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From Dream to Reality: Achieving Success as a Musician through Goal Setting

Being an independent artist means wearing many hats. You’re not only a creative but also a business owner, responsible for all the marketing, promotion, finance, and management of your career. . Managing even one of these roles can be stressful. As an artist, setting realistic goals and outlining a plan to achieve them is critical to a successful career.

Goal setting, when done correctly, provides the vision, balance, and motivation that artists need to create a sustainable career in the music industry. Goals help keep you on track in every aspect of your job.

Please keep reading to learn about SMART goals and how to apply them as an independent artist.

Understanding the importance of goal setting

Thomas Carlyle once said, "A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder." This is as true for musicians as it is for any other career. If you don't set goals, your career may progress, just as a boat may get where it wants to go just by the nature of the tides. But to ensure the best chance of getting where you want to in your music career, you need to steer the boat.

But not all goals are created equal. "I want to be famous” might seem like a good goal, but it is a vague goal with an open-ended time frame. “I want to have 1,000 Spotify listeners by the end of the year” is a much better goal because it is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

SMART goals are widely accepted as a best practice across industries and can be applied quite effectively by those self-managing their music career.

Examples of SMART goals for a musician could include:

-performing 50 shows by the end of 2023

-increasing your Spotify listeners by 30% each month,

-collaborating with five more prominent artists by the end of the year.

Regardless of your music goals, frame them in a well-defined (specific), possible (attainable), relevant, and time-bound way. 

Setting goals for your music career over multiple time horizons

Once you've established a few long-term SMART goals, it is wise to break them into more actionable chunks over shorter time frames. Short-medium- and long-term goals for your music career allow you to plan your next steps and measure your progress.

Short-term goals can be completed on a week-to-week basis, including performing two shows this weekend, scheduling a single for release next month, or meeting two local venue owners.

You can think of medium-term goals that can be accomplished in one to three months. They may even be recurring. Such goals could range from gaining 1,000 followers on Instagram each month to selling out your order of band tees within three months to hiring a new band member.

Long-term goals could take a year, or they could take a decade. They culminate as the lifetime accomplishments of your music career. These could range from playing The Grand Old Opry to making enough money as a musician to make it your full-time job to going on a month-long European tour.

Having SMART goals for the next week, month, year, and even decade will help you remain motivated and focused as you navigate your music career.

Turning your music goals into an action plan

Let's take an example goal and build a sample timeline and action plan to give you a sense of what it looks like to take a medium-term SMART goal into action! A lack of planning is a top reason for not hitting seemingly attainable goals.

Goal: Sell $2,000 worth of merchandise in 3 months with one month lead time.

Note: This is an example goal. Let's assume it is both relevant and attainable for our example artists. Based on your following, resources, and frequency of performing, you may need to change this goal for it to qualify as SMART.

Sample action plan and timeline for music career goal

Step 1: Research and product development (2 weeks)

  • Determine your target market and what type of merch they buy. You can do this by looking at what other bands like yours sell or what fans have asked for in the past.
  • Create a design that caters to your audience's interests and preferences.
  • If you are hiring a designer, this may extend the timeline for this goal based on their availability. 
  • Source reliable suppliers and determine production costs.
  • Set pricing for the items you plan to order and ensure you can profit.
  • Determine how much you need to order to sell $2,000 of merch.
  • Say you plan to sell shirts for $20. This means ordering 100 shirts to sell in three months. If this is not attainable, then it is no longer a SMART goal, and you should adjust accordingly. 
  • Order merchandise.
  • Set up an online store and ensure it's easy to navigate and optimized for online conversions. Ideally, it also allows pre-orders.

Step 2: Marketing and promotion (2-week set-up and ongoing effort)

  • Launch a social media campaign to raise awareness of the new merch line and take pre-orders
  • Reach out to your email list to alert them of early access to your new merch line and build anticipation of the drop date
  • Build a content calendar with a posting schedule for posting throughout the 3-month sales effort

Step 3: Sales and fulfillment (3 months, ideally while actively on tour or playing a high volume of local/regional shows)

  • Offer a discount to fans who purchase merchandise at live shows. You will be saving on the hassle and cost of shipping, and it incentivizes your most loyal fans to act in person.
  • Post regularly on social media and utilize your mailing list to drive sales. 
  • Offer special promotions to keep fans engaged and encourage repeat purchases.

Step 4: Evaluation and next steps

  • Evaluate the success of the merch sales campaign and determine what worked well and what could be improved.
  • Set a new sales goal and develop an action plan.
  • Continuously monitor sales and adjust the plan to meet the goal.

By following this timeline and action plan, the goal of selling $2,000 worth of t-shirts for your band should be achievable. As we've mentioned, this is just an example and may need to be adjusted to suit your specific circumstances, but it provides a general framework for reaching your goals.


Turning your musical goals into an action plan can be a powerful way to turn your aspirations into reality. To get started, it's essential to identify your specific goals and determine the steps needed to get them done. Whether you're looking to improve your playing skills, build a fanbase, or advance your career in music, breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable tasks can help you stay focused and motivated.

Once you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, it's time to create a timeline for reaching your goals. This should include a set of milestones that you can use to track your progress and keep yourself accountable. It may also be helpful to establish a regular practice schedule, allocate time for networking and marketing, and set aside time to focus on your mental and physical health.

Finally, staying motivated and keeping your goals front and center is essential. This can be done by seeking support from other musicians, enlisting the help of a mentor, or simply reminding yourself of why you started in the first place. By staying committed to your goals, remaining flexible and open to new opportunities, and never giving up, you'll be well on your way to realizing your full potential as a musician.

Sophie Randolph

As the founder of Green Room, Sophie Randolph is dedicated to providing innovative solutions that empower touring entertainers to take control of their careers. Before Green Room, Sophie worked in operations and customer success roles for startups, managed emerging artists, and completed her MBA at Rice University.

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