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There are so many musicians putting their music on the internet these days. Some of them are consummate professionals who have high production values and years of experience and practice behind them. Some are posting YouTube Videos entitled Me, Learning to Play the Guitar – Day 2.

Prior to the internet, the finished recording was the minimum standard for releasing material to the general public via media platforms. You could always take your guitar into the street and play it at passers-by, but if you wanted people to hear your music in their living rooms, there was an automatic selection process and fairly stringent entry criteria.

Punk taught us that you don’t need to be a virtuoso to play music to other people. But with no real barriers to access to a lot of musicians getting their stuff out there (and, let’s be honest, some truly awful stuff out there) – how do you know when to start letting people hear what you’re working on?

As usual – it depends
There can be a strong case made that encourages musicians to let audiences get a glimpse behind the curtain and see the music in development. Songs that spring up partially formed can be worked into full-blown masterpieces in full view of the public eye.

I would suggest that this is actually a great strategy on one condition: that you have a confidence in your professional ability (and, preferably, a track record) as a creator of music that other people want to listen to.

Beginners
Now, let me not discourage you from posting your early experiments up on YouTube. If you’re just starting out, getting to see yourself play, and showing others can really help – but by God, you’re going to need a thick skin. YouTube commentators can be a vicious, unforgiving, nasty, and frequently illiterate bunch.

Do not expect constructive criticism and enthusiastic support, as a rule. You may well get that, but it will generally be interspersed between dismissive remarks by people who, it must be said, do not have your creative path and artistic personal development at heart.

Pros
Hey – why the hell not? Refer back to my earlier post about creating narrative and character development. The story behind an album can be a really interesting journey (assuming you edit out all the long hours in the studio trying to get the right kick drum sound). If audiences can get a taste of how something comes together, it can be a really interesting way to engage with the record and start to have some sort of emotional stake in its successful fruition.

Of course, this is fraught with difficulty. People can get attached to earlier, acoustic versions of songs that they may think have been ‘over-produced’ in the studio. It can also be very difficult revealing that much of yourself in the process. But it is something to consider.

By and large, the answer to ‘When should I let people hear my music?’ is when you’re ready. That may or may not be when the music is crystallised into its final, idealised form. That’s entirely up to you… and I suspect that opinions may diverge on this.

What do you think?