How Small Goals Create Big Success for Artists
As an artist who sells music and plays gigs, you are a small business. You wouldn’t start a business and expect it to sell like coca cola with your first product launch, so why would you aim for your music to sell like Billie Eilish when you’re just starting out? Aiming for the masses isn't a winning strategy for independent artists. In this post I want to share why I believe aiming small is the secret to long term success in music.
Why you shouldn’t aim for the masses
Going for the masses right off the bat is far from a good strategy for independent artists. It’s very difficult to form a real connection with anybody and get those super fans on your side (the ones who will buy your merch, hard copies and gig tickets) and it makes it very difficult to laser target your marketing efforts. Even if your release does really well, you probably won’t recognise it because your idea of success is so much bigger. This unrealistic view of success and the draining reality of trying to get there as soon as possible is probably the number one reason artists decide to pack it all in and stop chasing their ambitions. It can make the joy of writing music, playing gigs and being a creative seem pretty miserable.
On top of that, even if your song goes completely viral and you suddenly have millions of fans overnight, you won’t have the experience or systems in place to handle the demand that there is for your music, your content and yourself as a person. Aiming for overnight “success” is a shortcut to burnout.
So what should you do?
I’m not saying forget your dreams, they’re essential, but just be aware that slow and steady wins the race! Have a big end goal in mind and reverse engineer it. How will you get there? What small, achievable milestones will map out your journey over the years? What can you do today to take a step towards one of those milestones?
Instead of aiming for national radio play and a million streams with release one, aim to build some friendships in the industry and get a thousand real streams over a few months. With release two, go a small step further - you might want to get two thousand streams this time, a couple of playlist spots and host a launch gig with a small group of dedicated fans. Try to take one small step towards one mini goal every day.
For independent artists right now, It’s all about building a small fanbase that genuinely love and support what you do, not a massive social media following who barely know who you are. Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for that miracle overnight break, you should be focusing on creating great music and engaging with your fans and networking everyday, giving them real value and kindness both online and offline. If you do this consistently, over a number of years, you will see huge progress. Slow growth always wins!
I’ll leave you with this quote from James Clear...
"When you finally break through the plateau of latent potential, people will call it an overnight success. The outside world only sees the most dramatic event, rather than all that preceded it, but you know that it’s the work you did long ago, when it seemed that you weren’t making any progress, that makes the jump today possible.” - James Clear, Atomic Habits.