New Year’s Resolutions vs. Lifelong Goals

another-nyI’m sure your just as tired of all of the new year’s hype as I am. Strange how the birth of a new year creates this huge onslaught of media coverage that would make one believe the Myans had been right after all. It’s as if there had never been another new year ever, nor will there ever be one to top this one. At least until next year, when the whole circus comes to town again.

So I won’t speak of resolutions, since that’s all you’ve heard about for the past 3 weeks, not to mention that we’re all prone to breaking them sooner or later. Rather I’ll focus on just a few goals musicians should work on, regardless of the time of year.

  • Write the kind of music you’d want to listen to. Sure, you have to know what’s mainstream, but that doesn’t mean you should get carried away by it. Your message is in your music, and you need to personalize it. Take courage from the fact that there’s an audience out there for whatever music you want to write. Think Field of Dreams here: if you write it, they will come.
  • Practice the basics when you practice. Scales. Chord voicings. Arpeggios. Modes. These are the building blocks of any song or composition ever written, and you’ll become a better songwriter if you practice them each day.
  • Focus on building good relationships. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, don’t ask what other people can do to help advance your music career. Instead, look for ways you can help them get what they want. And to do that you have to be willing to talk to people.
  • Create and maintain a conversation with your fans. If you run to your table and hide out during breaks, you’re doing it wrong. Use that time to go out to the crowd and talk to your fans. Connect with them. Find out what they do for a living, where they go to school, what they’re studying. They’ll remember you because no one else does that, and you took the time to make them feel special. You can also mention your upcoming CD, or hand out business cards, or get email addresses, but none of that will matter if you don’t connect.
  • Learn a new skill. Don’t know how to record your songs on a computer? Now is a good time to learn. Can you edit video clips together to make a video demo? No? Read up on it and find out how it’s done. Regardless of how good you are at your instrument or craft, there’s always one more skill out there that you can learn to make yourself even more marketable.

Whatever you do, don’t set yourself up for failure and the associated letdown. Don’t say, “I’m going to practice my scales and modes each day,” or “I’m going to go out and learn a new skill.” Put the action in the present tense: “I practice scales and modes each day (or each time I practice),” and “I build good relationships with my fans.” It’s funny, but if you tell yourself you’re already doing it, you start to do it, and eventually it becomes a habit.

Resolutions are made quickly and fade just as quickly. My guess is that this is stuff you already do, so working just a little bit harder at it won’t seem like so much of a stretch. You’ll feel better about yourself for doing it, too, and that feeling wins out over a blown resolution any old day.

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