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VO4TA: The Truth

Hugh P. Klitzke blogs at


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VO4TA: The Truth


A very talented woman I made an acquaintance with a few years ago asked me to listen to her demo.  She’d played it for the guys at the radio station where she’d interned a few years back and they had said it was good.  


As I listened I began to take notes, but quickly realized that there wasn’t any point.  The demo’s flaws were so clear I could talk about them without having to remind myself with any notetaking.


As I walked her through my points, she offered more details.  She recorded it very quickly with a friend (not a producer) for free, in an apartment (not a studio), with scripts she found online (I’d heard two of them before). I never even asked her where the music came from -  mostly because the last cut didn’t even have music beneath it.


To her credit, this woman is truly of an exceptional spirit. Very few people I’ve known (especially of her age) are willing to take constructive criticism as unflinchingly as she did.   


Constructive criticism is a word thrown around a lot, so I’ll define it for this conversation. It’s not just showing what’s wrong.  It’s showing points for improvement and also talking about how they can be acted upon.  It’s: “here’s a problem and this is something you can do about it”.


Seth Godin recently said in an interview that encouragement doesn’t actually help someone improve. Generosity does.  Being told: “That was great!  Really good!” doesn’t move the needle.  After all, if it really is good, there isn’t much to improve and you’re all set!  But this wasn’t.  


I can’t go into the points here.  You’d need to listen to it with me.  I’d also play you other examples of demos that work and talk about why.  But I was specific and explained what wasn’t there and should be, especially for a woman of her talent.


But one suggestion I made was that she never refer to this recording as a “demo” again.  Call it “a few reads with some music tracks underneath” or maybe “a demo in process”.  I felt like this was more likely to get her “constructive feedback” from others rather than just “encouragement”.     


The right criticism is invaluable and absolutely critical.  But the most precious feedback is actionable.  


Hugh P. Klitzke blogs at


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This is a personal weblog.  The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own and are not those of any of my employers.


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