In this episode, I’m going to talk about the importance of planning your career and having defined goals.
That can be a musical plans and goals or even just a life plan. In reality, both are similar and if you’re the kind of person that likes goals and achievements, this is an episode for you.
I’ve also got a four step procedure that will help you get started.
It all starts with a plan
Are you kind of person that freewheels through your life and doesn’t worry about too much or do you like to have some idea of where you’re going?
Are you results driven or happy to just make the best of each day and live your life?
In the music business, where competition is fierce and the wolves are always at the door, I believe you do need music goals and a solid plan in order to survive and planning for success is imperative.
In a highly unpredictable environment where things can change on a whim, a plan will serve you well.
I’ve read countless books on the importance of planning, making goals and being positive over the years. I’ve attended seminars, completed courses, and even had a life coach at one point.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a DIY musician, an apprentice bricklayer, or IT entrepreneur, I believe that you need to know where you’re heading and why you’re going there.
Having a goals and a plan is possibly the only guarantee you have of achievement.
In episode two, Check Your Ego, I talked about my band in the late 1980’s called Hobby Horse.
You will have heard that even though the band had enormous potential, we embarrassingly spiralled out of control and self-destructed, mostly through raging egos and bad attitudes, but also by never having agreed goals or a plan.
A solid well thought out plan may have been just the ticket that could have saved that band, and kept our attitudes in check.
You see, while we were drinking and partying, and deliberately forming decisive allegiances with each other in an attempt to garner the power, we could have instead been heading in an agreed direction that would have united us.
Having a plan developed and sanctioned by all is liberating and empowering, and unifies your team. So simple, who would have thought?
That said, being in a band with potentially troubled emotional individuals, you included, can be another challenge altogether. More on that later.
It would also be remiss of me not to mention that in Hobby Horse we were also very young. In hindsight, when I consider those early mistakes, I can see they were the result of our youth, as I’m sure you can at your own life mishaps.
Take my advice; circumvent the potential failures by planning well.
Let’s fast forward to 2015. I established Five Mile Sniper in what would seem an unorthodox fashion for a band. Musicians I knew well and respected were asked to join the band with a very clear agenda and timeline.
I had written the songs and everyone was asked to participate in the recording and production, if they chose to.
We agreed upon a number of single releases followed by a full-length album. There were to be a few local shows in Melbourne, followed by a national tour to support the publicist rollout of the album.
Consequently, we had a united team working on the project with clear guidelines and parameters.
Planning made It ran like a well-oiled machine.
It goes without saying that a team needs a leader who can orchestrate and manage such a plan. I took on that role in Five Mile Sniper, but Hobby Horse had no defined leader, or plan.
There was an ongoing covert war being waged among the band members about who would take control.
It was totally unproductive, and of course, it ultimately spelt the end of the band. Our jostling for power represents a very common situation for musicians, and I have seen this more often than not.
Is there a way we can overcome these pitfalls and make better decisions so there’s a chance our careers can grow and flourish? Yes there is and here is my four step process of how it is possible to achieve that.
Once your team – the term ‘team’ I will use in reference to a band or duo, string quartet, cover band or solo act etc, coming together to collectively brainstorm, is in place, devising your plan is essential.
Everyone has to be in attendance at this brainstorming session because otherwise divisions within the team can quickly emerge.
Some may even think it’s a load of corporate bullshit having a brainstorming session, but you must insist, and at least give it a chance.
In this sit down session, everyone needs to throw their cards on the table and verbalise what they want to achieve and a rough timeline of when they’d like it all to happen.
Delegate someone to document all the thoughts and ideas, regardless of how outlandish some may sound.
As a graphic designer, I was always involved in initial consultation meetings and this procedure was considered the norm.
To be honest, some of the ideas and thought processes sometimes seemed outrageous, but all ideas still need to be articulated for everyone to hear and consider – it’s part of the process.
The whole time you’re thinking to yourself, gee, if someone could see this rubbish I’m spewing out! It’s a kind purging of ideas session in some ways.
2. Setting your goals
From your brainstorming sessions you can then establish the goals of the project.
Obviously there’ll be some extreme or outlandish ideas, but this is the point where you narrow them down to what’s potentially realistic and achievable by your team.
This often requires some sensible and objective overview, this may be when a team leader is appointed who will have the responsibility to keep things in check. You goals can be short, medium, and long term.
By identifying your goals in this way, you’ll be able to see the bigger picture, and actually get some quick results early to validate this whole process.
Your short term goals could be beginning recording sessions for an EP, booking a couple of showcase gigs, making calls to booking agents and managers, and more.
Your long term goals could be releasing an album in your third to fifth year, an national tour, and even getting a record deal and topping the charts!
3. Establish a plan
Once the goals have been clearly identified and there is team consensus, you can then lay the foundations of your plan.
As you can see by the many and varied goals, it’s virtually impossible to turn up with a bunch of mates and expect magic to happen. It won’t.
You need to be well prepared.
Establishing your plan also includes plotting your goals along a timeline and implementing actionable duties that team members can carry out. It’s not for everyone.
You may find there are people in your band who can’t, or just don’t feel comfortable carrying out some or any of these duties.
When that happens, usually one or two in the team will step up and delegate themselves as the overseers of the plan. You can’t be a shrinking violet with this.
Promotion, networking and building connections requires personalities that are bold and ambitious, and people who are dedicated to executing the plan to give the team the greatest chance of success.
For those who shy away from that sort of work, it’s OK. They have had their say, and put forward their opinions and expectations in the brainstorming sessions.
You should expect no resistance or complaint from these people while you execute the plan to the best of your abilities. After all, you’re out there doing your best and working your butt off to make it all come together on the team’s behalf.
As in my Hobby Horse story, we began without a plan of shared goals determined in a collective, fair and equal fashion.
And that’s when the assassins came out of the woodwork. Alternately, if everyone in the team has had a say, you will have a mutually determined plan, and it’s time to go after it.
4. Go after it
You now have agreed goals and a plan. It’s now time to enact it and start to make it all happen. It’s important to remember however, that all plans and goals should be flexible, at least to some degree.
It sounds contradictory to have a plan that you are ready to change from the outset, but that’s the nature of the ever-evolving music industry.
It can be a matter of only weeks when new systems supersede old ones, where Internet policy and digital delivery services alter their structure, and those changes may directly affect your plan.
Just expect it, and you’ll be fine. When an adjustment or tweak to your plan is required, pull everyone together, discuss it, and reach consensus.
Be open and clear with your team at all times.
Keeping everyone in the loop is essential throughout this process. The moment a change occurs, without consulting the team who created the goals and implemented the plan, you begin the downward spiral into chaos.
Keep them informed and be fair and understanding of everyone’s personal situations.
Then you’ll stay ahead of the game.
And so there I was…
For me unfortunately, I learned all this the hard way. I never had a mentor, and from my early disastrous beginnings with Hobby Horse, every failure proved to be an opportunity to learn how to survive and succeed in the music industry.
It wasn’t until the mid 90’s with Holocene and Alcotomic, followed by my band Prettymess in the early 2000’s, that the penny actually dropped for me. Only then did the importance of planning and having a music goal really begin to set in.
I would love to have been given this information when I was 19, so that I could have been aware of the pitfalls that happen for a band that hopes to have success without a shared (and well articulated) direction and plan.
That’s why I’m sharing this with you, now.
As I’ve noted throughout this blog and podcast series, take what you need from each episode, and apply it to whatever your situation is.
It doesn’t matter one iota if you play twice a month for fun with your mates or you are a serious dream chaser looking for a full-time career in music.
In fact, playing for fun with your mates without a killer plan can in some ways be more enjoyable and fulfilling than giving up everything for that one huge break that often never comes.
We’re all very easily lured into thinking we are on the cusp of greatness, and that giving up your day job is the only way to go.
I’m going to tell you now though, giving up your day job is not the way to go, because I did just that and suffered greatly for it.
If you’re serious, have well-defined goals and a great flexible plan, work hard, and keep your day job.
You’ll know if something is about to blow up and you can respond appropriately when that happens.
Until then, just keep making great music.
What about you?
Do you and your team understand the importance of planning and creating goals? Have you experienced the loss of direction by not having set goals or a shared plan?
You can leave your comments and any questions below. You can also follow me on Instagram @indieconfidential.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or whatever streaming service you’re using. That way you’ll be notified when my weekly episode is available.
In the next episode of Indie Confidential, I will digging onto the myths and BS that exists in the music industry.
There are some rippers, so be sure to subscribe to ensure you you’re informed of when it’s available, until then get working on your plan.
I’ll catch you soon.