Here’s a giant misconception around making music:
“Having success in music means chasing a dream and waiting on luck to get you there.“
This thinking is problematic.
I cringe sometimes when I ask beginning songwriters and artist what their goals are and their response is “To chase my dreams and be a successful musician.”
There are three parts of this statement that are dicey:
success in music
chasing a dream
Ok so why is this whole get-lucky, dream-chasing thing an issue?
A couple of reasons. Let’s break down each of the phrases above and see why they’re hurting you more than helping you:
1. There’s nothing definitive about “being a successful songwriter.”
Like, what does that even mean??
When I ask a songwriter who’s just moved to town about their goals, and they respond with “finding success in the industry” all I hear is “Buzzword buzzword buzzword.” My immediate response to them is “How so?”
What does “success”mean to you?
Anyone in any creative field (and especially music) needs to spend some time defining what success looks like for them. What does “successful in music” look like to you?
Is your definition of success selling out every stop on your national stadium tour? Or is success recording your first album? Perhaps success for you looks like winning Songwriter of the Year at the CMA’s, or maybe it’s getting cuts on a regular basis.
Success is different from person to person, and you are so much less likely to find that success if you can’t define it and communicate it to others.
2. “Chasing a dream” is troublesome because it takes the power out of your hands.
To say that you’re chasing a dream and hoping to stumble upon some open doors means that you’re a passive presence in your own life.
You’re letting fate take the reins and whatever happens happens. If your music happens to “speak to the masses” and the masses begin to support you, then you must be one of the lucky ones.
This kind of thinking is exactly what leads to bitter songwriters who feel snubbed by the music industry and anyone who ever didn’t care for their music.
No songwriter out there should sit back, write the occasional song, and then be pissed off when that song doesn’t obtain some level of magical notoriety that was never defined.
We have to WORK for it, honey!
Being successful in music requires a ton of work, and that’s true for every area of the industry. So instead of saying you’re chasing your dreams, say you’re working hard to reach your goals!
3. “Luck” plays a role, but you can’t count on it.
Yes, sometimes people do get lucky. Sometimes a demo winds up in an exec’s hand and it leads to a record deal. Or a newbie songwriter happens to be invited to a cowrite at the last minute with an emerging artist that goes on to become a hit.
Luck does appear from time to time, but it’s unfair to think that luck is the powerhouse force behind any successful artist or songwriter.
Songwriters work really hard. Musicians work really hard. Artists work really hard. Some people do get lucky from time to time, but everyone is working their ass off.
Luck isn’t a given, so you can’t wait around for it. You’ve got to put in the hard work to see real movement toward your goals!
And I’m willing to bet that you’d be surprised what you can achieve without luck.
Here’s how to stop the dreaming and turn your dream into a plan.
You can absolutely start working toward the success you’re looking for with your music. You just need to have a plan.
A plan is essential because it helps us define what we want, make steps to attain it, and measure our progress to see how far we’ve come and if we need to reassess.
Without a plan, it feels a lot like slogging through the tough stuff with no end in sight.
So let’s start the first step in your plan today by setting SMART goals!
Have you heard of SMART goals before? It’s a method that’s been floating around the internet for years now, usually in the freelance/solo entrepreneur and marketing spaces. It’s a fantastic strategy for anyone looking to set up their goals in the most effective way. It’s especially great for creative types like us songwriters.
How SMART goals work:
You’ll first want to start with your big goal, then break it down into little goals to meet along the way. (I have a blog post on that here.) But what makes a goal SMART?
SMART goals are:
Having goals that are SMART makes them much easier to meet, because you’ve made these goals reasonable!
Goals that are SMART are a lot easier to digest. SMART goals give you expectations, rather than vague, pie-in-the-sky dreams.
Let’s dive into the details and create your own SMART goals. Download my SMART Goals for Songwriters worksheet below we’ll talk about how to define your big goal, and how to break it down into SMART mini-goals. The worksheet also has some great tech resources you can use to get your goals set up and in front of yo face every day!