Long Tail Sessions, Vol. 8—Wednesday, November 1, 2017 with Gina Luciani

Hi everyone! This week, I was thrilled to have flutist Gina Luciani join me for the latest edition of the Long Tail Sessions. We had a great discussion about building a social media presence, her career path, and ways you can develop your own following online. Here’s the interview:

Gina also helped me pull together the latest Long Tail Sessions Spotify Mix. Included on the mix are some of Gina’s favorite artists, along with some of my own hand picked music. I hope you enjoy.

Here’s where you can find Gina:


About The Long Tail Sessions: Last winter, I traveled from LA to NYC on a Virgin America flight and loved that the in-flight entertainment featured musicians in alphabetical order. At first, I found it jarring to see Beethoven next to the Beatles, but then I thought “Of course they’re featured side-by-side, that’s how we enjoy music these days.”

With this in mind, I’m pleased to present a weekly series of playlists dedicated to those of us who are not genre specific in our listening habits. Just as your listening habits have changed dramatically over the past 20 years, so have the ways musicians get paid for their original work. My primary goal for this project is to introduce you to music you might not have heard before. Many of the artists featured on each playlist are trying to make it as performing artists. Help them by sharing the videos you love, following the artist and committing to attend one of their performances the next time they’re in town.

Thanks so much to all! I’d love to feature a song by an artist of your choosing. Please send me along a song by your favorite artist and I’ll do my best to get it on an upcoming playlist.

8 steps artists can take to achieve their three year strategic plan.

Yesterday, I wrote about ways artists can create a three year strategic plan. Here are eight steps to take your ideas from planning to action.

  1. Set Incremental Goals—Take the strategy statement you created from the previous post and start to set some goals for how you will accomplish the work over the next three years. I like to think in quarters over three years because your goals become more attainable when you split them up. That means that you have 12 checkins with yourself to see if you’re accomplishing your established goals.
  2. Set Categories—I would suggest breaking down your goals into three buckets: Work/Life Balance Goals, Financial Stability Goals, and Artistically Fulfilling Work Goals. Within each category you might have 3-5 goals you’d like to accomplish. Write them beneath each category.
  3. Set Benchmarks—For example, instead of saying “I’d like to have more artistically fulfilling gigs in three years,” say “By July of 2018, I’d like to have a minimum of three more artistically satisfying performance opportunities.” This gives you a way to evaluate how you’ve done each quarter.
  4. Set Stretch Goals—Each quarter when you sit down to reflect on the past few months, it’s important to set new goals that stretch you to the limits of what is possible. There is a sweet spot here, you don’t want to stretch too far that nothing ever gets done, and you don’t want to stretch too little and relax for two out of the three months in the quarter. Set goals that are about 80% attainable and go for them.
  5. Push your goals further—Often times, we stop pursuing goals when we reach them, even though we could probably go even further along our path. Make sure you are giving yourself permission to push ideas beyond what you imagined.
  6. Make time to tackle the hard stuff—Set aside blocks of time each week to tackle the big ideas that will help you move forward. If you don’t give yourself time to create, it will be difficult to get to the place you want to be in three years. My general advice is not to let a stretch goal go for longer than two quarters before you tackle it head on.
  7. Have an accountability partner—This is so incredibly important. Having a partner, friend, sibling, co-coworker, etc. check in with you to see how you’re doing can really help you move your personal strategic plan forward. Find a trusted colleague at the beginning of the process and ask them to help you stay on track.
  8. This is action based—If you’re still reading this post, you should know that the planning time is over. One of the biggest reasons individuals don’t make strategic changes in their career and life is that they get stuck in planning/thinking mode. I’m giving you permission to get out there and make the changes you need in order to activate your three year plan.

There you have it, a quick easy process for setting an action plan to achieve your three year strategic plan. How does this resonate with you? Let me know in the comment section below.


(Photo Credit: Marco Antonio Torres)

Career planning for artists: Why a three year plan of action is the new ten.

What do you see yourself doing in five to ten years?

That’s a big, important, overwhelming question. In my experience, five to ten years is too long of a runway to come up with a concrete plan of action. Think about all of the things you’ve done over the last five to ten years. You’ve likely had some major life changes in that time. Planning that far into the future isn’t really a productive exercise in our fast paced world.

When I advise artists, instead of asking them to map out the next ten years, I ask them to picture their ideal career in three years. Three years gives my clients enough time and space to think about what they want to do, come up with a plan, and act on it. Here are some steps you can take to come up with a strategic plan for your life and career:

  1. Forget the pathways that have been prescribed to you — To start any strategic planning process, I always encourage artists to consider the variety of pathways they have as artists. Our college degrees focused too much to think about the broad opportunities that may be available to us as artists. Tip: For a moment, forget your specific art and forget the degree that you earned. Instead, write down the specific skills you developed pursuing your art and use that as a foundation as you think about the next three years of your career. 
  2. Pull the levers necessary to develop the right career path — We all have wants and needs that pertain to our life and career. No two people are the same. Don’t let the advice of others dictate your path because they often took a different path than the one you’d like to pursue. Here are the things that will help determine your three year path:
    1. Do you want/have a family? 
    2. Do you want to be making more money?
    3. Do you want a more financially stable career?
    4. Do you have time for hiking/relaxing/hanging out with family and friends?
    5. Do you want more artistically satisfying work? 
  3. Write down a narrative, based on how you answer the questions above. This part of the process is incredibly eye opening and powerful. Here’s an example:By the year 2020, I will be married to my partner, making at least $10,000 more than I currently make with a mix of 60% artistic work, 20% private lesson instruction, and 20% work outside my field to give me a bit more financial stability. I will keep my work week to a maximum of 35 hours so I have more time to create new works of art. In order to find this work/life balance, I will work to let go of the four gigs that are the most time consuming and least satisfying.

    You can’t start to plan strategically until you have a sense about where you’d like to go. How does this process resonate with you? I think the trick is to consider all the levers you are willing to pull in order to have a satisfying career, especially in work that is not related to your art.  You might be surprised by how much more satisfied you are in your work and career. Here are some tips on how to achieve your three year goals.



Launching a new ensemble, organization, or business? Read this, Part IV.

This is step 4 of a series of posts designed to help you launch a new ensemble, organization, or business. Before you read this post, make sure you start with this post, followed by this post, and this post. Here are some steps to help you research and identify the resources necessary to launch your idea.

One of the most important aspects of launching a new venture is to think deeply about the resources you will need to launch your idea. There are three recommended steps to this part of the process:

  1. Research—Seek out online resources, books, and interviews with successful individuals who have experience doing similar work to the new venture you’d like to launch. Tip: When conducting research, focus on the over arching conceptual of what is being said instead of specific venture being covered; you will discover that knowledge, in any form, can be applicable if applied correctly—even from a seemingly unrelated subject matter.

    Recommended Resources:

        1. Pat Flynn
        2. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
        3. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers
  2. Develop a budget—Your initial budget will help you understand the tools or resources will you need to acquire in order to successfully launch your idea. Create a financial assessment of your assets and expenses related to the launching of your idea. Ideas should be valued over money.  Good ideas will bring financial resources. Tip: Look into accounting textbooks, or speak with an accountant or financial advisor who have experience and can offer you some valuable insights. 
  3. Set the personnel necessary to launch your idea—I strongly recommend that you’re incredibly careful about people you bring onto your team when you launch an idea. Here are the challenges I’ve seen founding members face when launching an idea:
    1. Founding members have different ideas of how to develop their new venture. Tip: Make sure you’re on the same page at the very beginning of the process, otherwise you run the risk of having divisive arguments several months down the road. 
    2. Founding members don’t have the expertise to execute the business concept. Tip: Make certain the people on your team are able to deliver on the needs of the business entity. Don’t take on an idea if your team doesn’t have the expertise to bring the idea to life. Think 15 minutes ahead, not 15 years.
    3. Founding members have expectation that they will immediately get paid for their idea. Tip: Come to an agreement that for the first year, all funds earned will be invested back into the organization. 
    4. Founding members try to do everything. This, by far, is the biggest issue that comes up when new ventures are formed. Many founding members are action oriented and driven, often having incredible capacity to develop their ideas. The cost with this type of work style is that when an organization becomes successful, the founder hasn’t thought about how to scale the work so the business can continue to grow. Tip: Plan for expansion from the start.

Recommended Resources: I highly recommend the book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, which discusses deeply how a business thinks about scaling an idea from a personnel perspective.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope this was helpful and please share with your friends!

How to set a budget as an artist.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the frustrations of setting a personal budget. Here is a step by step process for budgeting as an artist.

Rules of Engagement: 

  1. Knowledge is power — Understanding where you spend your money from month to month is the only way you will be able to find financial stability in the long run. Tip: Look your spending habits in the eye and come up with a strategy for your financial future.
  2. Develop a habit — Like remembering to brush your teeth every day, good budgeting comes when you set time aside to take stock of your spending. My wife and I usually talk about our family budget over a glass of wine once a week for thirty minutes and I keep an eye on our finances every day for about 10 minutes.  That’s all it takes.
  3. Budget even when finances are in good shape — One of the biggest mistakes artists make is that when they get an extra gig or project, they spend the extra income that month, which is often beyond the amount that was budgeted. Tip: In pursuit of sticking to a budget, make sure you save some of that extra income when times are good so months that are lean don’t feel so bad. 
  4. Invest in yourself and your art — Make sure you budget some money each month to invest in yourself as you continue to pursue your art. Tip: Create a personal investment category so that you can comfortably pay for opportunities that pop up. 
  5. Don’t forget to have fun — I often see people zero out their budget for eating out and entertainment. Tip: Reward yourself a little each month so you don’t go way off your budget. 

Setting Your Monthly Budget

Here is a simple, step by step process for setting your budget:

  1. Gather — Printout of all of your monthly bills, including utilities, loans, and bank statements so you can see what you’ve spent on things like dining out, gas, and entertainment.
  2. Chart — Click here to get a simple monthly budgeting spreadsheet in order to capture your last month of expenses. This is simply a starting point for you to see what you spend each month. You just need to be in the ballpark. The categories I’ve included are very broad on purpose. I think it’s best to create a few large buckets for your spending instead of many smaller buckets. When it comes to budgeting, simplicity is the key. Otherwise, you’re less likely to stick with your plan.
  3. Evaluate — Now that you have filled in a month of expenses, take a look at your monthly spending and ask yourself the following questions:
    1. Are you missing anything?
    2. Are you surprised by any of the results? (FYI, I was shocked by how much we ate out the first time I went through this process.)
    3. Are there opportunities to save?
    4. Are there areas in which you would like to spend more?
  4. Amend — One of the biggest challenges with budgets is that we set them and then don’t stick to them. The spreadsheet I have provided allows you to make a few adjustments that may, ultimately allow you to balance your budget each month.
  5. Chart your expenses — Once you have set your budget, it’s important that you chart your expenses. There are a number of online resources to help you with this, including mint, hellowallet, budgetsimple, and YNAB. I like YNAB the best.


  1. Don’t give up — Budgets are often broken. It happens. Stay persistent and work to identify why you went over in spending. Often times for me, the problem is that I didn’t budget enough for something to begin with.
  2. Get out of debt as quickly as possible — Debt is one of the barriers to financial stability. Develop a plan to get out of debt as quickly as possible.
  3. Save for a rainy day — Ideally, you want at least six months of your current salary in savings so you can weather any financial storm that comes your way.  Make an effort to save a bit extra each month in order to achieve this goal.
  4. Invest for retirement — Don’t forget to put a little aside for retirement. Every bit you invest today will help you have long term stability.

I hope this helps and please let me know if you have any questions.

(Image Source: GotCredit.com)



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