There’s something truly special about the opportunity to assess all that you’ve accomplished in the previous year and plan for a brighter tomorrow. Maybe it’s the planner nerd in me, but there’s just something truly illuminating about the chance to start fresh, give those dreams new life, and build upon the momentum you’ve already created.
To get started, ask yourself these questions, and really take the time to reflect. I suggest going into this with pen and paper and writing down your answers. Not only will it help you articulate your thoughts, but it will give you something to reflect back on.
What did I do that worked?
First, take a moment to really celebrate your successes. Ask yourself “what did I do that worked?” What caused your fans to go wild and gave you that little flutter in your stomach that so often points us in the direction of that which matters most to us?
Take a look at everything from your social media (more on that below) to your live show, to your merch sales to any personal interactions you had with fans and industry, and physically write it down—what absolutely, unequivocally worked?
What could have been done better?
Now, it’s time to step back, put egos to the side, and pick back up the pen to write down what didn’t work quite as well as you’d hoped. Maybe you had a tough time getting people out to shows. Write it down. Maybe your social media engagement is low. Write it down.
The point of this exercise isn’t to judge yourself or make yourself feel bad, it’s purely to get an idea of areas for growth—and trust me, we all have them! Nothing to be ashamed of here.
Did I reach my target audience? (Do I even know who they are?)
This is an interesting one. So many artists seem to think they know who their target audience is, but if you ask them to describe their ideal fan or the type of person they’re trying to reach, they either stumble or say “everyone!”
“Everyone” is not a target audience, it’s a sign that you probably don’t really know your brand and aren’t super clear on who you’re targeting, so you’re just sort of hoping to pick people up along the way. Unfortunately, this will never work for long term growth. If you continue to avoid understanding your brand and thus, honing your niche and the people who will truly get and love you, then you’ll never really be able to break through that glass ceiling.
Take the time to really figure out who your target audience is. It’s a tough exercise, but I promise, it will make a huge difference moving forward.
What do my social media channels look like? (engagement)
Odds are if you’re super on brand and clear on who your target audience is and you’re catering to them, then your social channels are hopping. If they’re a bit stale and you’re not getting a lot of engagement (or it’s the same 2-3 people always liking things) that’s another pretty good sign that you’re branding is muddled and your target audience hasn’t been found.
There are a lot of things that make for an artist’s successful career, but an active and engaging social media is 100% one of the most informative. It plays a role in everything from how your fans view you and how active they are in pursuing your shows/merch/music/etc as well as how the industry sees you (what shows you book, what festivals you get on, what managers want to work with you, what labels find interesting, what blogs or Spotify playlists want to feature you.) Truly, there’s no skipping over this if you want to be a career musician. You’ve just gotta get those channels in order.
How’s my live show?
As someone who has been in the music industry for almost a decade, I’ve seen a lot of live shows. And most of them suck. If you’re wondering why no one is coming out to your shows, start here. Sure, it might be a terrible venue or a bad night or crappy weather, but I promise you, if your live show is amazing, people will come out to see you. This is another one of those instances where you have to set your ego aside and take a hard look at the facts.
I’m not saying that there aren’t extenuating circumstance—it is a tough market and it isn’t easy to get people out to your shows, even if you are amazing to watch. But as a starting point, I would suggest you take a long hard look at your live show and ask yourself where you can do better. Assuming that the music actually sounds good live, think about the theatrics. What do your favorite live acts have in common? People come out to a show to have an experience. I did not come out at 11pm on a Tuesday in 10 degree weather to watch you stand up there barely moving, muddle through brief introductions I can’t understand, and go home 20 minutes later. I want to feel like I’m a part of something. I want you to look like you’re having the time of your life up there, regardless of if there are 5 people in the audience or 200. I want to walk away and think “Now THAT was a live show!” and then tell all my friends about it.
So yeah, be that band. Make it memorable, every time.
What are my goals?
To truly grow, you have to have goals and you have to know what they are. I’m all about having a stretch goal or two that you’re working towards in the long run, but try to also narrow down 3-4 goals for the year that you can realistically work towards, and then work backwards to figure out how to make them a reality. Remember, if you just say “I want to bring 200 people out to our shows by the Summer” that’s great, but if you don’t have an actual plan to get there, it’s probably not going to happen.
So make your goal, and then figure out, what do I need to do to get there? If your goal is to bring 200 people out to your show by July, then figure out what needs to happen from January to June to create that reality.
What do you need to do in January? Maybe you need to start working on your social media so you get fans engaged and paying attention. Ok, now break that up into weekly goals for January. What do you need to do each week to build that engagement?
In February, maybe you need to research and start playing with Facebook Ads so that by March you can start using them to bring people out. Now make weekly goals for February and March around that.
And so on and so forth.
What do I actually want?
This is an important one to ask yourself. So many artists, and people in general, think they know what they want, but the idea is so abstract that I’m not sure they really do. Ask yourself what you want and then ask yourself what that really means and why you want it.
For instance, if you say you want to sign to a label, ask yourself why? What does that really mean? If for you that means “I get to create music and don’t have to worry about anything else like social media, shows etc” then
1) you may actually want to re-evaluate that goal because to get a major label’s attention you have to first show you excel at all those things (social media, touring, etc) and
2) if what you really want is to focus more on the music and less on the business, then maybe you need to consider having a team to help you with the day to day, more than a label. So really, what you need is money to hire a team —a publicist to handle your press, a booking agent for shows, a social media consultant to fine tune your channels with you, etc.
Get specific and really try to go deep on the why of your goals. You may find that what you actually want is a lot different than the arbitrary label you slapped on it
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.