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It’s a new year and a clear slate is in front of all of us. The turning of the calendar from 2008 to 2009 is an ideal time to set your goals. I see a marked difference between artists who set finite goals and those who do not.

Think of goal setting as if you were driving in a foreign place - You wouldn’t get where you expect to go without a clear set of directions. Goal setting is like drawing a map for yourself.

This article is designed to assist you in creating a personal roadmap for achieving what you would like with your musical career this year, whether you consider music your hobby or you are making a living out of it full-time.

Many studies have proven that long-term perspective is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in America. And it has been proven that people who have goals written down are much more likely to achieve them.


STEP 1: Write Down Your Focus Areas
Here is a list of some areas you may want to focus on. Skip the ones that are not for you and write out each focus area goal. Think big, be unreasonable, and don’t hold yourself back.

  • Branding — Your USP.
  • Creating a monthly newsletter.
  • Marketing — What will you do this year for your marketing plan.
  • Social Networking / Online strategies.
  • PR — Getting covered on radio, online, write down where you see yourself reaching out for PR.
  • Booking — Touring or local gigs.Writing songs — Are you recording an album this year?
  • Number of CDs/ downloads you would like to sell.
  • How much money you would like to earn?
  • Film and TV placements.
  • Building your fan base — How will you do this?
  • How many people should be added to your fan mail and e-mail list.
  • Number of people at your next gig.
  • Getting a manager / booking agent
  • Building a new website or diversifying your online presence.
  • Buying a new instrument.
  • Having friends or family members get involved with helping you.
  • Personal health so your performance is better – exercise, eating etc.


STEP 2: Write Your Goals Down

  • Write each goal as if it is already happening – use the present tense
  • Give dates by when you want to achieve each one
  • Your goals should involve you and only you (they can’t be contingent on someone else)
  • Make them so they are realistically achievable

STEP 3: Look At Them Everyday

  • I highly recommend writing your goals neatly on paper or creating a vision board that illustrates them. Use colored pens or make a collage that illustrates them and hang them in a place where you can see them everyday.
  • Keeping them within your sights will keep them in your mind
  • Carla Lynne Hall recently wrote a great guide on how to create a vision board on her Rockstar Life Lessons blog:


1. Start With An Easy Goal And Complete It
One of the main reasons people don’t end up achieving their goals / keeping their new years resolutions is they set themselves up for failure by choosing goals that take a lot of discipline and time to achieve. There is nothing wrong with having big goals however, here’s what I recommend to overcome this issue…

Choose a simple goal and get it achieved within the next two weeks. This will start your momentum and get you feeling like you are in full forward motion.

Think of a small, achievable goal that only takes four to five hours to complete.

Choose something like:

  • Organize cluttered studio
  • Clean off desk
  • Delete unwanted files from computer
  • Write one new song

Next, set a date when you will get it done by and go for it.
Now that you have achieved a goal within the first two weeks of the new year, the rest of your goal setting will seem a lot easier to accomplish, and you will be able to get things off your plate.


2. Make Lists To Stay On Track

  • Make daily lists of what you need to do to get your goals met – the night before! Do the hardest thing first in the morning- don’t procrastinate.
  • Do something everyday that moves you towards the goals
  • Delegate the little activities that waste your valuable time to other people (you would be amazed what you could do with 4 hours it takes to clean your house).


3. Get Help
Build a TEAM to help you!! Get an intern or two – log on to and post as an employer seeking interns – you will be amazed at how many bright young people would like to get their feet wet in the business.

4. Remember You Can Change The Goals As You Go
Goals should be looked at as beacons and guiding points for you to keep yourself on track along your journey. I would not recommend changing them every week but the music industry is changing so rapidly it’s hard to know what goals are reachable in this landscape. So if the course of the year your goals change its OK to cross one off or modify as you go.

5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up!
This is a process intended to take a whole year and you will have your days where you may get frustrated, and you will start to beat yourself up (sound familiar?)

Self-criticism will interfere directly with achieving your goals and dreams. So, the next time you are making yourself wrong, take a step back and instead acknowledge the good, and celebrate your achievements..

6. Write Down 5 Successes Each Day
I’m inviting you to write down five little victories a day for this entire year.
I learned this powerful technique from T. Harv Eker. Once you start getting into this habit, you are training yourself to put the focus on the positive and get your brain to stop being so critical.

So put a notebook in your gig bag or next to your bed and each day write down 5 things. Make one or two of them music or band related.

Here are some examples:

  1. Went to gym.
  2. Wrote lyrics for a new song.
  3. Called three clubs for potential booking.
  4. Did laundry.
  5. Reached out to a music blogger.

Here’s to your success in 2009!

Reader Comments (9)

Does Guitar Center explain what a Unique Selling Proposition is when they hand out instruments? Not all readers will grok the acronym.

This was a really good, solid rundown. I always dig seeing other people's templates, this was especially good.

January 7 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Great post Ariel. Far too many musicians are content to let life happen to them instead of doing any planning. A simple set of goals will put you ahead of the pack for sure.

A lot of people see goal setting as "tying yourself down" or being inflexible. That's not the case at all. While your end goal should be rock solid, your plans to acheive that goal can be very flexible in order to allow for unforseen circumstances. Set you goals in concrete and your plans in sand!

Justin. Not all readers will grok "grok" either ;)

January 7 | Unregistered CommenterMark Gibson

What an excellent post Ariel!

I'm planning to record and release my first studio album this year and that has been the focus of my planning, but you've helped me realize that there are alot of ancillary tasks that should be completed to support the release of the CD and the plan afterward. It's easy to loose sight of all that stuff when you've busy writing and recording!

I'm going to get to work on planning all of that out with a series of structured goals...thanks for the kick-start!

January 7 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Rodela

@Matt you are most welcome. I know it's hard to be creative and be the business person to but I think Goal Setting is great because t falls somewhere between the two - its personal and creative yet it doesn't involve self promotional and all of the tasks most artists dread doing. And starting before the album is done will help it's outcome tremendously.

@Justin Derek Sivers and I were chatting about exactly that "inflexible" conversation just a few weeks ago - you bring up a good point about how people can sabotage themselves in the face of creating some structure. As a business owner with noone clock but my own I struggle with structure a lot as well but I find the more I create goals the more goals I achieve.

@Justin - I'm calling Guitar center tomorrow - a solid idea ;) Kidding aside thanks for catching that (I get lost in lamo marketing chatter sometimes)

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

great post, i just wrote my main goals after reading it... and thought about the ways to achieve them...

@matt : i'm planning to release an album as well, but it's not the only goal actually. i spent a lot of time reading MTT and NMS, and i think it's also a good idea to promote yourself while recording it : consider it as a whole project, writing and recording the songs, and market them as well all along. because i own a project studio, i plan to release a couple of digital singles before, and promote them through different websites. not in a hurry. some kind of "building a house" actually, stone after stone...

anyway this post is an excellent map for 2009, thanks a lot ;o)

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterLaurent

Hi Ariel, nice to find your site. As a previously-tortured creative, i was happy to see your post. We have a little process we add to the mix to assure we're creating soulful goals...

We start with declarations, or statements of purpose, that really function to remind us of our vision, and keep us anchored to our goals. A little intrinsic tuning fork.

You're doing a great service here. Thank you.

January 11 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Gates

I think you are mixing up "goals" and "plans". Goals are the things you are trying to achieve in the mid to long-term. Plans are the details of the strategy to achieve those goals. Your post mostly talks about plans. But you can't create proper effective plans it you don't know what your ultimate goals are:

Do you want to become famous or do you just want to perform as often as possible? Do you want to make a living from playing music or do you want to get rich? Do you have other goals that may conflict with your music career? Do you want to be a master of your instrument or do you want to be a songwriter/producer/entertainer? Do you want to make the world a better place or are you after perfecting yourself? And so on...

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterChris Arndt

Interesting post Ariel.

I'd add that progress can come in inches so celebrate every success along your creative journey. BIG or small, every goal and success counts.

I just posted an article about goal setting and lessons gathered from the world of Rock and Roll that your readers may find compelling to stay after their goals.

March 12 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

Hi Ariel,
This is a great post! Another part of the jigsaw I would add, is to seek out knowledge of others who have achieved your goal before you.

You are unlikely to be the first.
As a musician and entertainer, this tip worked wonders for me - I found out how other people had done things, and then tried them for myself.

Good stuff!

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