Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't Hate, Participate!

It is no secret that the music scene in Dubai is still in its growth stages. Whilst some artists may be a lot more experienced than others, there are still not enough artists out here to create that extremely competitive environment where artists feed off each others' energy, striving to stand out. Aspiring record labels in the region don't really have much choice in what artists to work with when the quantity and supply of artists is low. So what ends up happening? Either a) they pick whoever has the right criteria in terms of money-making prospects or b) they don't partner up with any artists because their quality of work is not up to par yet.

A lot of new artists have been coming out of Dubai lately, and almost every time a new artist releases material, a surge of negative comments and criticisms follow -- no support or feedback is given (and by the way, the two are not mutually exclusive). Sometimes its not even about the music as much as which social clique this artist belongs to.

I believe there is a much better way to stimulate the growth and improvement of our community's music and arts scene, much better than just complaining about how horrible the scene is. It involves responsibility from both the artist as well as the community.

The Community

  • Realize that no artist is ever born great. Even if that artist has talent, he/she still needs to go a long way to find the right "sound" for them which often takes years and years. So before you immediately label an artist as "crap" and never listen to music again, keep that in mind. Artists grow with time, experience and hard work. 
  • As an artist myself, I can tell you that whenever an artist releases new material, no matter how "finished" they feel the product is, they're still going to be nervous as fuck about how its going to be received and will probably hesitate a hundred times before releasing the product to the public ear, constantly thinking how it could be improved. But, if an artist always has that mentality, the artist will never actually release anything. Sometimes you gotta take a leap of faith, knowing that you gave it your 100% even if you can still think of improvements here and there, and wait for people's reactions. Its a very brave step, so before you think about trashing someone's work, think about that for a second. They could have chosen to practice music in secret forever, waiting and waiting for that day they consider themselves "good enough" (which will never come -- an artist should know that he/she will ALWAYS have room for improvement) and not release anything, but they took that courageous step and did.
  • There is a middle way between blindly praising and dogmatic hating. The crazy idea that you can give an artist feedback on their work, while supporting them and having faith that they can get better. Mention the positive things as well as the things that could use improvement... come on, I'm sure you can at least find 2-3 positive things that you can mention. Give encouraging, not destructive advice. Do your research about the art form you're about to criticize (whether its rap, singing, etc.) learn about what elements are important to that art form and what the skills required are. Provide helpful suggestions about how the artist can improve, and give references if possible. It's easier than ever today to contact an artist from your local community even if you don't know him/her that well, through Twitter, Facebook or email. Be courteous; congratulate them on their release and then ask if he/she would like to hear your feedback (the artist really should agree, but if they don't, it really is their loss) and then give them your feedback, publicly or privately!
The Artist
  • All the points cannot be executed if the artist doesn't hold up his/her part of the bargain as well. Talent is just a spark, but willingness to improve, open-mindedness and hard work are what make true artists. They should be open to feedback instead of stubborn and defensive. It is sometimes difficult to receive harsh feedback, but it is an essential part of growing as an artist! 
  • Don't just wait for feedback, ask for it. Tweet it, Facebook it, YouTube it.
  • That being said, don't take everything everyone says to heart -- choose a few trusted people that you can always rely on for good feedback and constructive criticism, but be open to others too. Don't get discouraged by negative comments from random people or people who haven't done their research/aren't familiar with the art form whatsoever (as a listener or a creator). A lot of people don't know anything about the art form you're practicing and have nothing to say except unhelpful negative comments or blinded praise. That's why I think its also important for the critic to know what they're talking about.
I'm going to start trying some of these things I wrote about, because I believe both the artist and the community have a responsibility to improve the quality of art in their community.  So don't hate, participate!