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Are You a Freelance Listener?

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Town Meeting

I feel like it’s time to have a chat in our community.

Recently, I’ve noticed a bit of public trash talking in the biz. Some from pretty respected artists/producers/engineers.

It has made me pause for a few minutes and wonder what kind of gain anyone expects from this behavior.

Has modern partisan politics spilled into music? Must we take sides on everything?

It seems that people are quick to add their negative remarks concerning someone’s song or looks. Yet, major issues which plague our society get placed in a locked box.

Contestant #2

Real-life art is not like the competitive singing shows that are popular. Real art is not a competition at all. There isn’t an award for most yards earned in a season.

In the end, I feel like people that contribute to this ‘me against you’ behavior are putting nails in their own coffin.

To stop listening to new things or be open-minded is the death of creativity.

Industrial Revolution

I know that we live in an age of processed music. Some of which is ridiculously fake. But, let’s not forget that somewhere in that process someone is working hard. Either the producer to create their sounds, or the person writing the melody.

It’s fair that there are elements that one is not going to like about others. I think it’s important though to specify a preference of taste and not shame a whole genre. Or take shots at someone expressing themselves.

To simply write someone off because they are popular or underground is unfair.


Instead, can we take some time to find what we like about a given song?

Nature of the Experiment

Let’s try this: Next time there is a song you would normally write off, really take a listen.

Find one good thing about it. Don’t go into critique mode. No judging. Just listening. Don’t let anything cloud your mind.

I’m betting you will find at least one thing you like in every song!

So many people give a first listen with their guards up. There is no need to be defensive or anticipate disappointment.

Pairing Warriors

Maybe you don’t like the whole song as a collective, but you might dig the bass part.

Let’s say there are sea urchin and mac and cheese on a plate (they probably don’t go well together). Sea urchin may not be your bag, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to chow down on that mac and cheese. Right?

I’m sure I’m going to get a flood of emails informing of proper pairing with sea urchin. Save it, feel free to send your mac and cheese recipes though.

Diamonds in the Ruff

The parts that are interesting can be gems. These moments can stimulate you creatively. If you cut yourself off, nothing is stimulating you. No inspiration or room for growth there.

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You’re not going to like everything. But, let’s forget about genre. Let’s forget about the machine or fashion. Just listen to the sound.

It’s in this state of mind you can really discover cool things no matter who the artist or genre is. Those elements that you like can be infused with what you do.

Breaking the Law

The people I know that always seem to keep growing despite their age are the ones that embrace music. They don’t try to box it or put it on display in the museum or treat it like a musical constitution.

Everything about something can’t be bad. Maybe the singer can’t really sing. Does that mean that whoever wrote the catchy melody is bad too? Of course not.

Rusty Cage

Part of the reason some music feels homogenized is our own fault. We as the public create limitations. We don’t promote a lot of cross-inspiration. You pick a team and stick with it.

Personally, I’m on no team. I’m a freelance listener. I will listen to anything once. I’m an avid fan of old blues. I also like punk rock. I like expression. I don’t like repression. I like to be surprised.

One Week of Danger

Ok, I know that’s asking a lot not to judge. But, give it a shot for a week.

There have been so many cases of artists being shunned while breaking barriers. Only later to be heralded.

So you don’t like synth music. Listen to a little. Imagine what those parts would sound like with analog instruments. Listen to the phrasing that makes it special.

Drink Up and Go Home

Yeah, I know it’s a glass half full versus half empty kind of thing. I say who cares if it’s half full or empty.

Are you gonna drink that whiskey or what?!?!

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at