How to Set Realistic Goals for Your Music Career
...and how to manage your unrealistic ones.
Starting a career in the music industry can be one of the most difficult and rewarding things you can ever do. In fact, the competition out there is as tough as ever and only those who persevere following their objectives will really make it.
Nowadays, thanks to the technological innovation, it is extremely easy to be seen and be listened compared to a few years ago. Just upload your music on any of the big platforms like Spotify, Youtube and Soundcloud and you can actually be discovered by someone and make it.
With such a big possibility of exposure, it is not surprising that so many people try to make it in this industry, sometimes with great success and sometimes with big disappointments.
Let’s focus first of all on what should be at the base of everything: your talent. Without that, it will be very hard to go anywhere. Talent however doesn’t mean perfection but coherency in what you do and the wish to do better every day. If you think about the most memorable singers, bands or DJS, a perfectionist is hardly what those great artists aspire to be.
Talent is not everything, however. Instead, being able to engage with your audience and being able to perform in front of people is what will make you go directly into people’s hearts.
Your image comes next. Be as unique as possible and people won’t easily forget you. This doesn’t mean dressing up as a clown, but make sure you are always true to yourself and that at the same time you are open minded enough to change what doesn’t work.
Your KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are measurable values that prove how effectively you are achieving your goals
Set Your Goals And KPIs
If all of the above checks and you want to start a career in the music business, make sure that you have a plan.
First of all, set your goals. Where do you want to be in the short term and in the long term? What is your main purpose? Is it to sell music online, play gigs or just getting your name out there on social media? Every artist has a different aim; just make sure you have yours in mind.
Your KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are measurable values that prove how effectively you are achieving your goals. Here are some examples:
- By the end of the first month after release day, I would like X downloads on Spotify
- By the end of the third month after release day, I would like X followers on Instagram
- By the end of the year, I would like to play X gigs
Make sure that you always set a deadline and an ideal figure: this will help you to stay on track and to be realistic.
...start small but dream big
Be Realistic & Structured
In order to avoid disappointments, it is fundamental that your goals are feasible. As you have decided to invest in your own project, think about yourself as a business. In order to grow, a business needs time, hard work and yes, some financial injection.
Before you start anything, create your very own business plan where you write in detail where you want to be in 3 months, in 6 months and in 1 year. Breaking down your journey will help you not to get overwhelmed and to focus more on what should be done first. Make sure your goals are realistic: it takes normally between 6 months and 1 year for any business to see the first results, so don’t expect to headline the main stage at Tomorrowland within a few weeks. Instead, my advice is always to start small but dream big. Approach your local clubs and venues and see if they can offer you a slot within their program.
At the beginning, your music should be where you put all your energy. Make sure that you are happy with what you produced and that you have a great quality product in your hands: there is no point in having a great song if the mastering part is not done properly and the sound is generally not good enough.
Secondly, you will need artwork, logos, pictures, videos and in general a good branding. Unless you are also talented in graphic design, keep in mind that all these assets normally cost money. Make sure you work together with a great graphic designer and video editors, as those professionals can really help you make a difference. An ugly and cheap-looking album cover will probably cut your plays even before people listen to your sound.
The third step should involve your music’s distribution on the main platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Beatport and much more. There are many distribution services out there, just ensure that you do your research and that you work only with professional companies who know what they are doing.
Once your music is ready to go, you should set up your social media channels and create your own website as this will be your window to the world. Very often, artists produce amazing music hoping to be randomly found on Spotify or on other platforms. As this happens sometimes, you still need different channels to help you spread your sound. Make sure your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are set up and ready to go once your release is out.
Once your journey officially starts, you need to remember your main goals and ensure that you are going in the right direction. Remember that especially nowadays, it is almost impossible to be seen on social media unless you invest money in ads and promotions. This is due to the infamous algorithms, which won’t show your content to many people unless you pay for it. However, always keep in mind that tools like Facebook Ads are still the best marketing machines in the world as you can target exactly the people that you think will be interested in your music.
Once again, ensure that your social media goals are achievable and most of all reasonable. This is very difficult nowadays because sometimes it is possible to see brand new IG profiles with thousand followers with only 1 picture posted. Don’t fall into the trap of buying followers and likes as this won’t really help you much in the long term. Instead, work together with a social media manager and make sure your content is spot on, creative, fun and unique. Don’t expect to have thousand followers in the first months but instead aim for a strong and organic growth: real followers means more than ghost followers.
While you are “out there”, don’t forget to keep track of your progress. In order to do this, a great idea could be to set up a KPIs tracking plan on Excel that should be updated every week with the new numbers.
Another way to evaluate your performance is to check your social media statistics on a weekly basis and ask yourself if you are happy with the results.
Another similar tool is Google Analytics, a great tool that will give you really detailed statistics about your website’s audience and their online behaviour.
How To Do Things Better
You did everything by the book and yet, your results are disappointing? In the beginning it is absolutely normal to get things wrong, but you will learn by doing. Making mistakes is the best way to learn things so don’t beat yourself up if things didn’t go as planned. Here is what you can do in order to make things better:
- Ask yourself if you really did give your best and invested all your energy in your project
- Re-evaluate your KPIs and your numbers as it's possible you were too unrealistic about them: make sure they are reasonable and feasible.
- Surround yourself with the right people. In fact, it could be a good idea in the beginning to ask the support of a music industry specialist, a social media manager or a PR agent.
- Don’t over complicate it and be flexible to adapt yourself because the music business is still nowadays one of the fastest changing industries out there.