Author Zig Ziglar was often as saying, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
Your music career is no different. Unless you have a target that you are reaching for, you’ll just continue down random pathways hoping to get somewhere. How will you know what successful looks like if you haven’t defined success for yourself? You need to begin by creating (or revisiting) your goals.
There’s a popular business acronym that says goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. In a band, I think goals should be SMARTER, because they need to include Everyone and be Revisited often.
There are many good articles on how to be more effective at writing and reaching goals. In fact, there have been many great books about them. It’s one of the most important aspects of your career, so it’s good to spend time on goals.
Here’s a quick rundown on how you can make goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.:
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.
Many artists have a generic goal of “make a living full-time from doing music.” But what does that mean to you? Most independent artists who are making a living from music also manage their own careers, book their own shows, solicit sponsors, etc. in addition to creating and performing music. For them, their goal was to be independent of another job or career. For others, they want to concentrate solely on music so a booking agent, a manager, a lawyer, and publicist would be involved as well. How much money do you need to live on? Spell out the goal completely.
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. For example, if you don’t have the right resources, abilities, finances, or followers, perhaps you should create a smaller goal and adjust it as the situation improves. 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.
This is one that I like to use for musicians. Goals in a band should have everyone involved. If some of your bandmates aren’t on board with the goals, then you might consider having someone else replace them – that’s how important this is. 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. If you want to focus primarily on licensing for films but your manager wants you to focus on festivals, those incongruent goals would also cause issues. Make sure the key players, as well as the most important people in your life, are in alignment when it comes to your goals.
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?
Years ago, most artists had a goal of signing on a major record label (a few still do). However, since the market has completely changed, most have realized that this isn’t always the most appropriate opportunity for them. Major things can alter our goals: relationships, the market, our fans, political instability, and so on. Revisit those goals and make sure they meet the criteria above.
Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com. He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam