strategy and tactics

Strategy and tactics in your music career

To achieve success in your music career, you have to employ strategy and tactics. Trouble is, many music artists don’t really understand the distinction. This post, excerpted from the new music-business book, Hacking Music, helps clear things up.

You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction. —Alvin Toffler

hacking music strategy and tacticsAs an indie musician, it’s imperative that you focus on things that will have a direct impact on your career: developing strategies, making decisions, team-building, and putting your head down and doing the grunt work. It is through these things that momentum is generated.

There is a common misconception among music artists that strategy and tactics in the music business are the same thing. They are not. So how can you tell the difference between the two?

It’s helpful to think about strategy and tactics in the context of altitude. Metaphorically speaking, strategy usually occurs at 50,000 feet while tactics normally happen at the ground level. If strategy were a body part, it would be the head, and tactics would be the hands. Strategy would encompass the who, what, when, where, and in what order; tactics would encompass the achievement of the task itself.

It’s not uncommon for strategy to be so high-level and conceptual that nothing ever gets accomplished. And on the tactical side, it’s easy to just get so busy doing, doing, doing that you never pull up high enough to define the best roadmap and sequence in your planning. To achieve results, strategy and tactics can’t be mutually exclusive; they must coexist and be aligned for your music career to grow. They are sisters and could not be more connected.

Think in terms of trying to land a plane at a busy airport. The air traffic controller (the strategy) decides which runways and in what order incoming planes will land. The pilots (the tactics) are responsible for the actual landing of the planes. Both are essential and both support and trust one another.

Imagine hundreds of 747s circling Dallas-Ft Worth Airport with no air traffic controllers. All of the pilots would have to land their planes based solely on what they see outside the cockpit windshield, without any guidance. It would be an absolute disaster. To avoid disaster, the air traffic controllers, who are responsible for strategy (ordering and directing the planes), must work in concert with the pilots, who are responsible for tactics (the task of landing the planes).

Strategy makes up the why, when, what, and with whom. In the airport example, this would be the air traffic controller taking over and coordinating the landing of all planes in a specific order on specific runways at specific times with no errors. Tactics are how you do the tasks that must happen to actually land the plane.

Are you managing your career without a strategy, focusing on what you perceive as urgent at any given moment?

The difference between strategy and tactics

  Strategy Tactics
Purpose To identify clear broad goals that advance the overall direction of the company. Utilizing specific resources to achieve the strategy.
Roles Individuals who control resources in the organization and understand how individual tactics can work together to achieve organizational goals. Specific domain experts who maneuver limited resources and complete a set of goals.
Accountability Individuals held accountable for the overall growth and health of the organization. Individuals held accountable for specific target tasks and resources assigned.
Scope All the resources within the organization, as well as the broader market conditions, including competitors, customers, and economy. A subset of resources used in a plan; often specific targets with limited resources to achieve the goal.
Duration Long-term; changes infrequently. Short-term; flexibility as to how specific milestones are completed.
Methods Uses experience, research, analysis, and network of relationships. Uses experiences, plans, processes, and teams.
Outputs Produces clear organizational goals, plans, maps, milestones, and key performance indicators. Produces clear deliverables, using people, tools, and time

“Why” people and “How” people

Marketing consultant Simon Sinek has categorized individuals as being either “Why” people or “How” people. He describes “Why” types as being strategic thinkers while “How” types take on tactical roles by executing the plan. He also emphasizes that the best business teams are made up of a balance of the two.

Sinek has pointed out that “Why” types are traditionally the visionaries of a start-up. They have active imaginations and tend to be optimists who believe they can accomplish anything they dream up. Using that description in his book, Start With Why, Sinek describes Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as a “Why” type.

Sinek labels one of the other Apple co-founders, Steve Wozniak, as a “How” type. Wozniak, as Sinek explains, has a tendency to be a realist living in the here-and-now and is far more practical. These are the people who keep the businesses running in an efficient manner and are grounded in reality while the “Why” types (Jobs) are dreaming up ideas that break new ground in their respective industries.

So, the process of determining if one is a “Why” type or a “How” type becomes much more important. Sinek says the first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Where do I get insecure?”

People who get fidgety about having to deal with small details are mostly likely “Why” types. If you like getting things done but have trouble coming up with big ideas, you are probably a “How” type. It is important to stress that one type isn’t better than the other. They both hold equal value in the grand scheme of how a business operates and whether it is successful.

As Sinek writes, “Steve Jobs was the rebel’s evangelist, but Steve Wozniak is the engineer who made Apple work. Jobs had the vision, Woz had the goods. It is the partnership of a vision of the future and the talent to get it done that makes an organization great.”


hacking music strategy and tactics

This post was excerpted from Hacking Music, a book by John Pisciotta and Wade Sutton. Many artists pursuing a career in music struggle without a plan, making decision after decision based solely on how they feel in the given moment. The lessons in this book aim to provide you with skills and concepts to help you identify your destination, plot your course, and sail your ship toward success. Disc Makers Blog readers can get Hacking Music: The Music Business Model Canvas, for only $17.80 (plus shipping) — a limited-time 80% discount. Just use the code DISCMAKERS80% at checkout.

John Pisciotta is the managing director of Jetpack Artist Ventures, a music and media firm that works in partnership with artists, managers, and investors to structure strategic partnerships that contribute to artists’ career growth. Wade Sutton is the founder of Rocket to the Stars Artist Development, utilizing his 20 years of professional radio, journalism, and music industry experience to assist artists in all aspects of their careers.

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