Strategy and Planning: Get Ahead By Knowing Where You Want To Go

By David Chislett

Author of '1,2,1,2: A Step By Step Guide To The SA Music Industry', Dave Chislett offers music industry tips for aspiring bands and musicians...

Photo by Ervins Strauhmanis
Photo by Ervins Strauhmanis

Most artists’ plan for their careers can easily be summed up as follows: Become famous, sell lots of records. While this is a great end objective to have in mind, a plan implies a series of steps that are designed to take you towards that end point. And this is where many fail themselves when it comes to reaching their goals and dreams in the real world.

It’s easy to spot the ones that had a plan of action, a real strategy. They are the big names: Goldfish, Good Luck, Skwatta Kamp, Flash Republic, Watershed. Basically the music industry falls neatly into two parts: those who have a plan and those who don’t have a clue. You can up your chances of succeeding overnight just by making a plan of action with a clear strategy for your year. Unless of course you’d rather spend more time telling people at the bar just how under-rated you are…?

Having a strategy can best be described as having a plan of action for a defined period of time that aims to achieve a specific result. Set up a goal, figure out what needs to be done to get there and what methods you need to employ and go for it. So, the result is the easy one. You want to be the best band in town; you want each gig to earn you more than 10K, that kind of thing. But how do you get there? Everyone you know probably has a similar goal and we operate in a small market. How do you cut through the clutter to make your goals possible?

Firstly, you need to analyse the terrain, Where is the clutter? Is everyone playing the same gigs? Do they all look the same, sound the same and promote in the same ways? Then look for blue sky… open space where no-one is competing. If everyone is playing the same style right now, take it one step further, or break it down 5 steps back. Find new venues to play, find new artists to play with, new sounds to experiment with. The key here is to differentiate yourself. Why listen to one artist over another when they are all much the same? But when one is clearly different, clearly recognisable, the game changes. Make sure your image and your marketing cannot be mistaken for the herd. Become a front runner not a sheep.

From that brief description you will see that some forethought can go a long way to buying you space in which to shine when your contemporaries are still sharing bills as the same local venue.

So what you need to do is get specific. Define your end goal as precisely as you can, down to rands and cents, appearing on specific bills, releasing a certain amount of material and selling a specified amount of copies. Then plot out over a month by month time line WHAT you are going to do WHEN and HOW in order to achieve those goals. You will find that, once you know WHERE you are going, it’s much easier to figure out HOW to get there.

The primary error most ambitious young artists make is that they do not articulate their ambition in specific enough terms and it is therefore hard to see what is needed. Once you are clear, the road opens. Once you have a clear strategy is becomes the simple matter of moving from bench mark to bench mark doing everything you have identified as necessary as well as you possibly can. Then all that is required is the leg work. And lots of it. But that’s another advice column.

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