Jam Bourree

Musicians, and especially pop musicians, are desperate to get heard. Lately I’ve been poking around in a website called Broadjam; it’s a place where musicians can upload their tracks and get heard, both by other musicians and potentially by buyers — people who are looking for music to license for TV soundtracks or whatever.

Broadjam has been around for ten years, which makes it practically a doddering ancient in the world of Internet music. Founder Roy Elkins seems to have a good sense of how to keep a website in business. Reportedly the site has more than 90,000 members.

I may be doing some writing for Broadjam starting next month. Right now I’m just another musician checking out what my colleagues and competitors are up to.

One of the features of Broadjam is anonymous peer reviews. You get to listen to a random song and fill in a Web form with comments, without knowing anything about the artist. In my first few reviews, I’ve tried hard to be constructive, not brutal, but it’s a challenge. The tracks left a bit to be desired.

What’s interesting about this process is that it helps me improve my own composing and mixing. I can see the difference already. I’ve seen the same effect in fiction-writing critique groups. When you read a published novel by a solid professional, the writing seems effortless. The craft is invisible, even though it’s right there on the page. But when you read stories submitted to a critique group, the mistakes are immediately obvious — and that means you can learn from them!

Same deal in Broadjam: After criticizing a track for a mix that was “thick and muddy,” I start listening to my own mixes more critically. Are mine thick and muddy? How could I make them more transparent?

Multiply that by twenty different criticisms and you have a measure of how useful Broadjam can be.

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