Many bands and musicians are chasing a goal that is intangible at best, and perpetually unattainable at worst. They want to “get big.” There’s this unspoken definition of “making it big” and just by saying those three words, people think they have a general understanding of what that means, and that it’s what they want. The fact this “making it big” has become an actual goal for people shocks me. It’s vague, its a moving target, and there are no specific steps you can take that are guaranteed to help you achieve it. That doesn’t really sound like something I’d want to spend my life trying to attain. How about you?
In contrast, take the goal that’s the bane of many young musicians… and something people might hear from pressuring parents…. becoming a doctor… It might be the last thing you want to hear from your parents, but the truth is that’s an attainable goal. Maybe not for everyone, but at least it’s specific, there’s a definite finish-line, you KNOW when you’ve achieved it, and with a little research you could probably figure out what steps need to be taken in order to achieve it. There’d be some years of schooling, specific courses, some tests, and an internship at least. Then, if you pass all those obstacles, you could become a doctor, and achieve the goal.
“Making it big” is a sentiment, not a goal. Keeping with the doctor example, imagine you’re a kid in high-school who does want to become a doctor (a very noble profession for people who want to pursue it) and when someone asks you that dreaded question, what do you want to do with your life, you reply “I want to save people.” That’s not a goal, it’s an emotional sentiment, and a noble aspiration, but it’s the same as saying “I want to make it big.” It doesn’t really say anything specific. There’s a billion ways to “save people.” Becoming a doctor is one of them. But it’s a quantifiable, and attainable goal. Not necessarily easy, but that’s why not everyone who goes to med-school actually become doctors, and it’s why not every band is going to become successful, regardless your definition.
Try to think in more quantifiable terms and apply that to your music career… don’t just grasp at straws, and don’t chase intangibles. Set new goals for yourself. There’s long-term goals… I want to have a song I write become a hit song played all over the radio. I want to get nominated for a Grammy. I want to sell-out a concert at my hometown arena. Those are very difficult, long term goals, but at least you’d know when you’ve achieved them! But also consider that future doctors also have in-between goals… like passing midterms, or landing internships at their hospital of choice. So as a band, set in-between goals for yourself too… things like… I want to play 50 shows in 25 states by the end of next year. Or, I want to sell 5,000 downloads of my song. I want to create a mailing list of 10,000 fans. (note I said 10,000 FANS, not 10,000 people…. big difference). I want to double my merch-dollars-per-head in the next six months.
Quantifiable goals will help focus your efforts, plus give you some satisfaction of accomplishments along the way, which will only motivate you further, to set more goals, and accomplish more things!