How to Become a Successful Musician By Setting SMART Goals

The D.I.Y. Rock Career: Planning

Part 3 - How to Become a Successful Musician By Setting SMART Goals

The D.I.Y. Rock Career - How to become a successful musician with a 90-day growth plan

Have you ever thought that it seems like an uphill battle to make money with your band?

Have you ever wanted to record a full-length album, but the costs are too high for you to foot the bill?

Have you dreamed of signing a record deal in the hopes that you will become a worldwide phenomenon and sell out arenas across the world, but right now you are lucky to get $100 per show for your band?

Well, if any of those three things have ever crossed your mind, or if you have ever just wanted to learn more about how to create a living income from your music, then I encourage you to read through "The D.I.Y. Rock Career's" blog series that I will be publishing in the coming weeks to allow you to get a better grasp about what it is that you are missing from your current band’s strategy to create solid income and live a life filled with music as your career.

But first, let me quickly introduce myself.

My name is Isaac Kuhlman, and no I am not a world famous musician. 

Nor am I even a paid musician by career. 

And no, I don’t have a background from a record label.

You might be thinking, “Well, then why the heck am I even reading this then?”

You would be smart to question the advice of someone who is not “living the life” of the thing they are talking about. 

Why am I even talking about music then?

Well, rock music is my absolute passion. 

I have played guitar since I was 11 years old (and still do) as well as drums, sing/songwrite, and play bass guitar.

The Powered By Rock Podcast

I am also actively involved in the promotion of rock music through my podcast The Powered By Rock Podcast, our social media platforms, through community and local rock music involvement in Las Vegas, and through the website which has articles, album reviews, gear to help musicians, and more.

The reality is that I am putting out this information to help my high school self and ANYONE else who is like that kid wishing to someday play for big crowds and record albums that people love.

And if there was ANY available information for me when I was in a punk band in high school on how I could actually make a career out of it, I would probably still be an active musician.

I will also tell you that I have been a part of online business consulting programs that have done over $5 million dollars developing business owners on becoming better at running their businesses.

On top of that, I have helped build e-commerce brands that have done over $13 million dollars in sales since 2013.

Does all of that revenue come back to me in the form of profit? 

Hell no. I wish it did, but that’s not how business works.

And guess what…that’s not how bands work either.

Because whether you like to admit it or not, EVERY band is a business. Let me say that again, because a lot of artists want to believe in the carefree attitude of, “No, we are just jamming and having fun.”

That’s all fine and great, but as soon as you play ONE SHOW, write ONE SONG, record ONE TRACK, or even purchase ONE INSTRUMENT, you are making a business decision with your band.

EVERY BAND IS A BUSINESS. This goes for solo artists/musicians as well.

So, what does a guy who has run successful businesses and helped consult on and turn around business to be more successful know about helping bands make money then?

I would answer that question with one of my favorite self quotes I have used for years: “Business is business is business.”

Business is business is business - quote by Isaac Kuhlman

Meaning, all businesses run on pretty much the same concepts, and to have a successful business, you need to follow the right advice, make great plans, execute the plans, create a great company culture, and so many other things that anyone who is NOT aptly prepared to run a business probably shouldn’t be trying to make money with their music either.

Hopefully, that makes it pretty clear as to why you might want to listen to me and not Tommy Lee or some other rockstar who likely doesn’t know the ins and outs of business but really just capitalized on their band’s management to help them achieve success.

Because, in the end, your band’s success depends equally on how well it is MANAGED as much as how great the music is.

And when you first start your journey as a band (heck, maybe even for years…or even forever) you will be managing your band to a large extent.

Now, let me get back to helping you set your goals for your band to point steer you towards success.

I will say that this step will only be possible if you actually do the 2 steps in the process I have laid out before this which are:

Step 1 - Answer the Question, “WHY Do You Want to Become a Successful Musician?”

Step 2 - Create the Vivid Vision for Your Band’s Success

So, if you haven't read and taken action on those two articles yet, then I suggest you head there now as this is a bit of a chronological journey, and this article will be here when you get done with those ones.

Skipping parts of the process to "short cut" your success path will actually do the opposite. It's like building a house of cards. When a slight breeze comes by, the whole thing comes crashing down.

INDIE ARTIST SECRET - Most bands fail because they don’t even know what it is they are trying to achieve!

“I want to be rich and famous.”

“I want to never have to work a day job and only play music for money.”

“I want to sell out arenas and make millions.”

If you looked at those statements, you might ASSUME that those are goals, right?

Well, in business, we don’t refer to those as goals.

We refer to statements like these as “aspirations.”

Basically, they are your HOPES that one day something may come true, and you will fulfill your destiny that you have for yourself.

Anyone that knows anything about any business will tell you that a GOAL is actually something that has a PLAN attached to it.

There is a famous saying that expresses this perfectly:

A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Then how do you actually figure out what goals are real, and what you want to achieve with your music?

Let’s talk about how you can create your first “S.M.A.R.T.” Goal for your band.

Okay, here’s a $10 business word that a lot of people use, but many people rarely understand, because if they did, it is actually more like a $100,000 business word.

A S.M.A.R.T. goal is a goal that you set for yourself in the near future (over 12-18 months from now) that is both a BIG thing you want to achieve AND something that is REALISTICALLY POSSIBLE. 

The acronym stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.”

DIY Rock Career - SMART Goal Acronym

What that means:

SPECIFIC - The SMART goal has to be something that is specific to you coming closer to your Vivid Vision and being successful and happy with your music career and your life goals. 

For example, while making a million dollars would be great, why don't you focus on something specific that is more achievable in the next year like, "I want to make $3,000 in income per month from my music career so I can work 3 days a week to cover expenses and turn my music career into a more full time career."

It's not inconceivable to think that this specific number could be achieved in 12-18 months, and it might be about halfway to your 3-year Vivid Vision as well.

So, try to think of a specific goal you want to achieve during this next year to year-and-a-half.

MEASUREABLE - You should be able to measure the success of your goal. Meaning, there is likely going to be a number or a concept that you set forth that you can look at and say, “I hit that goal 100%,” Or “I hit that goal 75%.”

For example, if you decide that you want to make $5,000 in monthly income from your music in 18 months, then when the 18 months are up, you should be able to look at your goal and see how close you came to the goal. 

If you are making $5,000 or more, then you hit the goal or exceeded it.

If you are still making $0 in income or less than your goal, you can look at the last 18 months and take inventory on where you went wrong and you can adjust things accordingly. 

Though, if you are waiting until the 18th month to make an adjustment, you are probably 15 or 16 months behind where you would be if you learned how to adjust as you go.

ATTAINABLE - This is the part of the goal because where there should be some semblance of sanity here.

You can probably make seemingly impossible things happen over a long period of time, but we are only focusing on the next 12-18 months...which usually focuses on a more grounded approach to the goal. 

There’s a fine line between taking a HUGE step and taking the NEXT BIG step in terms of managing your success.

For example, if I just say, “I want to make $1 million a year in the next 18 months,” then that is like asking to hit the lottery.

Sure it IS possible, but the probability of that happening (unless you are on your way to hitting that mark already) is not very high.

Instead, think of the attainable part as something that you need to accomplish in order to make the bigger vivid vision happen.

So, if you need to quit your day job so that you can pursue music full time, then maybe that is your “next big step” in order to achieve your vivid vision.

TIP: Don’t quit your day job now and say, “Oh, but the blog said I need to quit my day job to achieve my goals.”

It is almost certain that at some point you DO need to quit working a day job in order to fulfill your life goals as a musician, BUT don’t do it without at least putting yourself in a good position to limit your risk of becoming homeless, broke, and destitute. 

The reality is most people in bands are still working day jobs. 

Conversely, if a lot of those musicians really focused on growing their careers progressively and had a good plan with a system attached to their success, they may not have to keep that day job.

The point being, if you choose a realistic goal like quitting your job, think about what that means for your band/music career.

You need to have INCOME from your music to pay your bills, and/or you need to make steps toward drastically changing your life as it is right now.

RELEVANT - This part just takes into account whether or not you are trying to pursue a goal that is actually relevant to the vision you set for your music career.

So, if you say that your next SMART goal is to be a Tik Tok star with a bunch of viral videos, it is likely that you are not looking at that through the lens of whether or not that is good for your music career or if that is just something that is somewhat related.

Hyper focus on your music and ways to grow your visibility for that music specifically first, and if Tik Tok is part of that visibility, then so be it, but it shouldn't be the actual goal.

TIME-BOUND - This simply means that you need to add a deadline to your goal so that way you know when you can assess whether you hit the goal on time or not.

Parkinson’s Law dictates that a deadline will be met regardless of how much time you give yourself to achieve it. Meaning, if you give yourself 10 years to hit something, it will take you 10 years to hit it. If you give yourself 1 year to hit your goal, you are more likely to achieve it in that 1 year.

Don’t be crazy and stack the odds against you though by choosing too quick of a timeframe, because this will kill your confidence if you don’t hit it. 

Conversely, being too afraid to grab your dreams by the reins is going to really slow your progress and kill your momentum to achieve something that could potentially be accomplished sooner if you just didn’t pick a long deadline.

This is why we say to pick 12-18 months depending on the goal. 

Any shorter, and a big goal is likely to fail, and any longer, you could probably push yourself a little harder to get to your goal sooner.

It’s like Snickers ads say, “Hungry? Why wait?” 

If you want something, don’t keep putting it off. The more you do, the more likely you never attempt to achieve it.

Push yourself, but don’t grind yourself to the bone either.

Download the FREE Rock Band SMART Goals for Success Template to create your own big goal that you want to achieve in the next 12-18 months to help you get closer to hitting the vision of your music career.

Keep your eyes peeled for more blogs on how to help your band grow into an entity that can actually pay you for making the music that you want to make.

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