Remember when you first started making music, how every show, every new fan, every kind word, or t-shirt bought made you feel like you were on top of the world? Somewhere along the way as you began to grasp the business side of the industry, you lost that sense of excitement and wonder at every opportunity or win that came your way—no matter how big or small. But learning to embrace and celebrate the small wins, leads to a slew of positive outcomes—including helping you accomplish your stretch goals even after.
So how do you begin to turn small wins into huge successes?
Shift your mindset
As we get deeper into our music career, things start to blur together. Where you may have once been excited to log onto social media and work those pages, now it just feels daunting. Where 25 people showing up to your show may have felt like the biggest compliment ever, you now stress when you see any less than 75. As our careers grow it’s natural that our goals change. But if we get so caught up in never being where we want to be, we’re going to miss out on all the amazing growth and opportunities, happening right in front of us. Closing ourselves off to that by way of constantly complaining, stressing about things being “not enough” or saying things like “I have to do this” instead of “I get to do this” is a sure fire way to put yourself into a pretty negative space. When you’re constantly thinking about all the things you have to do or don’t have, it’s pretty difficult to feel inspired, motivated, or excited.
Meanwhile, if you can start to shake off the negativity and reframe your thinking, you not only put yourself in a better mood which, goes without saying, attracts other people/situations that are positive, but you begin to look at your tasks differently, and so you begin to do them differently, and produce stronger results.
For instance, maybe you dread managing social media. Instead of groaning about how you have to update your accounts and how it isn’t fair that the music isn’t enough, shift your mindset and tell yourself that you’re lucky you even have fans who care enough about what you’re saying. That you’re lucky to live in an age where the internet offers infinite access. Where you can connect with new fans and bands and industry states or countries away.
Instead of getting down that only 20 people came to your show, make it the best show those 20 people have ever seen and think to yourself “how lucky am I that 20 people dragged themselves out of the warmth of their homes, away from their lives, and spent their hard earned cash, all to see me at 10pm on a random Tuesday night?”
This might just be the hardest task on your list but it’s also the most powerful.
Pay attention to what’s working
Actively taking time out every few months to assess what’s working in your music career, and how you can use that to grow your career is a great way to move yourself forward, avoid ending up in a rut, and keep yourself focused on what works instead of what doesn’t—even if it means adjusting the plan.
For instance, maybe you really wanted your solo acoustic shows to take off, but you find that when you perform with a full band, people really go wild. If the acoustic shows are what’s in your heart, by all means pursue it, but if you’re equally stoked about the full band route and the response to that is more intense, then listen to the people, and make that a bigger part of your routine.
Do this with all areas of your career—the kind of posts you make on social media, the type of shows you play, the songs you record, and think about what people go wild over vs what they simply like (or are indifferent towards). Sometimes we get caught up in pursuing things that don’t make sense, simply because we’ve invested a lot of time in them.
Get honest about your failures
If we’re going to look at our successes, you know we have to also look at our failures. And look, “failure” isn’t a dirty word. In fact, it’s a really, really good tool when it comes to growth. Taking the time to get really honest about what isn’t working and why (that’s the key) will open all kinds of doors for you.
Take stock of the past 6-12 months, and while you’re checking out the things that have received a positive response, see what has received little to no response. This could be certain social media posts, it could be playing certain venues or days of the week, it could be merch, album art, anything. The idea is to really take the time to see what isn’t working and either cut it out in place of what is working, or learn how to fix it.
Sometimes this will be out of your hands (I.E. people just prefer the full band to the acoustic music) but sometimes you’ll find it’s actually the way you’re doing things, rather than what you’re doing. For instance, if you find the reason your social media isn’t getting engagement is because you’re not great at posting regularly or all you do is post “buy this” or “come see us play” instead of offering real value, then the problem likely isn’t your fans, it’s you, and in that case, you need to devise a plan so that you can begin to fix that.
As they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Form a mastermind group
Creating a mastermind group of 3-5 people with similar goals who are at similar places in their career will help keep you accountable, brainstorm ideas, and keep you focusing on the positive, while learning how to work the negative in your favor.
Masterminds are at their best when they’re intimate and frequent, so keep it to 3-5 people max, and try to meet weekly or bi-weekly for an hour, that way you have time to check in with each other, voice any concerns, ask for advice, and get the full experience. You wouldn’t believe the power that comes from having that accountability, and feeling like you’re part of a community that has your back.
Keep a gratitude journal for your career
I’m sure most of you are familiar with gratitude journals in your personal life, at least having heard of them. It’s when you take a few minutes every night to write down three things you’re grateful for that day. It can be as small as “I ate a great taco” to “I booked a major show.” The idea is that it keeps you in line with positivity and keeps you focusing on the good.
A gratitude journal for your career is the same, except you focus exclusively on your career. Things like “I’m grateful for the excitement these people felt at my show” or “I’m grateful for those 5 likes on my social media post announcing our new song” will help keep you focused on all the amazing things coming your way. If once a day sounds like too much, make it a part of your weekly routine (every Friday or Sunday night perhaps.)
The more you focus on all the incredible opportunities surrounding you, the more will begin to present themselves. It just takes a little focus.