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How to deal with negative reviews

(Image credit: Ahmed Mohamed / EyeEm)

Mark Clayden knows his way around the music business as a performer, record label owner and educator. For a full list of his accomplishments, see the end of this article. But for now, allow us to present the next installment of Your Music, Your Business, his no-nonsense series for MusicRadar. 


I’ve written some simple, free, bite-sized, no bullshit blogs on how to get ahead as an artist or musician. You can read each blog in less than 90 seconds. My honest and helpful tips will get you and your music further faster.

I won’t make you famous, but I will make you better.

MD Clayden

You and your music

A press agent can reach more reviewers and more people than you can...

So, you’ve just spent the best part of maybe up to two years putting your heart and soul into making music. You’ve lived with these songs for longer than that, for so long in fact, that they are a part of you. You’ve played them to people you trust and you’re confident that you want to release them to the general public

How to release your music?

You have two choices; either release the music yourself or release it and employ a press agent. It’s important that you understand a press agent (even though you pay money for their services) can’t automatically make people write amazing reviews of your music. 

A press agent can however reach more reviewers and more people than you can. Whichever route you choose to release, you need to make sure that your release stands out, as it will have to compete against the other 1.2 million artists on Spotify alone. 

Just releasing it won’t magically attract praise and build a huge fanbase. So, sad but true - the music alone, won’t be enough. You will need an engaging campaign and an angle to make people sit up and listen and pay attention. It’s really important to hold onto the determination and belief you had in your music before you released it. 

Who are the reviewers?

There are three categories of reviewer:

1. Journalists/reviewers, writing for established publications both online and/or in print.

2. Hobby reviewers, who run webpages on evenings and weekends alongside a full time job.

3. The listening public.

What to expect?

DO NOT under any circumstances think that taking to social media or making personal contact with the reviewer in any way, will come to any good.

Music is like food and people have very, very specific tastes. If people don’t like music, they can turn against it. If they connect with it, then it may become part of their life and they will stay very loyal to it and to the artist who wrote it. 

Any release will more than likely receive a colourful mixture of both positive and negative reviews 

How do I handle reviews?

First up, decide what you personally want to do in regards to interacting with reviews for your music. 

1. Decide if you want to see and read the reviews. Some people don’t and just carry on with what they do.

2. Ask a friend, band member or press agent to censor the reviews as they come in, overlooking any bad or scathing reviews.

3. Take a deep breath and read all of the reviews, both good and bad.

What to do?

If a review is positive, don’t just pat yourself on the back, contact the reviewer personally and thank them, offer them guest list for your next show in their area and make sure you send them your next release. 

Make sure you publish their review across your social media channels and promote their webpages.

If a review is negative you need to accept that the reviewer doesn’t like your music. Easier said than done, I know. But, whilst you’re coming to terms with trying to understand or accept a bad or scathing review, remember that…

1. The reviewer may have had a bad day when they wrote it. They could have received some bad news, had an argument, got the sack, got dumped etc.

2. They maybe paid a pittance for each review they write and so are steaming through writing up reviews for new releases, with only their bank balance in mind.

3. If a food critic liked every restaurant he reviewed, they’d get the sack, people want controversy and the reviewer needs to justify whey they’re employed. It’s much easier to attack an up and coming musician with a bad review compared to an established artist.

4. The reviewer has so many releases to review after they’ve finished their day job, they don’t even have time to listen to your tracks properly.

5. The reviewer may have a personal grudge against you, your friends, a band member, your label, your press agent (if they do, remember, it’s their problem, and their loss).

6. They may be in a band themselves or are a failed musician and can feel threatened by your talent. These reviewers can be spiteful and can get very personal with their opinions.

7. If a member of the public negatively comments on social media, they are only doing so to get a response (a rise) from you, so that they can share it with their mates and have a laugh at your expense.

8. Remember that there are hundreds of reviews every week and your review will very quickly be forgotten.

What not to do?

If a review or comment is negative, as hard as it may be to read, DO NOT under any circumstances think that taking to social media or making personal contact with the reviewer in any way, will come to any good. 

Any of your replies and responses will instantly be turned around and used against you, to make you look stupid and aggressive. Yes, even clever or sarcastic comments will be your downfall. Remember how passionately you feel about your music and remember what it means to you.

And remember that now you have released the songs, it’s time to start working on your next release and working on new material.

(Image credit: Mark Clayden)

Who is Mark Clayden, then?
Mark Clayden is the founding member, songwriter and bass player for Pitchshifter and This is Menace. 

He has: 
• Written, recorded and released eleven albums across eight record labels, including Geffen, MCA and Sanctuary, working with world-renowned producers such as Dave Jerden and Simon Effamy
• Toured over 30 countries at stadium level, including Australia, USA, Japan, Canada and Jamaica, with artists such as Iggy Pop,Black Sabbath, Public Enemy, Faith No More, Queens of the Stone Age, Incubus, Metallica, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Korn and Ozzy Osbourne
• Performed on the main stages at Reading Festival, Vans Warped Tour, Download Festival, the Big Day Out and Ozzfest
• Recorded radio sessions for John Peel, Radio One and XFM
• Secured publishing deals with EMI, including placement of songs into Hollywood films international television shows, adverts and video games
• Founded, ran and managed his own record label, PSI Records
• For more info on Pitchshifter, see