Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Top 8 for Getting What You Want in the Music Business

I know dozens of musicians and songwriters who are gifted at making music. However, it seems that only a small percentage of these talented folks ever rises above the fray and experiences substantial success. Even music people who are smart, personable, and driven often end up running out of gas and settle for working on their craft in obscurity. Why is that?

After meeting and observing many successful musicians, I've come to the conclusion that individuals who move beyond ordinary levels of achievement do a few simple things different. Most importantly, these people make good use of goal setting. The most successful musicians know what they want and make detailed plans for getting it.

What follows are eight steps you can take to get the most out of your long-term musical plans:

1. Decide specifically what you want
Before you set out to conquer your music business goals, you have to know what it is you really want. Do you have a clear idea of what you're going after? Vague concepts about some day being a rock star lead to vague, weak actions in attaining them. However, detailed target goals -- such as selling 500 copies of your new CD, doing 10 radio interviews a month, generating 2,000 downloads of your free MP3 file -- keep you focused and on track.

2. Write down your plans
Don't keep goals in your head. Put ink to paper or fingers to a keyboard and commit your aspirations to a tangible form. Writing down your goals adds another element of conviction to your intent to reach them. All of my accomplishments -- started as notes to myself jotted down in a notebook. Don't overlook the power of the pen.

3. Identify the information and resources you need to achieve your goals
You may already know that it's a good idea to have a database that includes the names and addresses of your fans, media sources, industry contacts, and so on. In addition, you should make a list of the things you need to learn to reach your goals.

For instance, if you want to add a subscription form to your home page, do you know the proper way to use CGI scripts to create one? If you want to make MP3 files of your songs available, do you know how to convert a song from your CD to MP3 format? Look through your list of goals and figure out if a lack of knowledge is keeping you from making progress. Then get busy acquiring the information you lack.

4. Set deadlines
Remember how you always got off your butt and went to work the night before a term paper was due? Deadlines have a way of motivating us to act. So do commitments we make to others and ourselves. Set a time limit for achieving each stage of your goal-setting action plan. Then do whatever it takes to meet those deadlines. Make sure your deadlines are realistic. They should strike a balance by being far enough away to allow you time to reach them, but soon enough to motivate you to meet them.

5. Create your plan
To write the first draft of an action plan, start with the goal itself and work backwards through the process. Keep breaking down every stage of the plan into its most basic tasks, such as writing songs, recording, registering domain names, writing press releases, and more.

Next, make a short list of the primary things that need to be done first, making sure they're basic, attainable steps. For instance, if your goal is to get signed by a major record label, you wouldn't make calling Atlantic Records your first task. There is a whole series of preliminary steps you'd take long before you ever got near a major label.

6. Re-examine and refine your plan
Long-term plans are not set in stone the moment they are written. They should be revised and improved. The first step to refining your plan is to get away from it for a while and let the details float around in your subconscious mind while you work on other things. Then come back to the plan with a fresh eye and start evaluating the logic in your sequence of events.

It doesn't have to be perfect. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can't get started just because there are a few things you don't yet know. Trust your abilities and know you can handle them when they come up.

7. Take Action
Before long, you have to get busy working on the plan you've just created. It's tragic, but a lot of great ideas sadly wither away because the person who came up with them never takes action. Don't let this be your fate. Don't wait for nature to takes its mystical course. Vow to yourself that every day you will take some action based on your music career plan.

Even if you think you don't have time or you aren't feeling motivated, do at least some small deed every single day. Even if it's only playing with a new melody idea for a few minutes or sending one e-mail message to a fan, do something every day.

8. Measure Your Progress
Once you come up with your musical master plan and start working on it every day, you have to know if your actions are leading you in the right direction. Are you moving closer to your goal or further away? Is the pace slower or faster than you anticipated? The only way to answer those questions is to regularly evaluate your plan and measure your progress.

If you find that you're way behind schedule on getting things done, ask yourself what you can do to get the result you really want. Making adjustments to your plan is an essential part of the goal-setting process. Be prepared to measure often and come up with solutions. When something is working, fit more of it into the plan. When other aspects prove to be duds, cut back or drop them completely. Fine-tuning is what goal setting is all about.

Now get busy formulating your goal-setting plan!

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