“Help! My music has been attacked on social media!”

One recent morning, a good friend and colleague of mine woke up to find a nasty comment from a composer posted to a significant piece of his on YouTube.  It was really vicious and even got personal.  My friend went through various stages:  he was shocked, then saddened, then angry, then made plans for “revenge,” but ultimately just deleted the offending comment and moved on.

Certainly in some cases deletion is a perfectly acceptable way to deal with venom that may at times find it’s way over to you.  But for those who regularly attract a higher level of traffic and engagement on their social media accounts, it will be necessary to find ways to deal more directly with the problem before it spirals into an ugly public relations issue.  And there’s even an upside to openly dealing with attacks, regardless of the size of your following.

Read the rest of this (and much more) in my book Writing and Living in the Real World: Advice For Young Composers




  1. A very thought provoking post Brandon. Of course, our initial reaction to such criticism is always emotional, but as I have advised countless students, there are two ‘rules’ to dealing with them. The first is ‘respond rather than react’ (three Rs). In other words, give yourself time to cool down and formulate a considered response – rather as you suggest. The second, and very important one, is to remember that ‘put downs’ of the sort enjoyed by far too many critics (see this week’s news story about Dame Kiri Te Kanawa) say far more about them than they do about you!

    1. I agree, Robert! And I like that you developed a mnemonic for your students. I may use it myself. (And it’s so important to teach young composers how to deal with all kinds of publicity!) Thanks for reading! -BN

  2. What you’ve written is fabulous advice, not only for an attack in music but in all aspects of life. It’s the best way to hold our heads high and walk back out winning in elegance. Have a great weekend!

  3. Hi Brandon,

    Negative feedback is part of the life we have chosen to follow. When I was interviewed for a feature article after winning the CSO’s Centennial Composers competition, the columnist gave a valuable piece of advice. He said to treat the win as the dropping of one shoe. In other words, all the win accomplished was to attract attention in my direction. Success (or failure) arrives when the next shoe falls. Remember that a composer’s work as a whole will be judged on the “what have done lately that can be valued as worthwhile” scale. Good and bad reviews have a way of balancing each other out.

    Mahler was correct when he said that the world will champion his works fifty years after his death. The 1960s saw the explosive growth in popularity of his symphonies, and Mahler’s star is still ascending in 2014 – a total of over 100 years after his death in 1911.

    Be honest with your work, have patience as well as develop a thick skin to handle criticism of all types, and reception history will be a constant, friendly companion.


  4. Wise words indeed. The skill we creatives should aim to master is to be able to objectively evaluate feedback/critique without emotion – giving relevant critique itself is a skill, and plenty of the people who will provide it to us are poor at it, instead providing their subjective tastes as fact or attempting to direct your music to somewhere that was never your intended goal. By analogy, you are trying to create bread and their critique is merely that they dislike bread, or that your bread is too different from what they are used to… or that they would rather have you create wine. This is for you to discern.

    I will add however though, that there are those who actually are incredibly rude and negative about your music – yet who might be providing some expertise and actually do understand how you can better achieve your musical goals. These people are your friends.

    Because no matter how insulting or condescending their tone and character, if their words can actually help you achieve your musical aims, and you have the skill and wisdom to mine from their negativity the information that will further your music, then all of the prize and glory goes to you. You win, absolutely.

    Lastly, wise men before have said that if your works are palatable to everyone, then you are but a good craftsman. But should you create works that are both loved and reviled – then you are a true artist.

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