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A Musician's Guide To Setting And Achieving Goals For 2011

It’s a new year and a clear slate is in front of all of us. The turning of the calendar from 2010 to 2011 is an ideal time to set your goals. I see a marked difference between artists who set finite goals and those who do not.

Many of you may have seen a previous version of this article (or another one) on setting goals as they crop up at this time of year.

Ask yourself: Is this the year I want to make a difference for my musical career?  And if so – what difference and how?

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.

I have included a few links from some of the best musician related posts on how to think about and achieve goals as well.  So, bookmark this long article and refer to it throughout the year!


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.

Branding - Your look and feel your image and health or your pitch.

Marketing - What will you do this year for your marketing plans.

Rick Goetz at has written a great 2 part guide on how to  attack a record release social media marketing plan with intention

Newsletter - Creating and sending it 12 - 24 times this year & how many people can be added to your fan mail and e-mail list.

Website  - Building a new one or diversifying your online presence.

Social Networking  - How’s your Facebook fan page looking?

PR - Getting covered on radio, print or online.

Booking - Touring or local gigs this year or a combination?

CDs & Downloads – How many would you release, distribute and sell.

Money - How much money you would like to earn?

Film and TV Placements - Will you work towards them this year?

Expanding Your Fan Base - How will you do this?

Team – Will you be trying to get a manager or a booking agent?

Time – How will you manage to balance your time this year to make sure you can focus on your musicial goals?

Writing & Recording – Songwriting or recording an album or EP this year?

Your Instrument - Buying a new instrument or taking lessons?

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

 • Start with small goals so I can get them checked off the list and get in momentum fast!

 • Make sure they make you FEEL MOTIVATED to complete!  Derek Sivers wrote a great post on this. 

STEP 3: Look At Goals 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 brings them to life 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 at Rockstar Life Lessons has a fabulous guide on how to create a vision board on her 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
  • Recycle last years unwanted papers
  • 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).

 • Don’t overload yourself – studies show that 6 tasks is the maximum you can achieve in one day!

3. Take Derek Sivers Advice: Zip It!

Derek gave a riveting 3 minute TED talk  about keeping your goals to yourself because announcing them to the world may hurt your motivation.  I know I just said hang them in a place where you can see them – this is very different from announcing them.

4. 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.

If you are not comfortable with the idea of an intern then ask a friend or a family member to help you.  Schedule just 2 hours a week with that person to attack the goals and get them in motion.

 Or (shameless plug here) join my Cyber PR Mastermind Forum – there are hundreds of musicians participating in it and helping each other along with questions aspirations and goals (yes you have to buy my book but 35 bucks is a small price to pay for support and guidance from a great group of like minded artists). TIP: enter your email address and get a coupon for $5 off by downloading the free chapter.

5. Structure Time to Achieve Goals

They won’t happen unless you have time to make sure they do!

Artist Christina Horn from Hudson K the winner of my Music Success in Nine Weeks Blog Challenge created a GREAT video on how to manage time well from an artist’s perspective.

6. 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.

7. 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.

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 the dishes.

5. Wrote and posted a blog.


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. 

Another thing that will stop you is not taking time for YOU so schedule time to reflect and take it all in.  Maybe that’s a walk in the woods, maybe that’s cooking yourself a decadent meal, or maybe it’s spending time with people you love and turning down your power for a few days without the pressure of a holiday or an event….

Here’s to your success in 2011.

Reader Comments (13)

Brilliant article, it's exactly what I need. I'm full of ideas and enthusiasm but low on structure and planning. Great to have practical tips and realistic advice like You Can Change The Goals As You Go and I love the vision board. I might just print off this whole piece and stick it on my wall! Thank you :)

January 5 | Unregistered CommenterEleventyFour

This is like something I would read preparing for college. I've found most of the really talented musicians aren't great at any of the above. Id love to see some of my favorite artists with "goals" on stickies behind their "desks".

I guess this is addressing the "musical middle" class but I wonder how many truly talented artists could use this system or should they focus on the music, and let others handle?

January 5 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Great article.

January 5 | Unregistered CommenterThe Dunge

This a great article Ariel! Our artists definitely need to read this. Human nature is a funny thing.

January 5 | Unregistered CommenterlikeZEBRA

Great article Ariel.

Another great idea is to set a bunch of commitments for each goal. For instance if your goal was to get a booking agent you could set a commitment to connect with 3 booking agents each day.

Then at then end of the month you take stock and see how you did. If you manged to reach your goal you can repeat the steps to create other opportunities, and if you did not you need to change your commitment and try again for another month.

I find a month is a good amount of time to see if what you are doing is having an effect.

Hope that helps.


Thanks Ariel! Your articles are consistently helpful and encouraging. Thanks for everything you do to keep us moving in the right direction!

January 6 | Unregistered CommenterMojo

Great info here rock on

January 6 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Sleezer

Thanks Ariel! I never thought of point #3 on here as being detrimental, but I suppose it is. I guess what is hard about keeping goals to yourself though is when someone asks, "what is up? How's your career going?"

Wouldn't that reveal your goals in a way? Or at least tell someone where along the path to achieving them you are.

So maybe it's best to not share until you've actually achieved it? What's the advice here on that.

Brian Franke, Singer/Songwriter

January 7 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Franke

No disrespect intended to Derek Sivers, I love his thinking on almost everything. However, in August of 1988 and beyond, I announced to all my friends that I would stop smoking on New Year's Day 1989. That announcement coupled with a strong desire to quit enabled me to do just that.

I quit on New Year's Day 1989 and haven't taken a puff since. No medicine, no nicotine gum. It was very tough. But I accomplished it. I guess you just have to be determined to achieve your goals whether you announce them or not.


January 9 | Unregistered Commenterbeelman

Brilliant blog post. My husband is a musician and I as a life coach have been helping him set and achieve his goals. I liked the extra music tips and have forwarded it on to him :)


January 10 | Unregistered CommenterBindi

@beelman I feel the same way (and Derek is like a brother to me) nothing like a community to keep you accountable!

But studies ARE studies - so we can't argue! :) And it is an interesting take....

@BrianFranke - I write my top 10 goals out and decorate them then hang them at eye level next to my bed - so I see them when I wake up in the morning! so they are still private.

@Chris - - great idea - chunk each goal down into baby steps!

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterAriel

Excellent article! So important to write down goals and set targets - I'm a pro musician and the goals that I achieve the quickest are the ones that I have written down, planned out, and kept a tab on. Thanks for the tips - a really great boost for the start of 2011!!!


January 25 | Unregistered CommenterJay Parmar

this is a great post! only point that I personally have a different take on is the one about 'keeping goals to yourself'. I find for me that sharing them with 1-2 trusted people who I've designated as 'accountors' (people who hold me accountable) - is REALLY effective. I seriously recommend trying it. I have chosen people who I would feel embarrassed/bad telling them that I didn't do something. it's completely fine to tell them along the way 'hey - i'm changing goal X and here's why'. but in the way I've set it up - it's not acceptable to just show up in our monthly call and say 'no I didn't get to that one' with no reason.
Overall, excellent post!

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterJeffery

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