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A Musicians Roadmap To Setting Goals for 2010

What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School (a bestselling book) talks about a research study that was conducted at Harvard between 1979 and 1989:

“In 1979, the MBA graduates were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

Only 3 percent had clear written goals and action plans to achieve them.

Thirteen percent of the graduates had goals, but they were not in writing.

The other 84 percent had no specific goals at all.

In 1989, a decade later, the researchers again interviewed the students of that class. Surprisingly, they discovered that the 13 percent, who had goals that were not in writing, were earning on average twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all.

The truly amazing finding was that the 3 percent of students, who had written, clear goals when they left Harvard, were earning over ten times as much, on average, as the other 97 percent together.

There are many other similar recorded research studies that seem to conclude with approximately the same results – that only 3 percent of people set clear, written goals and action plans for their achievement.

These people clearly achieve far more success and happiness in their lives and careers than others. Goal setting ability is the skill that separates these top performers from the rest.”
(I quoted this from an article written by John Llyod).

So – really? 

You are still NOT going to write down your goals?

Starting the New Year with a set of goals is an empowering way to set the stage for your success in your future.

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

Here are my tips to you and a roadmap to follow for planning your 2010 (and beyond) goals

Goal Achieving TIP # 1:

Musicians tend to be perfectionists – I know this because I have spent my entire adult life working with musicians.  My dear musicians take note: Goals are never written in stone and they are not the word of the almighty! They should be looked at as beacons and guiding points for you to keep yourself on track along your musical 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 another or start the game again and write new ones down as you go.

Goal Achieving TIP #2:

You will have your days where you may get frustrated, and you may start to crucify and criticize yourself when you are not achieving goals as fast as you want them.  (sound familiar?)

Self-criticism will interfere directly with achieving your goals and dreams. So, the next time you are making yourself wrong for the fact that only 20 people showed up at your last gig or railing against yourself because your couldn’t hear yourself in the monitors try to turn that around immediately, Take a step back and acknowledge the good, and instead celebrate your wins, no matter how small.

Goal Achieving TIP #3:

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, who says that you should write down five positive things you do every single day. 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 self-critical.

So put a notebook in your gig bag or next to your bed.
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. Started writing lyrics to a new song
   3. Called three clubs for potential booking.
   4. Did laundry.
   5. Reached out to a music blogger who will love my music.
   6. Made dinner for my boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/kids/ friends (etc).

Right now, stop what you’re doing and write down five tiny successes you had today and yesterday.


Step 1:

Here is a list of some areas you may want your goals focus on.
Skip the areas that do not resonate with you and start by identifying what areas your goals will center around.

Think big, be unreasonable, and don’t hold yourself back.

Building Your Brand:
Honing your unique selling points
Color Scheme
15 second pitch
Photo shoot
New website
New album
Video creation
Personal health so your performance is better – exercise, eating etc.

What will you do this year for your  overall marketing plan?
PR – Traditional print media
PR – online media
PR – TV and videos
Radio campaign
Have friends or family members help you

How many people should be added to your e-mail list each month?
monthly newsletter

Social Media Strategies:
MySpace page reskin
Twitter stream
Facebook Fan page
Facebook ad campaign
Photo sharing
YouTube channel
Linkedin profile
Artist Data profile

Local gigs
Number of people at your next gig
Touring regionally
Touring nationally
Touring internationally
Opening for who?
Getting a booking agent
Getting a college agent

Releasing Music:
Are you recording an album this year?
Who are you writing songs  with?
Full Length vs. EP ?
Live album
Who is your dream producer?
Where are you recording?

How much money you would like to earn?
What will you spend?
Buying a new instrument?
Number of CDs you would like to sell
Film and TV placements.
Number of downloads you would like to sell
Getting a manager

Step Two:

Now that you have identified them, I suggest you write in pen using paper. Your intention is different when it comes from a pen and not from a computer. The act of writing it down accesses a different part of your brain.




Step Three:

Be clear: Give dates and as much detail as you can

Write each goal as if it’s already happening

Your goals should involve you and only you (they can’t be contingent on someone else)

Make them realistically achievable

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 one of your goals
(your list of 5 successes will help with this)

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).

Build a TEAM to help you!! Get an intern or two – go 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 don’t have an office to accommodate them that’s OK, Meet 1X per week at a coffee shop and / or have your intern work remotely from home.

Step Four:

Start with the easiest one on your list and give it two to four weeks and a deadline and then write exactly the deadline in the present tense, like this:

By February 15th, 2010, I will have added 25 new quality friends to my Facebook Fan page.

Now, go back and put dates on every single goal that you have written

Step Five:

I highly recommend re-writing your goals neatly on paper. Use colored pens or crayons and illustrate them.

Hang them in a place where you can see them everyday.

Remember, if your goals change, that’s okay. Just cross one off and add a new one.

You are the one in charge of your goals.

Here’s to your success in 2010!

Reader Comments (20)

Great article, Ariel. Wonderful reminders as we enter the new year.

Thanks for all your great advice!


December 22 | Unregistered CommenterJason Parker

Nice Post Ariel. I'm big fan of the business plan so I'm glad to see you address this with the MTT readers. Here is what I see as the most important aspect of what you wrote:

"How much money you would like to earn? What will you spend?"

Based on the feedback I get from independent and major recording artists, I find that they are mostly concerned with making money. Having a clear picture of how much it will cost to obtain the amount of money they want to earn is key. Thanks for bringing this point to light.



December 22 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English

I recently heard that this goal setting story is a myth. Unfortunately I don't remember the source.

December 22 | Unregistered CommenterCameron

@Cameron Believe what you may...goals are just dreams until you write them down.

December 22 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English

I'm not trying to say there is something wrong with goal setting.

December 22 | Unregistered CommenterCameron

I write down my goals in a 2010 goals booklet. It is always in my wallet and I review it regularly. It keeps me focused on what really matters to me.

Enjoy and share,

December 22 | Unregistered CommenterRonny

Yes people the YALE study is a bit of an urban legend which is WHY I DIDN'T cite it! However the book that I talk about in the opening of their piece is NOT a myth so please stop pointing out that goal setting is a myth and why don't you take 15 minutes to ask yourself what it is you want this year? Then in 12 months when it doesn't work for you - please then make me wrong on this blog.

Thanks. Ariel

December 23 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

Great article, very to the point & attainable. I am reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and this article is a great tool to add to my little arsenal. Thanks!

December 23 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

For those who question goalsetting/planning, consider how many businesses, sports teams, or individual athletes are sucessful without doing so...why would it be any different for a musician and his/her team? If you want financial rewards from music it is vital to think and act as any other profession/business.

Ariel, great point re:interns - would love to hear details of how they could be integrated by an independent artist - actually could be a separate post, welcomed by many who have big (written), goals but small budgets!

December 23 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

I write down every thing I conceive of doing. Never as "goals". Just as "things to consider". Big picture things and small things. I am always happy to see - weeks, months, years later - that somehow just about everything gets done. I don't think of these things as goals as much as I think of them as intentions...

December 23 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Great post, I have had some success with goal setting and it is something I am going to be using more and more.
What does surprise me is why people respond to a post like this in such a negative manner, don't like it? do something else why waste you life trying to pull some helpful info down just because it doesn't suit you.

December 24 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Barnes

I'm interested that the Harvard study quickly conjoined financial and career success and 'happiness'. Yes, goals and plans to reach them make a lot of sense when all the components of future ideas of success are clear from the outset. What this neither allows for nor expands upon is the joy of the unknown in life. Achieving teenage goals many years later may seem like a hollow victory. As the old saying goes, 'be careful what you wish for'. With this attitude, I sneered at 'goals' and 'focus' and 'career' and 'money' for nearly two decades. Consequently, I ended up with no focus, no career and no money. Which is a result of the unwritten plan, right? [think positive :)] I achieved a great deal of knowledge and happiness and misery a rudderless ship is bound to come across and each (even the misery) rather wonderful in its surprise, like presents that you need to acquire the means to recognize.
This said, I decided to compile my first ever five year plan a couple of years ago. A kind of flow diagram with options. What this did, strangely enough, was allow me to relax in the present. Which is essential as some things need patient concentration, free from the distraction of endless other options. Consequence? I looked back at the first two years of my plan the other day and realised I'd achieved everything on the list. The results have been more promising than I dared believe when I wrote it. So far, I've not had need to go down any of the 'plan B' options because 'plan A' has worked.
Just an anecdote that may be of help.

December 26 | Unregistered CommenterGordon Hulley

In 1997 I attended what I promised myself would be my last music conference. I saw clearly then what the music business had become, image. For musicians reading articles like this and trying to make bullet points their career I say to you, get off the hamster wheel and just listen to music. Our capacity for hearing is greater than that of sight by a factor of 10. As a musician your first responsibility is to listen. You'll only grow as a musician if you're listening. You'll wither if you spend your life chasing attention and trying to manufacture appreciation.

Living in New Orleans has afforded me the opportunity to cross paths with some truly great masters of music. Across the board to the person not one could explain the business of music to me, but when they play they have what we're all looking for, genuine soul.

Make the business find you. Don't make it easy on the music business by playing their game, going to their conferences, following their suggestions, and standing in their lines waiting for their handouts. If what you are making is worth anything word will disseminate and has for thousands of years without myspace, facebook and the like.

December 26 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Christian

I think its a great article. But the music industry is still about networking and who you know.

So to set goals is great, but i think you have to get out there and actually go to gigs and meet people


December 26 | Unregistered CommenterSKOPJE

As far as I can determine, the truth of the matter, heavily researched by Sid Savara, is this:

"There now is a study demonstrating that writing one’s goal enhances goal achievement. However, it was not done at Harvard or Yale, but at Dominican University."

There is no evidence of such a Harvard or Yale study. But even without any study, it seems intuitively obvious that writing your goals down is going to help you accomplish them. In defense of Ariel she was referencing something many other people have referenced. Checking sources is important, but trusting another source that we think is reputable happens often in journalism. People often don't go back to find the primary source of a fact or story. Depending on the original source, that may take a long time, be difficult and even impossible. But this situation proves that it should probably be tried to avoid awkward situations.

Here's the link:


December 26 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Szeles

Good, good, great! And inspiring comments, especially Gordon's about how his five-year plan helps him relax into the present. Hmm, I need that!

One question: Ariel, in the past I recall you pooh-poohing booking agents... Have you changed your tune? :-)



December 28 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa Weber Morales

One other point, I read somewhere that we overestimate how much we can do in a year (or 5 years?) and underestimate how much we can accomplish in 10 years. I'd like to find that quote again if anyone knows where it is...

December 28 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa Weber Morales

The number of micro blogging websites is increasing day by day with the increasing number of internet users. Most of the internet users are joiners of any of these websites. Twitter is the most commonly used micro blogging social network. The number of its users is increasing day by day because of its ease of use and the number of benefits, it provides to its users. Some people join twitter merely to extend their work because professional related to every field can be found on twitter. Proper interaction with professionals of a specific always results in some common benefit. Sharing of information can be of a lot of help for people. Musicians especially new singers and bands find twitter very helpful if the know the exact way to market their music. A lot of new fans can be found and even by proper marketing online sale of albums is eased. To get all these benefits simple public dealing techniques should be kept in mind. Some people try to benefit themselves by using twitter but in reality they don't because they try to influence people by using technical aspects but not the general rules for dealing people. A new musician should create his account on twitter and then start twitting. He should interact with people especially the music lovers and then by sharing some interesting information, he can become friend with them. He then can share his music with them, hence making his twitter friends, his fans. In this way the number of fans can be increased in a few days. Free mp3 songs and free CD's can be offered to fans on the home page of twitter. This can prove the fastest way of getting famous at expense of nothing. The only thing a musician needs to do is to regularly visit his twitter account.

Start sharing music with thousands of people on

January 2 | Unregistered Commentertwtmuzik


Your post is incredibly helpful especially with the specifics of what constitutes a proper goal and how to take the first step towards these goals. I wrote a post about goal setting for musicians on my personal blog ( late in 2009 but didn't include any of the helpful info that you laid out.

What amazes me is how few musicians even think about goals. It just doesn't make sense from an energy standpoint. As a fan, why would you invest in a band if you had no clue whether they could break up tomorrow or whether they have any plans to actually entertain you? As a band, goal setting is a paper contract with yourself that you will accomplish something and it is an acknowledgement of responsibility to your fans and community that you will deliver this to them.


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