Episode 140 – The Trolls Are Coming For You

Putting yourself out there is an essential step for a singer.

Getting your music heard by other than friends or family can give you invaluable feedback from which to improve.

But the troll culture is out there, waiting to derail you. And it’s only getting worse.

In this episode, John discusses his recent experiences with online trolls, and why you need to prepare to handle this often vicious criticism mentally, so you can get out there and SING!

Episode Transcript

Episode 140 – The Trolls Are Coming For You

Hey there, this is John Henny. Welcome back to another episode of The Intelligent Vocalist. I do so appreciate you spending your precious listening time with me. All right. I am in the midst of a interesting experiment that I’ve been doing for myself. I’ve talked about it in the past couple of episodes, but I’ve jump-started my YouTube channel. I basically have been posting episodes of the podcast on YouTube. It’s not that you can see me doing the podcast. It’s just the podcast logo. But it expands the audience a bit to have it on YouTube but not a whole lot of lessons in. And I’d done this series called “Why I love this vocal” where I specifically took a vocal and really broke it down. That didn’t get a whole lot of views either. And I noticed that the big thing for voice teachers are these reaction videos.

I was talking to a voice teacher friend, Sam Johnson, who does very well with these. He’s very good at it. He’s amassed well over 600,000 subscribers, had something like 55 million views last I talked to him and he said to me, cause I was talking about my “Why I love this vocal” series and how we really wasn’t doing that well. And he, said, you’re making it too hard. And he recommended I just choose a video, watch it, record myself watching it and then talk– how you would break down the vocal as a voice teacher. And so I made a very conscious decision to choose singers that I liked or that I think I would like based upon people’s recommendations. And I really wanted this to be positive. I didn’t want it to be me slagging on singers because I felt that there’s enough of that. That’s not really my brand. That’s not really where I want to go.

I think that there’s snarky entertainment value in that, but I don’t know how much educational value is in that unless I’m instructing how to do things better. And I may do that at some point with a vocal where singer’s gotten in trouble, but that’s not really where I want to go. I want to take really good performances, break them down and explain what the singer’s doing and why it’s successful. So I’ve done a handful of these just over the past two weeks and in the past two weeks, the channel has suddenly come to life. I’ve gotten over a quarter million views in just these two weeks. The subscribers have gone up by a number of thousands. However, you are going to attract trolls, and trolls are something–  in my experience, that I’ve had a bit of experience with and I’ve shared some of that here and I’ve certainly talked about how you need to be able to deal with your critics.

But man, there is something going on out there that’s just really troubling and it’s increasingly troubling. When I woke up this morning and saw that yet another young Korean star with a brilliant career had died. And this newest one, I’m not going to speculate what happened, but, this brings in the last two months, three Korean stars that have died and the first two I believe have taken their own life. And in both of those cases and the third they’re talking about that it may be an issue. It was just the stress of online bullying. And I can’t imagine what they went through and, just the pressure cooker that they are in and the ability for anyone and everyone to reach out and contact celebrities is obviously completely changed. And I am in no way, shape or form a celebrity.

And my little YouTube channel is not even a blip on the radar in terms of the number of views going on there. I mean, there’s a voice coach I know. I think he’s got two and a half million subscribers. I mean, there’s a big audience, but, wow. I just have to warn you that when you start putting yourself out there as a singer, you have got to be prepared. I’m not even going to go into the depth of the trolling because some of that just starts to get into areas that I don’t even want to discuss on this podcast. But people have somehow managed to go into racial and religious rants on a podcast where I’m talking about why I really like a singer’s performance and breaking it down.

I’ve been called everything from an old man to, who are you to do this, to– Oh, it’s incredible. Lots of Breaking Bad jokes. I get that. I’ve got my head shaved, so I get the Walter White thing. “Those that can’t do, teach,” and that my voice sucks. I mean, it’s amazing, and I will tell you honestly, you can obviously delete comments, but as the channel’s gotten big, I mean, some of these videos have over a thousand comments. I can’t keep up with them. But to be fair, YouTube does allow you, they will hold certain comments for review. Their software will scan and they can tell a certain percentage if something is rather attacking or harsh. And I’ve let most of these go through and that’s really just an exercise for myself in dealing with this.

And for me, the way that I’m able to deal with this and not have it really get to me is by employing mindfulness and meditation and just kind of this non-dual awareness, which in short without getting too out there is just not putting so much focus on the self, but more of just your whole total experience. When I read those, I can either just laugh them off or I can just see that, you know, people are just really upset and they’re just venting and I’m not a real person to them. I’m just some image that’s flickering on their computer. And I get that. I mean, I’ve certainly in my day said snarky things about celebrities. And again, not that I’m a celebrity, but even just seeing things online and you know, that’s kind of human nature.

But social media has just kicked things up to a degree where even politicians are using it to attack their critics, to attack their enemies. Foreign governments are using it to influence elections and it’s creating a type of universal breakdown in human interaction. And there’s nothing I can say here that’s going to change it. And I don’t think that this is going to change anytime soon. So my warning, and my hope for you is if you want to start putting yourself out there and you need to be ready for this. Especially if something starts to take off, there are people who just love to troll. And I’m trying to think of the best approach because if you confront them well then you’re just feeding the troll. They’re going to get excited. But at a certain point, if you don’t say anything, they can just create mayhem on your platform or mayhem in your life.

So you really want to have a plan in place for when something starts taking off and you start getting attention what you are going to do. I would suggest resisting looking at comments, which I haven’t done successfully so far. And most of the comments, I mean, there have been tons and tons of positive comments and people thanking me for breaking it down and that they understand the voice better, et cetera, but you’re going to get the negative ones. And so far, they’re really not bothering me. I was prepared for it and I’m able to– some of them shock me, that people are that angry, for no apparent reason or trying to drag disparate grievances into a simple ‘this is how this person is singing’ video, but so be it. I’m able to withstand it. I mean, honestly, nothing’s really upset me.

Just a few things that shocked me, and for fun, I’ve been posting some of the most outrageous ones on my Facebook page, just to give people a laugh. But man, if you are not ready for this, if you don’t have the type of attitude that can handle this, it can really throw you for a loop. And I will tell you, I know really talented singers and sadly really gifted voice teachers who won’t put themselves out there because they are just an absolute fear of this nasty troll culture. And it is there and it will find you. And as earnest as you may be to want to help people and to put it out there, it’s just going to be twisted and contorted and attacked. And I would urge these voice teachers to set up a system where they can either not see the comments, have somebody else go through, have a friend or colleague go in and delete them.

If they’re very troubling, maybe give your friend some guidelines and to just delete anything that crosses a certain line, or you may delete anything that’s critical. I’ve actually found some of the criticisms in there to be valid. And so I’m going to be adjusting how I do these, going forward. Some of them may be stopping and talking a little too much, which frustrated people. So there is valid criticism in there and perhaps that person could go through and just find criticisms that that keep coming up. Not something attacking your appearance, but something, maybe the way you’re doing it that people are finding frustrating or suggesting you do another thing that can be really valid. So if you’re putting music out there and you’re finding that you’re getting comments that, from song to song or even within the same song, maybe somebody people are saying like, yeah, the chorus isn’t catchy enough. The vocal is a little bland.

If you’re getting that repeatedly, that’s a great learning opportunity for you to improve and to really sit down and look at it. But if you can get that feedback without the ridiculous venom, then it can be helpful. And if you can avoid it, just the troll venom all together, that can be extremely helpful because the worst thing that they do is they shut people down. Especially as a singer, when you’re first putting yourself out there, it is a learning experience. You’re connecting with an audience, you’re getting feedback from people who aren’t your family and friends and this is important. They don’t know you. They’re not emotionally invested in you. So they’re going to be really honest with you from where they are. Doesn’t mean their opinion is right, but they’re going to be more honest with you.

Some of them aren’t honest and they just want to attack you and hurt you. But getting this feedback, learning from this feedback, changing, trying something, and you get more views on that approach to your music and you try something else and you get less views on that approach that is extremely valuable. You’re able to go out there in the real world, in real time and test what you are doing. I mean, so long ago, back when I was young, because I’ve been reminded on my channel that I’m an old man. Back when I was younger, the record labels, you would have to go into a studio and produce demos and then the demos would have to be printed up and then you’d have to get them out to people and try and find focus groups.

I mean, it was very, very hard as a developing artist. And getting on radio was extremely difficult. So it was hard to get feedback from what it is that you were doing. You really only knew by building your live following, which was a ton of work to get out there and play and to get people to come out and see you. And now in real time you’re going to get people responding to your music. And there’s so much value in that. There’s so much to learn from that. There is so much good, healthy critique that will come back to you if you are of a mind to learn from it. But again, you’re going to get the trolls in with that. So develop some defenses, develop some resources. Whether it’s a spiritual work that you do, a meditation, whether it’s just having a healthy mental outlook, keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy.

If you are going through a hard period in your life and you are dealing with any amount of depression, it may not be the time to stick your toe into this YouTube world. In my book, Voice Teacher Influencer, I have a short chapter on YouTube because the book was written for voice teachers just starting to get themselves out there and build up online product and build up their studio, build up their audience. I told them YouTube is maybe not the first place you want to go because it’s really the Wild West. And the comments can be really, really rough and you don’t want to put comments disabled because you want people who like you to be able to talk about it. And in some of the instances, people who’ve attacked me have then been attacked by other people. I mean, I haven’t responded to any of it, nor do I plan to.

A few of them I’ve responded in my head and tried to think of a funny things to say, but, I don’t really see the value in it. And for the most part I’ve only deleted a handful of comments that were just particularly nasty and vicious and bringing in elements of divisiveness that had nothing to do with what I was talking about. But I’ve left some pretty nasty stuff up there. And, I really do it partially for myself, to see as a test, like, you know what, I can be okay with that. I can see through that. I can see that person is angry about something else. It’s not personal, even though they try and make it personal. It can’t be, they don’t know me. And, just developing a thicker and thicker skin because again, my goal in my life of music is to help people.

My goal when I was younger, I performed thousands of gigs and I had the record deal and it was about me, the performer, the drummer, the singer. And now it’s just about me helping people, just get better at music, and to love music more. And YouTube I see is a very viable channel to do that as well. And to reach a wider audience, an audience all over the world and within that audience, there’re going to be those who just like to a lob grenades and it’s something we have to deal with. It’s the new reality. And that’s why I’m so heartbroken for these young people, gifted performers who, with all kinds of success, whose lives have ended tragically because of this culture. Because I don’t know if they didn’t have the mechanisms to cope, but whatever it was that was being thrown out to them, it finally got to them, combined with whatever else was going on in their life and the pressures.

But this isn’t going away. Troll culture’s not going away. It’s only growing. They’re only becoming more emboldened. They’re only seeing more successes from it, and it would be a shame if they silenced your voice.

Hey, if you want to know more about me, check out my website, johnhenny.com and sign up for my email list. I’ve actually got a new special that’s going to be going out soon just to my email list to study with me. I will be letting it known after the new year. My special monthly discount, I do that at the beginning of the year. But I’m going to be doing an extra special one for my email list. If you’re interested, jump on the email list. Just go to johnhenny.com. And until next time, to better singing. Thank you so much. Bye bye.