Goal Setting for Songwriters

Songwriters have dreams.

Songwriters dream about writing songs and building up a collection of work they’re proud of. We dream of garnering some sort of recognition for our craft. Even some of us dream of taking our songs to the stage, to the airwaves, across the country or the world. Songwriters have dreams and the

Songwriters have dreams, but dreams should always come with plans.

A dream without a plan is just a fantasy.

Dreams are beautiful, inspiring things. They provoke us, they wake us up, they give us the fire to get up and chase them. But a dream can just as easily slip through your fingers if you don’t back it up with a plan. Even the biggest, most intimidating dreams can come true if you give yourself the right kind of steps.

So let’s talk steps.

I want to get you to your dreams. I want you to run the marathon, pass go, collect $200, and then charge through the extra mile. So let’s start with step one: Defining your goals.

One of the most important questions every songwriter has to ask herself is this:

Step 1: Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this songwriting thing?”

You’ll want to define why you’re even doing this songwriting thing at all, so you can get a better understanding of where you can go. 

Why do you write? What do you envision for yourself when you think about the future of your writing? What do you want to do with your songs? Where do you want to see them go? Do you want them to go anywhere at all?

Are you writing because you simply enjoy it, and would perfectly fulfilled if your songs never left your house? Do you want artists and bands to record them? Do you want to hear them on the radio? Do you want to sing them yourself and sell out global arena tours? Narrow down your goals so that you can start reaching them. All these examples require different paths and different mindsets.

So ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Be honest with yourself and it will serve your soul in the long run.

Step 2: Write down your big picture goals

These are the pie in the sky big dreams you have. The ultimate. The end all. The kind of stuff that seems impossible but your heart is still drawn so intensely toward them you fear you might burst. Write these bad boys down. (I suggest using a cute new notebook that inspires the heck outta you) Maybe they include:

  • Getting a pub deal
  • Becoming a staff songwriter
  • Getting a Billboard #1 hit
  • Getting multiple Billboard #1’s
  • Winning a Grammy

Write down all your heavyweight dreams. Don’t tell yourself that they’re unrealistic or unachievable. Just write them down with no judgement on yourself.

Step 3: Start your goal outline – Break these big goals down into smaller pieces

Now, let’s chop up your path to these big goals. When you break down your biggest, most intimidating dreams into bitesized chunks, they start to feel a lot more achievable.

This backwards to break it down. What are the steps that will lead up to achieving your goal? Let’s use “Winning a Grammy for a song I’ve written” as an example. Disclaimer, here: I’ve never won a Grammy myself. I’ve had a song nominated, so I’m familiar with the nomination process and what it took to get to that point. So let’s roll with this for example purposes!

 

My main goal is to win a Grammy. Ok. So to do that, I have to have a song nominated.

Before that, the song needs to be cut by someone who has the resources to submit it for nomination.

Before that, it has to be a damn good song.

If I can’t write Grammy worthy damn good songs, I need to write more songs.

To do that, I may need to book more cowrites to build up my catalog and skills quickly.

 

Awesome, you’ve begun to outline your path to your goal! Let’s take this a step further.

Step 5: Break down each point on your outline

You can clearly see your dream starting to develop into an path, but there are still a lot of gaps to fill in. Like, how the heck can I get an artist or band to cut my song? When will I know a song is Grammy worthy? What even are the right resources to submit a song for nomination? Let’s fill in some of those gaps. Take a look at your outline and break down each section into actionable, achievable mini-goals.

 

My main goal is to win a Grammy. Ok. So to do that, I have to have a song nominated.

Research Grammy nomination process

Before that, the song needs to be cut by someone who has the resources to submit it for nomination.

Look into lead-sheets – RowFax, Taxi, Music X-Ray

Start pitching songs

Grow relationship with local artists/bands

Co-write with local artists/bands

Before that, it has to be a damn good song.

Submit current songs for critiques

Look into NSAI membership for critiques

Create a Frettie profile for critiques

Send songs to songwriter friends and ask for their input

Dedicate time to re-writes

Go on songwriter retreats

If I can’t write Grammy worthy damn good songs, I need to write more songs.

Commit to new writing schedule – ex. 1 new song a week

Clear time in your daily life to write every day

To do that, I may need to book more cowrites to build up my catalog and skills quickly.

Book co-writing sessions with songwriter friends

Make new songwriter friends by sending cold emails on NSAI or Frettie

Co-write with local artists/bands

 

This is not an exhaustive list to what it takes to win a Grammy. There’s a lot we could put in here, such as networking, making the move to a music center, recording demos for your songs, working with hit songwriters – the list could go on and on.

Whatever your goal may be, break it up into an outline full of mini goals. This will instantly make it feel less daunting.

Ok, now here’s where the magic happens.

Step 6: Give your mini-goals realistic dates

Date those bad boys! Be honest with yourself and assign dates that you realistically think you can meet. This is entirely based on you and your life and your schedule. No one can tell you what you do with your time.  Give yourself a good mix of grace and kick-in-the-ass so you reach your mini-goals feeling good!

Grab your planner and start filling in your timeline:

 

My main goal is to win a Grammy. Ok. So to do that, I have to have a song nominated.

Research Grammy nomination process – This week

Before that, the song needs to be cut by someone who has the resources to submit it for nomination.

Look into lead-sheets – RowFax, Taxi, Music X-Ray – Tomorrow on lunch

Start pitching songs – This week

Grow relationship with local artists/bands – Spend this year getting to know local music scene personally

Co-write with local artists/bands – Book first session for 2 weeks from today

Before that, it has to be a damn good song.

Submit current songs for critiques – Start tonight!

Look into NSAI membership for critiques – Research today, purchase Friday (if necessary)

Create a Frettie profile for critiques – Tonight!

Send songs to songwriter friends and ask for their input – Friday…

 

You, my friend, now have a direct pathway to your goals. You know every little step you’ll have to take, and when you’re going to take it.

Feels good, right?

Make note of any roadblocks & plans around them

Of course, you may run into some stumbling blocks along the way. What if you don’t have the finances to demo that fantastic song you want to pitch? What if your local music scene is non-existant, and you need to plan a co-writing trip to Nashville? Things like this will come up along the way, so it’s good to try to anticipate them. Have a plan in place for anything you can foresee. Anything you can’t, adjust the path and stay the course.

Some final thoughts before you start chasing after those big dreams:

Find friends who are in it with you. They will be your support system. Journey together with them.

Meditate. Visualize. These techniques are more powerful than they seem.

Now that your goals are written down, keep them out where you can see them. Every day. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Hold yourself accountable. Be responsible for pulling your weight in this.

Don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself some grace. It’s ok if you don’t make that deadline every now and then, life happens.

Make a calendar. Set reminders. Hold yourself to it.

Dreams can change. And that’s ok, too.

Write on, friends.

I’ve been in the process of developing a course all about finding inspiration – sign up to get first access and previews! 

The goal of this course is to get you coming up with too many ideas to count, writing more songs, and writing songs you absolutely love. If that sounds like you, sign up below and I’ll let you know when it releases!

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  • http://hitthegem.com Allyn Lewis

    Hi Sarah! Do you know of any quality Facebook Groups for musicians – ones where people actually have rich conversations about music related topics and connect with one another instead of just promoting links? =)

    • Sarah Spencer

      Hey Allyn! Oh heck yeah I do! One of my girlfriends runs an amazing Facebook group for musicians and industry professionals, called Music Biz Besties. This is hands down my favorite group. Check it out! https://www.facebook.com/groups/musicbizbesties