Pro Tip #3: Bands, have the same goals

“Dude, we should totally be a Slayer tribute band” / “no man, I think we should only do country music!”.

Yeah, that’s real. It exists. Two musicians discussing their goals and desires to form the ultimate band. Houston, we have a problem.

Most of the bands I’ve seen that are short lived happen for a number of reasons but at the heart of it is because members of the band simply don’t have the same goals in mind. Worse, the members are not flexible or they’re actually prideful.

I’ve actually been in projects where folks would not play a type of music because they apparently where “too cool for school” – Jason Harlow 1987. Yep, I remember telling myself I would never play a “poison” song. Fast forward 2019, I play them freely as some of the most fun songs ever to play. What was I thinking??? It’s interesting to see how perspectives change when you learn what is actually important.

If you don’t get anything out of this article, get this… music is about having fun. Period. We’re not curing cancer or doing anything that is that serious. I mean really, we’re getting the opportunity to get in front of folks and have a great time doing what we’ve practiced our whole lives. If I had a time machine, I would go back and punch myself in the face for even considering that one genre of music was superior over another. Turns out that most of that music I considered inferior (jazz, country, pop) is much more complex than anything I’d ever played. Good news is that I learned quickly and realized just how ignorant I was fortunately. If this is you, learn from me! I’m so glad with age comes wisdom and experience.

Back to goals! Inevitably, if bands and members don’t align their goals, they simply fail because everyone is pushing in different directions and there is no satisfaction.

So, what happens when you have 2 or 3 different people with opposing goals? How do you fix it?

If you have mature members, divergent thoughts and mixed goals can work to build a chemistry that makes something very special. If members respect each other and have those love languages I spoke about intact, there can actually be some goodness out of it.

Unfortunately though, if you have members who are at the opposite polar ends of the musical spectrum with song choices, attitude, likes, values that are unwilling to change…etc. You must remove them and place them in a project of like people. Sorry, it’s the truth because otherwise you are wasting your 86,400 seconds a day.

That being said, preventing these problems can be solved with a well laid out set of goals prior to taking on members or setting goals with your current members will greatly attribute to the growth and stability of your band.So, what do band goals look like?

  • Let’s play Harlow’s in the next 90 days. We can lock in 12 songs to play a 1 hour set. We’ll rock peoples faces and having fun while increasing our social presence through fans and followers (ok, shameless plug).
  • Let’s learn the songs: brown eyed girl, honky tonk woman, and mustang sally by next week and incorporate them into our wedding gig next Saturday.
  • Let’s save up $500 in the next 2 weeks to record our original “Rock your momma” at Sunland Studios. We’ll take $250 off the top from the Harlow’s gig to help fund and another $250 off t-shirt sales to fund it.

What do many band goals actually look like:

  • Let’s get signed
  • Let’s become famous
  • Let’s make money

Notice the difference?

In the business world we use “SMART” goals. Which stand for:

Specific / Measurable / Attainable / Relevant / Time-Based

When planning your band goals, be specific. Without knowing where you want to be specifically in your music journey, it’s likely you’ll take some dirt roads and find yourself lost and broke down.. mostly broke. Consider this when planning your song choices, venue choices, marketing choices. What specifically is needed.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t tell if you are making progress. To many times I see bands set a goal but fail to measure whether or not they hit the target. After a while of not measuring (whether performance, sound, or connecting with people), they seem to wonder why folks quit coming to their shows. Always measure!

Make the goals attainable! Example: If the singer can’t sing it, don’t do it. Sorry guitar shredder dudes (I’m one of them), people in the crowd aren’t really talking about your string skipping and legato, they are too busy saying the whole band sucks because you thought a dream theater song would impress people but the singer can’t sing it. Make the goals attainable for your band and put any song choices in the sweet spot and strike zone of your singer. Know your limits and play to your strengths not your weaknesses. Before setting the goal to write an album, set the goal to write one song.. then three..etc.

If the goal is not relevant to your band and it achieving something meaningful, it’s practically useless. I also like to use the word “realistic” here as well. You can have the most specific, measurable, and attainable goals but if it’s not really relevant or realistic, you’re wasting your precious 86400 secs.

Time based is key! It’s not only key to be able to measure but it creates the urgency needed and baseline needed for other members to achieve success. If no timeframe exists, you have no real management of expectations. BTW, it’s ok if you don’t make a timeline… this becomes knowledge. It’s likely you may not hit all the goals but if you set a timeline for a week to learn 4 songs and the band only learns 2, you’ve gained extremely valuable knowledge on your band’s velocity (2 songs a week). You can then adjust your timeline based on your new knowledge and continue to refine your capabilities for a well tuned face rocking machine.

Hopefully this rambling may give you some ideas. I recommend you start with small goals and grow. It’s really fun to look back as well to see the accomplishments. You quickly realize without goals; you would have been in the same place, doing the same thing, and expecting different results (insanity). You don’t even want to calculate how much time (your most critical asset) was lost. Rock on.

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