man I accepted a Facebook "friend" request from a while back. I accepted it because there were 35 other peers listed as his friend and I thought there was no reason not to accept him. I may have even accepted him even if there were not 35 of my peers in his friend list. I suspect many of you are getting calls or messages from the same young man.

The opening of his conversation with me was something along the line of; "hey, this is first name>>, I figured you would be the one to talk to about this whole music thing..." and the conversation digressed from there as I tried to figure out who this was and how I might know him. After listening to a diatribe of rejection stories and "nobody will talk to me" language, and a lecture on how everyone in Nashville, especially the CCM crowd, were all just trying to protect their livelihoods (whatever that meant), I agreed to have him send me links to his material. He seemed to be very argumentative and angry and disturbed by the fact that his life was a mess and nobody would help him by giving him a record deal..

I told him I would listen and do one of two things; give constructive criticism or pass it on to people who could really help him break as an artist.

After listening to all three of his songs, I sent him this message;

I will be totally honest with you and tell you your songs, musicality and voice are not marketable. Your singing ability is not what masses of people will want to spend money on to listen to. This is not to say your efforts are not genuine or an offering to God, but the facts are facts. Your abilities are not on par with what is commercially acceptable. The sooner you can come to that realization, the sooner you will have peace in your life.

[his reply}

not a good enough reason to take me off of your page. I could get quite upset with your attitude. YOU are really not that important!

also, I already have one of the largest labels interested.

you basically are the antithesis of the early believer!

[and his further reply]

I also have a problem with how you kind of "tricked" me. I would never have told you that you added my page if I had known you weren't kind, understanding, thoughtful, or astute.

I never said that music was commercially ready. I don't have gear now. I can put out stuff that is top quality.

[my last (and final) reply to him]

You'll just have to have a problem with me. You are absolutely right. I am not that important, never have been and never will be. Would not even consider myself to be. I told you I would give you my honest opinion and I did. It would indeed be very "unkind" of me to lie to you and tell you are a great and gifted musician/singer/writer/whatever... when you are not. You don't have to agree. Get back with me when you put out something "top quality."

Now my question. How would some of you have handled this situation?

The reason I ask is, because of the Internet, we are probably going to see more an more of these kind of dialogs with people who we come into contact. While I am always open to finding new talent to help or possibly work with, I would like to have more insight on how to handle people who are (for the most part) delusional about their talents and/or abilities.

I don't think this would be in the same category as unknowingly passing on the next big artist.

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i'd add that yes there are always some unfortunately unpolished people who will be not nice and very rude -
and some that are crazy i'm very sure.
ive found that if you dont offer an opinion till you meet know someone its just safer,
really.i taught 3 interns that very lesson when one had been commenting on the reply form in depth,and although i agreed with their critique -i said its better not to send it.
boy did they get response comments mail from the writer.he'd taken their comments literally.
unless its requested and it feels right,
never volunteer it.
remember-no good dedd goes unpunished.and it dont!

crawling back to the work,now..
This is a great discussion that I think goes beyond Brett's unfortunate exchange.

I think we're all a bit delusional all things considered, but that's no excuse for being rude. He asked for an opinon and he got one, most of the time in this town you don't get any feedback - silence = no thanks - until you have a relationship with a producer or label. He shut the door on any future relationship, too.

I'd suggest that it's probably tricky to tell anyone they're wasting their time, nobody wants to hear that, and very few will accept it, anyway. I think this is why so many folks in town don't accept unsolicited material. Still, I'd like to "discover" someone who's at that point where a little help would take them over the goal line, and if you wait until they're already out there, it's going to be too late. Interesting problem...
Hi Bret:
I feel you should be commended for handling the situation as you did... your honest appraisal was intended to help this person learn and improve. Unfortunately, you cannot win in this situation no matter what you say. If you tell the truth, they get pissed off... if you don't, you're dishonest, and that always comes back to haunt you in the end.

Personally, I am a bit less altruistic when I'm presented with this kind of situation. I can't get involved in a big flame war with this kind of person. He isn't honest with himself about his abilities, he doesn't want to do the work required to improve himself... he just wants his magical daydream to be true, where you just step into a studio and become an instant hit. While that makes a good story, it almost never happens that way in real life.

I try to never give a professional opinion about someone's music unless specifically asked (as you were), and then I preface that opinion by outlining our position in the industry... where stroking an ego does no one any good, and honest critique just pisses 'em off. I tell them that ANY critique is going to be hard to take, and if they cannot understand that my intent is to help them improve, then I'll save us all a lot of pain and just keep my thoughts to myself. I also tell them to take what I say with a grain of salt, since it's just one opinion after all... there are others out there as well, and performers MUST develop a thick skin to survive in the industry. (And to be honest, specific, detailed coaching is reserved for clients.)

I think you did the right thing, but you can't win with these folks.

This sounds so familiar. If I didn't get a call from the same guy, it was someone just like him. At first I got frustrated and angry with his arrogance and attacks on me, but then I realized I was dealing with someone who has serious problems. I ended up telling him calmly and kindly that I wished the best for him but I couldn't help him because I didn't think his music was strong enough. I kept trying to wind up the conversation, but he was clearly desperate for attention and wouldn't let it go, so I finally had to tell him I was hanging up.

Since I have a website for songwriters with my contact info on it, I get calls and emails like this from time to time. I think Joe Walsh summed it up perfectly when he titled an album, "You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind." There are a lot of sad, damaged people in the world. I'm crazy if think I can change them or if care what they say about me. I always feel better when I have compassion and treat them with kindness.


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