When People Hate Your Music

People hating your songs may not be a songwriting problem at all.

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Stevie WonderFirst, give this a listen. It’s a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”, sung in this instance by American actor and singer Jim Nabors. Depending on who you are, you are either enjoying his performance, or finding it humorously a bit off the mark.

I’m guessing that a good number of you would rather be listening to Stevie’s own version. It’s the one we’re all used to hearing, and it just seems right. But just so that you know, Jim Nabor’s cover was very popular when it came out with an entire subsection of the listening public that just wasn’t much into the pop music of the day.

Those people who loved Nabors’ version were probably in their 40s or 50s or older back in the early 70s. They grew up with Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and the like. Bing Crosby himself released his own version of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” To those of us who know only The Beatles’ rendition, Bing’s cover is, again, humorous.

Humorous, but very well done. If the only version of “Hey Jude” you had ever heard was Bing’s version, most of you reading this would probably never have known the song. It all comes down to the tricky art of targeting an audience. When songs are written, they have the potential to be enjoyed by practically anyone, because enjoyment of a song depends on instrumentation, tempo, and performance style. Those are decisions that are made by jointly by producers and performers.

So if you hate Bing’s “Hey Jude”, or Jim Nabors’ “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”, that’s OK. It doesn’t mean that those are bad renditions. It simply means that you weren’t being targeted when the producers made recording decisions.

When people hate your songs, it’s easy to assume that you’ve made errors in the songwriting process. But in fact, that may not be the case at all. If you were at a Metallica concert and Jim Nabors showed up to sing, every note would be hated by that audience. The music would be fine, but the audience would be the wrong one for the music.

If you find that you’re not getting the response from your assumed audience that you’re hoping for, by all means give your songs a good listen and analysis, and make sure that you’re adhering to the principles of good musical composition. But the point is – your songs may be completely fine. It may be time to look at how you are performing your musicKnowing your target audience, and properly targeting it, are two different things.

The solution, particularly if you are producing your own recordings and performances, lies in listening to other music of the same genre. If you find that you are leaving your audiences feeling bored or disinterested, it’s time to tweak your performances.

The best advice, particularly if you’re trying to make songwriting part of your career, is to get a good producer to work with you, someone who can listen to your recordings and give you some brutally honest feedback. If you can’t afford to hire such a person, you can get feedback by posting your music online. The listening public won’t coddle you; they can sometimes be vicious in their honesty.

But that honest feedback will usually be an eye-opener. The listening public will usually tell you the first thing that they hate about your music, and in most cases you’ll find that some aspect of the performance is to blame.

It’s part of being a good songwriter to know when a negative audience response is due to bad songwriting technique, or simply missing the mark when targeting an audience.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics.

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One Comment

  1. Hi Gary,
    I’ve been enjoying your blog for quite some time now and am grateful for your quick reply to a comment I made about a year ago about some confusion I had with keys in another post. I also commented on your post about drugs and creativity.
    I’m 21 years old and interestingly I find I like the arrangement of the Nabor’s version of Sunshine more but his voice isn’t very pleasing to the ear. It sounds like he’s singing through his nose.
    Also i’m an avid Beatles fan and always hated Hey Jude as I find it to be one of their worst songs (i’m not sure why but I think I just don’t like any of those songs by Paul that seem to be overly mushy such as this one, Let it be, or Maybe I’m amazed). But it turns out I actually really like the cover version of Hey Jude by Bing. I’m not sure what this says about my musical tastes however because I’m more into rock n roll, psychedelic rock, blues, motown and reggae so i’m confused as to why I like the cover versions of those 2 songs more than their originals.
    Anyways, thanks for and keep up the excellent work as it is has been very helpful in bettering myself at my hobby that is songwriting.

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