Every young artist has their reasons for working hard at their music, yet so rarely do they ever define these reasons to themselves, bandmates, and their team. Some reflective thinking and sharing could lead to a great deal of clarity when running your business (well, band).
I’ve seen success get in the way of an artist’s core values and goals too many times. Sure, goals are allowed to change and augment, as circumstances do, but too often do great goals get lost, and that bands fold on the brink of their success, and abandon everything they have worked so hard for.
Thinking about these questions and sharing the answers with your team might be hard, but it could help bring you back to what’s important OR save you from wasting your time with the wrong team, and pursuing your career aimlessly in different directions that will never connect.
I realize there is, of course, that underlying passion and urgency that we all have that tells us we MUST work in music and there’s no other choice. My point is to not question that feeling (always trust that feeling), but instead use that gut feeling and turn it in to productive aids in defining you career goals and path. The 2nd important aspect is to show you the importance of clearly communicating that with your team.
This advice is not just for musicians but could be useful for any business owners. Asking these questions will prepare you for future curveballs and ultimately protect your dream. Stay focused and you just might get everything you’ve ever wanted!
Question #1: Do I need validation in order to feel that my music is good?
What factors do I use to rate my musical output? Are these factors productive and healthy, or are they holding me back from taking risks? Who do I trust to give great feedback on my music and why? When writing do I think a lot about what different people are going to say or think? How do I think this affects my songs?
Question #2: By what terms do I measure success?
When thinking about success and my music career do I use a scale based on internal goals and surpassing them, or based on the market and my position in it? Do I have a balance between internal goals and external position? Which element is more important to me? Why does one element (internal or external) weigh more than the other to me?
Question #3: As an entrepreneur and business owner, what are some of my biggest weaknesses?
What are areas I realize I am struggling in or I fear that I will? Why do I feel this way and is it justified? How do I plan on improving my skills in this area and ensuring that this weakness does not get in the way of my career development? Are these weaknesses tied to particular insecurities I have due to past experiences? How do I ensure I don’t let these insecurities make bad business decisions for my career?
Question #4: What elements of my career bring me the most stress?
Can I handle those elements always being present? What tools do I have that can help me manage this stress? Why does this element cause so much stress?
Question #5: Do I trust and believe in my partners (band mates, team etc.)?
Do I have any doubts that they might not be on the same page? How will I address these feelings if I ever did? Do we all envision the same ideal situation for our career success? Do I trust them to represent and share the same morals and standards with me? Do I enjoy hearing their feedback and asking their help when it comes to my career? Do they challenge me in healthy ways on a regular basis? How do I communicate my needs as an artist and human being to my team? Is it a constructive work environment?
Question #6: Do I believe I can be the biggest artist/band in the world with unwavering confidence in myself and my team?
This question is hard to admit, but sometimes to achieve big scary goals you have to say things that may sound a bit crazy. I truly think that, to be the biggest band in the world, you don’t get there by believing that you’re not ever going to be there. You need to believe that you are going to get there and can.
So… Can I be the biggest band in the world? What raises doubt and gets me down? What or who can help me keep on track in these moments of doubt?
Sure one could argue that it’s healthy to have some doubts to help propel you forward but there is a difference between some small doubts and a big gloomy doom monster lurking in your gut. Ask yourself, Do I have a big gloomy doom monster lurking in my gut?
Question #7: Am I ready to really truly work and give everything to this dream?
Is there anything holding me back? Are there any side projects, other careers, or back up plans left open ended that I need to tie up? Do I care what my friends and family think of my career choice? Do I enjoy working all hours of the day and night? Am I ready to really develop a serious work ethic and push through the aspects of this career that are unenjoyable? What am I willing to sacrifice?
Question #8: Is there a point in my career where I see myself hanging my hat up?
What is that point and why? How did I arrive on this idea? If I do have a hat hanging moment, what will I do after the hat is hung?
Question #9: How do I want my writing and songs to affect people?
In detail, what do I want my listeners to think? What if they think or say the opposite? What would be the most flattering compliment someone could say about my writing?
And most importantly…
Question #10: What are the values I will consider when making hard career decisions?
What are the most important things for me when it comes to making a mark with my music? Will I always keep those at the forefront when decision making? What could potentially challenge those values down the road? In what order will I consider these values and why?
*I suggest writing this one down and reviewing it regularly!
The answers to these questions are to get you thinking, and there are certainly no right or wrong answers. Just the fact that you’re asking them and willing to try and answer them puts you ahead of the herd.
For the best results, sit down and share with your band and team. Get them to prepare their own answers as well and open up the floor. I will follow up with another post soon about band communication, but you will be surprised at what the answers to these questions could bring to light.
What do you think? Are there any other questions you ask yourself as an artist? Let us know your feedback and if you found this helpful!
Thank you for reading,
*Originally Published Feb. 2013 on MusicThinkTank
*Photo above: Ben Caplan and Katzenjammer Norway TV Appearance Dec 2012
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