One of the hardest things that I've had to wrap my head around as far as managing my career as musician is the whole process of planning. A lot of things about being a musician I felt couldn't be planned. I had gotten to the point where I was pretty proficient at my instrument, gone to college and university, had been in a couple of bands and toured yet never sat down to make any sort of plan. I figured that if I had made it this far without a plan, why should I start now? I also felt that planning might take away some opportunities that I might miss or would take away all of the spontaneity and fun of being a musician. Most of all I really felt like being a musician was nothing that you could plan and I might turn the corner tomorrow with a new opportunity that I could have never planned in my wildest dreams. I really felt like as a musician, you basically had to ride by the seat of your pants.
No Plan At All
I'm sure that you've heard the story; a young band starts out, does a couple of shows, and in no time at all end up getting signed and selling a ton of records. It's the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of. It almost seems like some people seem to do much better without putting too much thought into it. I read an article by one of the members of the Grateful Dead who said that anytime they made a conscious effort to do anything and sat down to make some concrete plans, it would usually fail. Whereas when they just went ahead and did what they felt like, without much planning and forethought, they were successful. Some people, not just musicians, also seem to get far with this mindset; succeeding in life without taking any time out to make specific plans. The fact is that most successful people plan. Studies have shown that a critical factor in highly successful people is that they write down their goals.They focus on one thing and make the effort to get that one thing done.They do things intuitively that most of use have to learn and take time out to do. We are usually unsure about what it is that we want to accomplish how to go about making our dreams a reality. You simply have to write down what it is that you want to accomplish and then take action everyday to realize those goals. With music, art and life, there are also things that you could never predict; you can only prepare and plan and see how things turn out. The Grateful Dead were an incredibly successful group that sold millions of records and were one of the most popular touring groups of all time. Ultimately, you could never plan that. You may find that you can still get a lot done if you are motivated to get out there and do it.
Highly successful people write down their goals; the key here is the word 'write'.
The Problem With Problems
So can't I just take things as they come up? Why do I need a plan ? The problem arises when problems arise. Let me explain that. Anytime you take on any endeavor, you are inevitably going to come across some problems. You are also going to get to the point where you don't know what to do next. You may also be at the point where you realize that what you're doing isn't working and you either need a new plan of attack or a completely new plan. The point is that it becomes necessary at this point to make some sort of plan and make some decisions. Even though the Grateful Dead were never successful at making any grand business plans, they were successful in creating one of the most successful live bands of all time. You're going to come across a situation where you're going to have to sit down and make some decisions and figure out what the best things for you to do next. We all know the value of making plans. So how do we apply this to being a musician and mapping out the best way to become a success?
Looking at the Big Picture
There a couple of ways that you can create a plan that will ultimately help you get where you want to go. The key here is figuring out where it is that you want to go. Sitting down and making plans makes you start to look at the big picture and makes you ask yourself some serious questions. You want to sit down and figure out where it is that you are right now and where it is that you want to go. It's a good idea to be specific here. Saying that you want to be a superstar in the next 2 years just doesn't cut it. If you can describe exactly what you want to accomplish, you will be much better off in making those goals a reality. If you are a singer, you want to describe the style of music that you'd like to do, if you're going to write the material or get other writers, if you're going to have a band, etc. Some people start off and they have no idea what it is that they want to do; they just go in every direction hoping that something will click. Some people don't even care; they just want to be a star. I'm putting it to you here that if you want to take control of your career and have a greater chance for success, then you should have an idea of what you want and how to get there. You'll find that as soon as you get out there and start getting things done, you'll learn more about what to do next and you may find things happening as a result of your efforts.
The basic formula:
1) Figure out who you are
2) Figure out what is it you want to do
3) Create a plan to achieve your goals
4) Put that plan in action
Simple yet tough.
If you're one of these people who isn't sure of exactly what it is that they want to do or are confused about what it is that they should be doing don't worry, make the plans anyway. The biggest point here about making plans for a career in music is that these plans aren't written in stone and they will change. We do want to sit down though and figure out what it is that we want to do and have some sort of direction. Just grabbing anything that comes your way may result in some success but you're really just playing the lottery and we all know what those odds are. Once you sit down and start making plans and getting things done, even if you're not sure of exactly what to do, it will become a little clearer of what it is you should be doing. You're usually much better off deciding on some sort of direction and making plans to see that plan to completion. Your plans may change but once you've accomplished something by planning and making it happen, it becomes easier the second time around. It's also helps in keeping focused on achieving what you want to do and not just reaching for anything that comes your way. That way, you are in control of the direction of your career and when something unexpected does come up (as they usually do) you'll be better equipped to deal with it more effectively.