How do you know you are good as a musician/writer/artist/etc. in the age of the Internet?

You know you’re good you know the same way now that you did then, by way of a mental game. The name of the game is Fuck What That Asshole Thinks.

If you’ve been a musician and made an honest effort at being in the trenches, you’ve done something at some point like playing a showcase where the opening band (that you asked the promoter to book because you thought they were great) got a fantastic review from the music editor of the local weekly, who was recently reassigned from the county commissioner court update and oxygen bar review, and who didn’t even mention that you played afterwards, probably because he heard you and he flat didn’t like you. Wow, what a drag. You invited that band and the guy from the paper liked them and not you, so now you’re sad. Wait, no you’re not. No bravado, you’re a little angry at the snub but you really, genuinely don’t care that he didn’t like you. Who the fuck is that guy? You didn’t write that song for him, and you don’t care if he likes it. Fuck What That Asshole Thinks.

It’s a game, of course, you wouldn’t be playing music in front of crowds if you didn’t care, maybe deeply, probably very deeply, what other people think. A musician needs to have a very, very thick skin, but it’s not even that. It’s just that no matter how deeply you care about what other people think about your music that you couldn’t do it if you let what any of them think affect you too deeply, period. You’re not poring over and hand wringing over what somebody else thinks about what you do because it has to come from inside you, not from what the crowd or a critic thinks you should be doing. In a way that’s what was so brilliant about, say, the Stooges; at his greatest Iggy straddled a line between entertainment and violent conflict - I’m not asking for your criticism and input, I’m telling you to watch this, motherfucker, there will be no negotiation on what you think is cool or what I should be doing, you will watch this. You know you’re good because it sounds right, feels right, people are paying to see it and it’s working. We used to joke that we played too loud to boo during songs, and that our pauses between songs were too short to get a boo in, but it was a joke, because we weren’t actually trying to drown anybody out (well, much), we were trying to write the best, tightest songs we could, and nobody ever actually booed, they cheered. If somebody loves what you’re doing then it’s a golden moment, if they don’t, you didn’t do it for them. If you’re poring over internet comments about your music and wondering how you need to change so that people like you better, you need to have somebody smack the computer out of your hand very hard and remind you of the name of the game.

pravnik, brilliant! Edifying, thank you!

You’re welcome and thank you too. I wrote it last night and was afraid on rereading this morning it might sound a little rantier than I intended. :slight_smile:

My recollection of the pre-Internet review environment is nothing like Aeschines’. When you looked at reviews, you chose critics whose taste matched yours. And the content of the review was important also. Reviewers who liked everything were seen as hacks. Plenty of critics, for instance John Simon, disliked most of what they reviewed.
Just like today a good idea of critical consensus could be gotten from the reviews printed in ads. If the positive blurb came from the Sheboygan Gazette you know it was a dog.

For example, 2001 got mostly bad reviews - Agel’s book has a lot. Didn’t keep it from being a success, and at least one reviewer changed his mind. It was clear that the reviewers of the day, who did not grow up with science fiction, let alone sophisticated science fiction, had no idea of what was going on.

Which brings me to reading comments about your work. Throwing away random vitriol and random gush, sometimes the comments reveal real flaws and sometimes they reveal misunderstanding (like the 2001 example.) I doubt many on-line reviews go into the depth required to be useful.

It is not like Twilight is the first set of books to get bad reviews and be successful. I don’t think Harold Robbins did very well in the critical community. Lots of well reviewed but elite books never sell. The difference on-line is that most stuff can get someone to review it - not that the review is necessarily worth the electrons it is written with.

So the real answer depends on what is meant by good. Sales? Good reviews from reviewers you respect? Hard to say.

Insightful, Voyager, thanks!

So we have the definition of Art as Objective: have a vision and commit to it. That’s a factor - Authenticity if you will.

But Art is about The Relationship between art and observer. And Life, ultimately, is Sales - artists want their art seen, heard - Observed. So managing the relationship matters. Folks with Art but no Sales suffer usually in their lifetimes and hope for retrodiscovery.

So, now the Internet is part of Managing the Relationship - to the extent one can. And because The Medium is the Message, artists are updating their Art and their Sales to this medium. So now we judge Authenticity with new 24-hour data and covering a wider aspect of the artist’s life. But it still feels basically the same - we observe crossover, indie-but-influential, full commercial, etc players - we just come at them a bit differently.