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CLARIFYING YOUR MUSICAL MISSION STATEMENT
By John Stiernberg
© 2003 All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission
Each indie music person has a unique set of education, experience, aspirations,
and motivations--different from anyone else. Consequently, each of us is likely
to answer the "why" question a little differently from the next
person. What makes us tick? What motivates us? How does the answer to the question
"Why am I in the music business?" relate to my career and business
plan? This article explores the topic and offers suggestions for clarifying
your music business mission, vision, and values.
The Five Motivations
Whether you are full time or part time in music, your motivation is likely to
fall into one or more of the following categories:
1. Make a living. This ranges from "pay the bills" to
"get rich". Some people are motivated primarily by money or financial
need. Everyone needs some source of income. For those of us who are not already
independently wealthy, the prospect of making a living doing something we love
(like working in music) is attractive--a positive motivator.
2. Fulfill a dream. "I've always wanted to do something in
music", or "If only I could be in the industry doing music full
timeS" Some of us want to see our name on the marquee, on records, or in
the Billboard charts. Others aspire to business or technical support roles, but
still be involved in music as a career.
3. Create a legacy. "When I'm gone I want people to remember my
music (or influence on the music industry)." Looking a little further into
the future, some of us are motivated by the idea of creating a company or a
body of work that takes on an identity or a life of its own.
4. Benefit other people. "Take care of my family", or
"Inspire others" Some of us focus on our immediate family and friends
while others are driven to benefit the broader music community or society as a
5. Adrenaline rush. "There is no other feeling like the energy
coming from a crowd during a show". This applies whether you are on stage,
backstage, or in the audience, and it can also be a positive motivator.
A possible sixth category is "all of the above". See how this
sounds to you.
"I've always wanted to do something with music that will benefit
mankind--the big audience out there. If I'm successful, I'll make a good living
along the way and be remembered as a positive influence on the world. When I
hear the applause after one of my shows, I remember what it's all about--the
Sound idealistic? Maybe so, but a whole lot better than, "Oh well, I might
as well get a job in the music factory because it's better than working the
counter at McDonald's for minimum wage all my lifeS"
The Profit Motive: A Fundamental Issue for Music People
Here's a simple formula which drives all businesses--music or otherwise.
Revenue minus Expenses = Profit
Profit is simply the money left over after a business pays the costs of doing
business. If you are a one person music business, profit also represents the
money that is available to pay for your life: food, housing, clothing,
recreation, education, etc.
Some music people are put off by the concept of profit, feeling that the idea
of having something left over after "working hard for the money" is
evil, tacky, lowlife, non-artistic, anti-art, or whatever pejorative word comes
to mind. Here are my observations on this situation, gathered over a 30-year
o Unless you are independently wealthy (some are, but relatively few), the need
to make money is a motivator for music people.
o The general public buys concert tickets, records, merchandise, and related
material created by musicians and promoted by the industry. Fans "vote
with their pocketbooks", meaning they buy what they like and come back to
the music that they enjoy on a repeated basis.
o To judge whether a specific song, record, or performance is "good or
bad" from an artistic standpoint is largely subjective. What appeals to me
may or may not appeal to you, and that's OK. Diversity keeps things
What is the business point? Here it is:
Musical integrity, business integrity, and commercial success go hand in hand.
You don't need to compromise musical or artistic values to make money in music.
Also, simply being commercially successful does not assure positive reviews by
the critics, or any other measure of artistic success. Top selling records
donąt necessarily win Grammy awards. Remember, I'm talking about the majority of
us music folks, not the exceptions publicized by the media.
How To Write a Mission Statement
A mission statement answers the question "Why are you in business?"
Whether you are a self-employed performing songwriter, band member, owner of a
small music business, or in a management position in a larger firm, the answer
to this question is the foundation for your strategic planning. This applies
whether you are full time or part time in music. Here are some guidelines for
writing your mission statement.
1. Strong missions statements are usually one or two sentences long. I've seen
mission statements that have gone on to two or three pages of cryptic single
spaced text. Longer ones are flawed, in that you and the people around you will
not remember them and may not put emphasis in the right areas when it comes to
planning and taking action.
2. Short mission statements are often supplemented by clarifying comments.
These most frequently take the form of "vision statements" and
"values statements". This is a good way to deal with the temptation
to make your mission statement too long.
3. Vision statements describe your view of the future of the industry or
market. Vision statements are part predictions, part trend analysis, part
4. Values statements are your code of ethics, or the operating principles that
are 1) fundamental to your business and 2) unlikely to change over a long
period of time.
If you work alone or own the company, you can assert your own values in your
music business. If you work for someone else, it is important to make sure that
your personal values are reasonably aligned problems, but more importantly
drives the business in a positive way.
Writing It Down Is Liberating
A rule of thumb in strategic planning is "if it's not written down, it's
not a plan". Sure, you have to think through the issues, and yes, you may
have a good memory. Yet, there is something about the act of writing that is
both clarifying and liberating.
If you are a songwriter or composer, you know what I mean. You write down
titles, sketches, notes, or fragments and put them together later. The words or
notes jump off the page and make more sense the second or third time around.
It's the same idea with your mission statement, and the rest of your business
plan for that matter.
The other real benefit of writing everything down is that the material can then
be shared with others: your band members, co-workers, employees, family,
investors, vendors, or other stakeholders. For now, I suggest that you take a
stab at drafting your mission statement, or revising the one you currently
have. Start by completing the following sentence:
We are in business to ________________________________________________.
Congratulations! You've taken the first step in understanding the fundamentals
of business and in taking your music business to the next level. Good luck,
keep making music, and don't forget to write it down!
is principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting, the
Sherman Oaks, CA-based business development firm. John has over 25 years of
music industry experience including eight years as performer, recording artist,
and agent, twelve years working for sound equipment manufacturers, and ten
years as business analyst and consultant. In addition to entertainment
technology industry affiliations, he is a member of IAJE, IBMA, NARAS, the Folk
Alliance, and the American Federation of Musicians.
John's book "Succeeding In Music: A Business Handbook for Performers,
Songwriters, Agents, Managers, and Promoters" is published by Backbeat
Books. For details, visit www.succeedinginmusic.net or e-mail John at