I know what you’re thinking: “mission statements are for business people.”
If you want to be a pro musician, why not think like a business person? A mission statement can be a useful tool for your career and personal life. If you want to be a starving artist, then skip this step. But if you want to grow your career to new heights, then you need a mission statement.
A mission statement helps identify what you want your career to look like. It also acts as a filter for what you DON’T want it to look like. This statement is specific to how you want to live and work.
In my journey to turning full-time in music, I discovered this simple concept. While reading some leadership books from Dave Ramsey, Seth Godin, and many others, they all referred to the mission statement as being critical to their success. So I wrote my own. It looks like this:
Rip’s Music Mission Statement
I am dedicated to helping other musicians make better art and teaching them how to support themselves while doing it. I will build a business and a community around this core vision, while simultaneously boosting my music career through teaching, coaching, writing, speaking, performing and collaborating.
Writing this has helped me make decisions about my career with more confidence. All of my projects and goals are filtered through my mission statement. And I make decisions faster. Should I take this gig or that gig? Do I teach more, or write? All possibilities now go thru this filter. I’m now able to focus on things that really matter and are important to me, not someone else’s advice.
So, why should you write a mission statement? It creates clarity for your music career. What does your ideal music life look like? How will you get there?
Author and career coach Dan Miller says a good mission statement should include your:
1. Skills and abilities (what you like to do)
2. Personality traits (how you operate)
3. Values, dreams and passions (why you want to excel)
Here are a few steps in creating a powerful and personal mission statement:
1. What is your “core idea?” A core idea is your secret sauce — it informs every aspect of your decisions. I want to make enough money to support my family and be home for them. All decisions ultimately go thru that filter. If an opportunity comes up that does not fit that criteria, I don’t do it.
For example, a $50 gig that’s 30 minutes away and lasts 6 hours won’t cut it. But the recording session that pays $200 for 4 hours of my time works fine. Same with teaching down the street on weeknights so I can be home during the day.
2. Be specific. What exactly do you want your career to look like? For me, I want to teach pro musicians about turning pro. I want to share knowledge about budgeting, scheduling, marketing and more. I still want to teach drums and perform, but as an alternate income source. I focus more on creating content for professionally-minded musicians and less on making the next jam session.
3. Have singular focus. There are many opportunities for musicians. The more options we open ourselves up to can rob us of our intensity and focus.
I have a friend who won’t do any gigs. Instead, he teaches up to 40 hours per week. At first I thought this was a waste of his talents, but after further reflection, I think it allows him to be a much better educator. He has over 80 students, and his retention is incredible. He’s also able to enjoy his life, and not worry about whether he’s going to make rent. While the rest of us are scrambling for the next opportunity, he’s enjoying the sunset and still playing music.
Finally, write a mission statement that fires you up! When you read it, you should feel proud. Add clarity and motivation. Refine your mission statement over time.
As I accomplish more I learn what’s most important to me. I update my mission statement to reflect what is truer about what I want.
Frame it and put it next to your work or practice space. Then tell people about it. You’ll be surprised how powerful this can be. Start living your mission statement fully, and your music career will take on a deeper and more meaningful direction.