Mur Lafferty has given one piece of advice repeatedly on her writing podcast I Should Be Writing. That is, simply, "don't be an ass." Well, OK, she has given two pieces of advice repeatedly. The other is "sit down and write." But it's the first one I want to talk about here. The reason for this is quite simple. People, myself included, often have a hard time separating the art from the artist. People may like your work, but as soon as they realize you're a jerk, especially if you're a jerk to them individually in person, they're going to have a hard time enjoying your work. It's kind of like finding out that the McRib is made out of the same material used to make yoga mats. It may sully your enjoyment a bit.
The other day MC Chris was performing in Philadelphia and a guy named Richie Branson was on stage as one of the openers. One member of the audience wasn't impressed by his performance and jumped on Twitter posting "Dear nerd rapper opening for Powerglove/mc chris. You're not good enough to pander to me. Better luck next time." MC Chris saw this tweet and was apparently upset that this guy's 100 or so spambot followers saw this disparaging remark about his friend. He ran out on stage, interrupting Branson's performance, grabbed the mic, and demanded that the guy who posted it identify himself. The guy did and MC Chris had security escort him out of the building. (The venue did refund his money.)
Let me rephrase that. MC Chris publicly humiliated a fan and kicked him out of a show for voicing an opinion on Twitter.
MC Chris has since apologized but a lot of people have come out of the woodwork saying this isn't the first time MC Chris has kicked someone out of a show or just generally been a jerk. One said he has seen Chris 6 times and on 5 of those occasions he has kicked someone out of the show. As a creative professional you can't do stuff like this, unless for some odd reason it's part of your act. Word spreads very quickly these days and when word gets around that you're a jerk people won't even bother giving your work a chance. And why should they?
First of all the Twitter post wasn't really all that bad. This guy is entitled to his opinion and he's entitled to voice it in a public forum. Branson handled it properly. He half-heartedly thanked the guy on Twitter for helping make his set better. He was probably being a wise ass, but regardless it was a one-on-one interaction and he wasn't a jerk. Chris, on the other hand, completely overreacted. Interrupting Branson's set was unprofessional and kicking the guy out for having an opinion was inappropriate. He stated later in a Facebook posting that he was only standing up for his friend, but every incident like this chips away at the fan base a little more. Apology or not, there are people who have said they won't listen to his music anymore. Some have jokingly said they're going to protest by illegally downloading his music and then not listening to it.
Negative criticism is going to happen. Not everybody is going to like your stuff. Not everyone likes Star Wars or the Mona Lisa or Shark Attack 3. How anyone could not like the cinematic masterpiece that is Shark Attack 3 is beyond me, but regardless you just have to deal with it. You can't rebuff every negative post you find on the internet. The only ones I would suggest even responding to are the ones that get something fundamentally wrong. For example, if you wrote a song about Doctor Who and the poster says how much they hate your new James Bond song about Dr. No you can gently correct their mistake. Maybe it will help them enjoy the song more. But don't say anything rude or offensive. Don't call them an idiot no matter how big of an idiot they may be. Be professional and move on with your life. In short, don't be an ass.
I met MC Chris at Nerdapalooza in 2009 and he was nice enough to me for the one interaction I had with him. I spent about 15 minutes talking to him one-on-one about music and animation. Then, out of the blue, he said "Can I sign your badge?" I was a little confused but said sure. He grabbed a sharpie and then autographed the back of my Nerdapalooza performers badge. So somewhere in my collection of con swag is a Nerdapalooza badge with MC Chris' autograph on it. I will treasure it forever as my most WTF moment from any Nerdapalooza.
As an artist your fans are your biggest asset. When you don't treat them with respect you lose some of those fans. If you do this repeatedly you can actually lose all of your fans, or at least enough of them that it can destroy your career. And please don't forget your fans are human beings with opinions which may not entirely jive with your own. That's OK. It doesn't mean you have to be a jerk about it.