SeedInSoil ~ Advise

What To Do With Those
Embarrassing Homemade CDs
Amateur Musicians Send You

(From a songwriter's point of view)

I recently completed a CD of original songs and gave out copies to friends and family. Several weeks went by and I didn't hear a word of response from any of the 25-30 people to whom I had given them. I finally prodded one of the usually more vocal of these recipients into a half-hearted response. He allowed as it was probably an okay album, but it just didn't do much for him—not like my previous album which he has practically worn out from playing so much.

This was not particularly encouraging feedback. But I had to take it seriously. It was, after all, representative of 100% of all CD recipients who had responded.

I began questioning whether I should take my desire for sharing in another direction. Forget songs and music and recording. I'll just make bird feeders and lawn ornaments to give away. If I'm going to embarrass people with white elephant gifts, why they might as well be giant butterflies or plywood cutouts of old ladies bending over. At any rate, I did embark upon a musical sabbatical of indefinite duration.

Then, something amazing happened. Perhaps it was the threat of my creative energies turning cynical and homemade pink flamingos appearing on his lawn, perhaps he was just exceedingly bored or had gotten his medications mixed up. For whatever reason, the friend who had panned my CD listened to it a second time—and then a third.

One day there was an e-mail in my inbox that wasn't about Canadian pharmacies or home refinancing or anti-s_p_a_m software. It was my friend, confessing that the songs had grown on him! He had figured out what they were about, enjoyed the lyrics, become familiar with the melodies—and now he couldn't get enough of what he was hearing. Well, what do you know? Maybe my future in music wasn't washed up after all! 100% of respondents were now saying they loved it!

What made the difference? Familiarity.

Once in a while, when we hear a song for the first time, we know right away that we love it or hate it. The vast majority of the time, it has to become somewhat familiar before we have any real feelings about it one way or the other. This is where people in the music industry have the advantage over people like me who are just trying to be a blessing. When a song is played on the radio, you're forced to listen to it until you either grow to like it or grow to prefer another station.

Typically, when somebody gives away homemade recordings, they get listened to one time (maybe!) out of curiosity or politeness. Typically, the listener then thinks hmm, that didn't do much for me, sticks it in a drawer somewhere and forgets about it. I confess—I have done this. It is a rare (and believe me, delightful) exception to hear back that someone has allowed the music to be a blessing.

Helpful Hints:

What should YOU do with those embarrassing homemade tapes and CDs?

1. PREPARE: Get someplace where you're all alone and you're sure nobody can hear what you're listening to. If you're in your car, roll up the windows. Make sure you are in the best possible mood and are feeling genuinely magnanimous toward the entire human race—especially the member who gave you the recording. (I am not advocating the use of illicit drugs. Certain herbal preparations may be helpful, but be careful if driving.) If you are a religious person, make sure you are "prayed up".

2. Hit PLAY. Note: Don't overdo! It is always better to break up overwhelming tasks into manageable smaller tasks. Consider listening to just one or two songs a day, or even per week. You know your limitations.

3. LISTEN. This is the part that may stretch your horizons. Let the songs bless, or entertain, or amuse, or confound or whatever it is they do.

4. FOLLOW UP: Send some kind of feedback to the poor, pathetic Don Quixote-like dreamer who made the music. Tell him or her which of the effects in line 3 above, the song(s) had on you, or make up your own descriptions.

How many chances should you give a recording to grow on you?

There are no hard and fast rules. It usually depends on how close you are to the maker of the music. The following chart gives some recommendations. If the CD doesn't grow on you within the number of listens indicated, you are under no social or ethical obligation to continue listening:

    Total stranger, 0-2
    Coworker, 3
    Distant relative, 3
    Friend, 4-7
    Family member, 6-8
    Spouse 129-245
    Possible future spouse: see above and honestly evaluate if you want to be doing that for the rest of your life.


Give homemade music a chance! In the time it took to read this article, you could have listened to several songs and sent one or two affirming, encouraging e-mails.



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