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Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dfwQFR

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dfwQFR

Music 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 music goals for yourself. Maybe you want to finish writing that song you’ve been working on. Or refine your technique on the double bass pedal. Perhaps you want to find that perfect sound for the violin track. Or maybe you want 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 music 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.

Need help setting your goals? Download this free ebook and worksheet and I’ll guide you through setting powerful goals that will move your career forward.

The following was written by Simon Tam for Music Think Tank.

Specific Music Goals

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.

Measurable

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?

Attainable Music Goals

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.

Relevant

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?

Timely

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.

Everyone

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. .

Revisited

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?

How can you make your music goals SMARTER this year?

Success in music

Here are 10 recommendations for strategies that can lead to success in music, and in life.  Take them with a grain of salt.  With this new decade comes the promise of digital music, the power of the entrepreneur and the tools to connect with an audience and deliver the goods.

1.  Living a life in music is a privilege. Earn it.

There is very little more satisfying then spending time making music.  If you make this your life’s work, then you can be truly joyful.  However, the chances of being successful are extremely low and the only people who are going to get there are going to have to work hard and earn the right to be a musician.  Respect the privilege of being free enough to have this choice (if you do) and honor the opportunity.

2.  No one is in charge of your muse but you. Be happy and positive.

People can be their own worst enemy.  Countless times I have heard artists tell me the reasons why their career is not working out.  Most of the time they are putting blocks in their way and pointing fingers at people and things that are holding them back.  Stop whining and blaming other people and make the conscious decision that you are going to be successful and that things are going to work out in your favor.  You are creating your own reality every day, so make it a good one and excel.

3.  Practice, practice, practice – then go for it. Over prepare.

You can never be ready enough for opportunity.  Your live shows can always be better, your songs can be more amazing, and your playing can only improve.  As the CEO of your own musician business, you can learn how to run the company more effectively, reach out to more fans and be an more effective social media marketer.  Don’t hold yourself back by not being ready.  Be a professional.

4.  If you suck, you will never make it. Find a way to be great.

Lets face it, it is really hard to be amazing.  Some people have the natural talent and you can see it in the first 5 seconds of meeting them.  They are truly blessed.  The rest of us have to find our niche, our passion, our calling and then reach for it.  Ask people around you for feedback.  Find what you are good at and focus on that.  Get other people to help you.  If you don’t stand out and rise above the pack, you will struggle forever.  Be amazing.

5.  Learn how to breathe and keep your focus.  Stay calm.

There is nothing more pleasant than working with someone who knows who they are and what their goal is.  Remember the old adages of thinking before you speak, and taking a deep breath before you lay into someone.  Most of us have a lot going on in our lives and we can all benefit from staying focused on our goals and remaining calm in most situations.  Learn yoga, exercise, run, meditate, sit still, breathe, learn who you are.

6.  Don’t take yourself too seriously, no one else does. Have fun.

I am amazed at how many people spend so much time looking backwards and trying to understand what people think of them.  This is worrying about the past and not embracing the future.  Reviews are important, but don’t run to them or let them ruin your day.  Not everyone is going to like you, but more people will if you are having a good time.

7.  No matter how difficult things get, move forward. Don’t give up.

The only thing that will help your career take off is forward momentum.  That is how you are going to reach your goals.  A lot of people are stuck in their own mud.  Take action, make a move and then see what happens.  Don’t spend time procrastinating or worrying about how hard it is, just do something positive to advance your cause.  You will feel much better by acting instead of waiting or worrying.

8.  Find a way to make money. Start small and grow. Avoid being in debt.

This is probably the most important strategy of them all and why so many artists have gotten into trouble in the past by taking label advances.  All that is, is a big loan.  Get some kind of cash flow happening right away, no matter how small.  Sell merch, play for the door, license your songs, play sessions, teach, write, start your musician business.  The biggest mistake you can make is to borrow a lot of money and then spend it on things that don’t matter.

9.  Be unique and true to your vision.  Say something.

The people that we remember are the ones that are unique, exciting, special, provocative, fascinating, original, inventive, interesting.  Music is a basic form of communication.  The really successful artists have something to say and work on delivering their message.  Your chances of success go up exponentially if you have a unique position and message and create a following of fans who really listen to you because you have something important to say.

10. Work and play with people you like every day.  Collaborate Often.

Music is a tribal experience.  You cannot make great music alone.  Surround yourself with talented people, write together, play together, try new things.  Bounce inspiration off of each other and learn.  Listen to each other and let the music weave it’s way around you.  Find a producer, songwriting partner, other musicians and dive in together.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Wonderful things are waiting to happen to you.

Want more strategies for success? Download my most popular ebook, Hack the Music Business, for free here.