Goals are really the driving force behind your music career. Musicians, more so than most other people, are familiar with the power of goals. That need to improve – to play better, create better, and perform better than you did yesterday – is what gets you up every morning. It’s what keeps you excited and passionate.
I’m sure you’ve set goals for your art. To finish writing that song you’ve been working on. To refine your technique on the double bass pedal. To find that perfect sound for the violin track. To learn a new song in time for band practice this week. Musicians are constantly – whether conscious or not – pushing themselves towards goals. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the mindset that makes a musician. Musicians are some of the most dedicated people on the planet.
You’re a musician. You know how to set goals and push yourself. Now, you need to put that same dedication into your career goals. You’ve no doubt seen how the goals you set for your art have improved you as a player, a performer, and a writer. After all, there was a time when you were picking up that instrument for the first time. You can experience that same amount of improvement in your career with some smart goal setting.
The following was written by Simon Tam for Music Think Tank.
Ask yourself the big questions: Who, what, when, where, why, when? A specific goal lets you know what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, why you are doing it, who will be involved, and where it will happen.
For example, a goal I’ve used before: Tour the continental U.S in August 2013 with at least 18 shows, playing a mixture of all-ages, 21+, and convention shows making an average of $500 per night. Also, see an increase on social media and web traffic by at least 10% and increase online sales by 20% for the month before, during, and after the tour. Those are all specific targets that I can definitely measure against.
A goal should have specific metrics so you know if you’re making progress. If you have one larger goal, you should break it up into smaller parts over the course of time. That way, you and your team can always know where you stand against the overall goal. During this time you should be asking questions with how, when, and what: how much do you have left to go? When will you reach your goal? What do you have to do to stay on track?
Using the tour goal listed above, one could easily measure against the goal in a number of ways:
How many shows have been booked for August 2013? What kinds of shows have been booked?
How much income is being earned per night?
What is the average monthly online sales? Have they increased – and if so, by how much?
What do I need to do to help increase merch sales, at shows or online?
The goals that you develop should be ambitious but realistic. If you focus on what you can do, it sometimes reveals new opportunities. For example, potential sponsors – many are probably in your own backyard but are often overlooked for the larger, sexier opportunities.
Goals should grow with you. As you gain more resources, abilities, finances, and followers, your goals should get respectively larger. Having them just out of reach helps you stretch. However, having them too far away will only cause frustration.
The goals that you choose should matter. They should motivate you and drive your career forward. For example, I’ve talked to many artists who have a goal of playing a large festival like SXSW even though it doesn’t relate to their current state of their music career. Things shouldn’t be goals just because others are doing them. Ask yourself these questions: Is this the right time? Is this worthwhile? How will this directly help me?
Your goals should have a time-bound deadline. When would you like to reach your goal by? If your goal is shrouded in the idea of “someday,” you’ll have a much more difficult time of reaching it. If you want to achieve a goal by the end of the year, you’ll work more aggressively for it. For example, if your goal is to sell 5,000 records, you would treat it much differently if that was 5,000 someday as opposed to 5,000 by December.
Goals in a band should have everyone involved. People should be on the same page, have the right expectations, and the proper work ethic for reaching the goal.
Also, when I saw everyone, I mean everyone. This includes spouses or other people whom we depend on for support. If your band members would like to tour 8-10 months out of the year but their significant others aren’t supportive of that goal, some serious issues could arise – especially when that opportunity presents itself. .
Goals should be revisited often. Not only should you be checking on your progress toward your goal, but you should also see if those goals need to be adjusted. Ask: are these goals still relevant? Is this what I want/need still?