I’d like to start this article by saying that I think it takes real courage to submit your songs for a professional critique. As a songwriter myself, I understand on a gut level that this is like offering up your children to be judged by a stranger. That being said, if you’ve gone as far as to book a song critique, here are a few things NOT to do so that you can make the most of it.
My concern here is that I’ve had consultation clients in the past who are looking for a fan more than an honest critique. To that end, they think that by putting their best foot forward with a fully produced, professional recording, I’m going to like the song more. However, if the intention is to put your songs under the professional songwriting microscope, it would make sense not to submit songs that you have already spent good money demoing unless you’re truly prepared to re-record the song if you get suggestions that you believe will make your song better.
While some background about yourself at the start of a consultation can be useful for context, I’d suggest doing more listening than talking during your song critique. I understand the urge to talk about how and why your songs were written but given that you only have a limited amount of time with your songwriting pro, I’d advise against this. The reality is that your songs should speak for themselves. You don’t have the luxury in the real world of explaining your songs when they are, hopefully, streamed or played on the radio so you should treat your critiques the same way.
There’s a tendency to assume that whatever a songwriting pro says about your song is the truth. It’s not. Critiques are paid professional opinions based on the professional’s songwriting and industry experience. While the hope, of course, is that there will be genuine insights and suggestions which can help you improve your songwriting, the reality is songwriting is subjective. As I tell my consultation clients, only two things will make me happy, the first is if I offer an observation and you think it will help you improve your song or, second, if I offer a suggestion and you disagree and can tell me why. In other words, as long as you’re making informed decisions as a songwriter, then you’re on the right track.
Song critiques are a valuable part of refining your songwriting craft but it helps to go into them for the right reasons. Remember that you’re hiring a professional to look for what isn’t working in your songs and, hopefully, they can offer some suggestions for ways to improve your work. Going into a critique looking for a new fan almost always ends in disappointment. There is a lot you can learn from someone who makes a living as a songwriter or music industry professional but there’s a lot that only you can know about your songwriting, too.