What artist doesn't want to be the biggest in the world? That's pretty much every musician's dream. But to make that proper attempt, well, you need to set goals to help you get there. It's possible you may never reach the commercial summit, but you can enjoy much more than a modicum of success and make a living off your music. Whatever the case, you need to plot staggered, achievable goals and tick off the boxes on your list one by one. You can't cut the line. Here are three ways to set realistic, achievable goals for your music career.
1. Know your ceiling
If you play horror-themed grindcore or the Native American flute, you'll no doubt have a passionate, dedicated, niche audience that loves every note of the music you make. But will soccer moms, teenagers, cowboys, and the general mainstream be down with it? You need to ask yourself that question and answer it honestly.
If you play music that appeals to a microcosmic segment of people, you may not be able to reach a wider audience, and that's perfectly okay. But if there's an element of your sound or style that could appeal to a broader, more mainstream group, you need to figure out what that is and learn how to develop it. It could be something as simple as a unique hair color or an unusual instrument. You don't need to change who you are or what you do. But you do need to recognize what you have that will allow you to connect outside of your usual crowd.
2. Make lists (and use them)
This is critical. Make a list of goals. Make a few lists, actually. One list should be conservative goals, another should be pie-in-the-sky targets and ideas, and a third should be a list of business goals: form an LLC, open a business bank account, build your socials, etc. Be prepared to make a lot of lists.
You should take an honest look at your music and your career. Then take a financial inventory of what you've done, and what the end result was. Example: you borrowed $2,000 from your aunt to fund a recording and sold 5,000 downloads through word of mouth. Think about what you could achieve if you doubled that amount.
Then – and this is most important – work on checking off one or two things off your list each month. That way, you see and feel your accomplishments.
3. Learn from other musicians' career trajectories
You should be cognizant of your peers and their career trajectories. Try to keep track of what they're doing that's working and not working, and learn from that.
You should also look at the lay of the land for bigger bands you admire and trace their history and things they did, but come up with your own way to install their methods. Sure, you look at Metallica and want to do what they did. But remember that Metallica broke in a very different time and place in the music business. Look at their template and update it for the realities of here and now and your place in the world. Your next step could be as simple as hiring the right producer.
Setting achievable goals is a mixture of starting small and plugging away with a little bit of stars in your eyes. You need both in order to fully execute your dream.
Amy Sciarretto has 20 years of print and online bylines, from Kerrang to Spin.com to Revolver to Bustle, covering music, beauty, and fashion. After 12 years doing radio and publicity at Roadrunner Records, she now fronts Atom Splitter PR, her own boutique PR firm, which has over 30 clients. She also is active in animal charity and rescue.