This excerpt from Hacking Music: The Music Business Model Canvas delves into the concept of Artist as Hacker, which asks music artists to utilize a thought process and view of the music business that is radically different from that which they are accustomed to.
Guest post by Wade Sutton and John Pisciotta
Hacking Music: The Music Business Model Canvas was written by Wade Sutton (Rocket to the Stars Artist Services, The Six Minute Music Business Podcast), John Pisciotta (Jetpack Artist Ventures in Nashville) and Jeff McMahon (former Tim McGraw keyboard player). It is already being considered for use as a text book by Belmont University in Nashville and has received early praise from Ted Goldthorpe (Sony/ATV Publishing, Supervisor North American Publishing), Glenn Peoples (Music Insights and Analytics at Pandora) and Steve Thompson (producer/engineer for Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, David Bowie).
For a limited time, Hypebot readers can get the book for 80% off.
Details follow this excerpt.
SO, WHAT IS “ARTIST AS HACKER”?
For the purpose of this book, a hacker is a skilled person capable of overcoming any problem by utilizing all of their talents and available resources. The hacker finds a creative new solution to the problem at hand.
Artists and hackers are similar in many ways. Both are attempting to achieve some sort of goal while trying to operate under stressful conditions and with limited resources. Both exist in work environments that have an abundance of competition and in which there is never only one “proper” way of doing things.
In this chapter, we will introduce you to ten components of the mindset commonly displayed by hackers and apply them to building a career in the music business.
WHAT DO HACKERS ACTUALLY DO?
Below are ten components found within the hacker mindset:
- Forgiveness > Permission
- Team > Talent
- Missionaries > Mercenaries
- Different > Good
- Future > Nostalgia
- The Third Way
- The Cupcake Hack
- The KPI Hack
- Resourcefulness Beats Resources
- Fight Beats Want
The ten components listed above are important because they act as Force Multipliers when building a business. Force Multipliers are tools, resources, or strategies that significantly amplify the effort you put into any given task. In other words, the ten components making up this chapter are all here to help you get more from the efforts invested by you and your team.
Think of it in terms of a construction worker trying to break up a concrete slab. While you could use a plain old hammer to do the job, you will spend a lot more time and energy using the hammer than you would if you used a powered jackhammer. Both the hammer and jackhammer will do the job, but the jackhammer acts as a Force Multiplier and gets the job done more quickly and more efficiently.
Let’s explore these components individually to see how they each can serve as a Force Multiplier toward the development of career in the music industry.
SECTION 1 FORGIVENESS > PERMISSION
Great hackers have a bias towards action and will seek forgiveness before they ask permission. They are aggressive and see gaps in the market as well as the problems that can be fixed. They have the pirate or punk rock aesthetic in their personality in that they aren’t afraid to step on toes and draw the ire of those around them.
Grace Hopper, the renowned United States Navy rear admiral and computer scientist, is often quoted as saying, “It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Some of the greatest business minds throughout history have belonged to those people that didn’t wait for others to provide approval; they took action, oftentimes knowing that doing so would result in angering another person. (Remember when we talked about the importance of doing?)
IMPORTANT NOTE: While we are big fans of the Forgiveness > Permission concept, we do NOT advocate applying this to the use of somebody else’s intellectual property without first getting their permission. The music industry has seen its share of lawsuits due to people using songs and images without permission from the copyright owners. Seeking forgiveness instead of permission is one thing; breaking the law is another.
Wade remembers the first time he doubled down on a business decision that nearly left him unemployed:
It was the first year I was directing the singing competition that led to me founding my record label. I was holding the competition’s final round at a massive local festival that I knew would put the show in front of a live crowd of more than twenty-five thousand people. But I wanted that final round to be even BIGGER and was making a push to have it broadcast live on one of the local radio stations at which I was employed.
When I pitched the idea to our stations’ general manager, he looked at me like I was out of my mind; I remember the conversation like it happened yesterday.
“Let me get this right. You want me to give you three hours of airtime for free so you can broadcast amateur singers … LIVE?” he asked mockingly. Then he told me he would never agree to something like what I was proposing.
I threw caution to the wind and took a major risk with my next statement to him.
“Okay. If you aren’t going to agree to do it, I’ll tell you what is going to happen. I’m going to be left with no choice but to approach the Clear Channel radio stations (a total of five stations) over in Youngstown (our biggest competition at the time). And they WILL do it. And then we will have to explain to corporate why our competition set up in our backyard and did a massive event that WE should have been doing.”
My general manager looked like he was going to lunge across his desk and punch me. In that moment, I truly thought I was going to lose my job.
By the time I had exited his office, he had agreed to broadcast the final show live on our fifty thousand-watt FM country station and it further legitimized the singing event, which grew to become one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast and later evolved into my current company.
Stepping on toes is unavoidable. Not everybody is going to agree with you nor will they always approve of your decisions.
Fortune favors the bold … and the hacker.
In summary, the problem and solution regarding this hack are
Problem: Many artists won’t act on something until they are asked to do so, because a lack of self-confidence results in them being uncomfortable promoting themselves or taking risks.
Solution: Through the hack of Forgiveness > Permission, the artist shifts their mentality and becomes more focused on action. As being proactive becomes more routine, the artist becomes more confident and begins to reach for opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available.
SECTION 2 Team > Talent
Hackers never go it alone. The concept of complementary teams is foundational to the hacker worldview. We will go much deeper into this concept in the “Super Teams” section, but for now, suffice it to say that teams act as a Force Multiplier that leads to better ideas being brought faster into the world.
For many young artists, overemphasizing one’s talent is detrimental to their growth. At lower levels, artists often become enamored with their own talent, but if you’re going to develop a career and professionalize, team development will take a front seat to talent. Artists of the future will be comfortable with building a team around their career.
In summary, the problem and solution regarding this hack are:
Problem: Younger artists attempt to do as much as possible on their own. It results in them spreading themselves to thin and the innefficient use of their time as they attempt to tackle projects for which they have no qualifications or experience.
Solution: The Team > Talent hack will help artists develop and strengthen their ability to begin forming a team of people with complementary skills. Doing so reduces pressure on the music artist and actually frees up time for the artist to focus their energies on what they do best.
SECTION 3 Missionaries > Mercenaries
The Missionaries > Mercenaries hack focuses on identifying why people do what they do in the music industry and what motivates their actions. Whether they are an artist, producer, or manager, accurately identifying the individuals as either a Missionary or a Mercenary becomes an important part of team building; people you encounter will fall into one of these two categories.
The biggest difference between the Missionary and the Mercenary is that the Missionary has an emotional attachment and a deep desire to succeed for reasons that go beyond the Mercenary’s simple pursuit of a paycheck.
Billionaire investor John Doerr once described the differences between Missionaries and Mercenaries in the following ways:
“Mercenaries are driven by paranoia; missionaries are driven by passion.
Mercenaries think opportunistically; missionaries think strategically.
Mercenaries go for the sprint; missionaries go for the marathon.
Mercenaries focus on their competitors and financial statements; missionaries focus on their customers and value statements.
Mercenaries are bosses of wolf packs; missionaries are coaches of teams.
Mercenaries worry about entitlements; missionaries are obsessed with making a contribution.
Mercenaries are motivated by the lust for making money; missionaries, while recognizing the importance of money, are fundamentally driven by the desire to make meaning.”
Missionaries will work harder and go further because they believe in the mission and are compelled to help the artist whether they receive a paycheck or not. They are passionate about what they do. They will attempt things that the practical person drawn first to a quick payoff would never do. Hackers have a sixth sense for people who are just looking for a buck and, more often than not, avoid them. They will search out and find other missionaries like themselves to pursue the thing they endeavor to do.
Make no mistake - while we would all love to work with people who believe in what we are doing, artists will still hire mercenaries to take care of important projects on their behalf.
Nashville entertainment attorney Karl Braun is a great example of a missionary. His law firm, Hall Booth Smith P.C., sits near the top floor of the Fifth Third building in downtown Nashville. Take a quick jog up two staircases from their offices and you will find yourself on one of two outdoor patios overlooking the Music City skyline. At one of the highest points in the city, from which a person can look over all of Nashville, Karl allows his clients to hold unique outdoor performances and special showcases.
One of Karl’s female clients regularly uses the patios for a special charity show she organizes and puts on during CMA Fest, one of Nashville’s biggest annual music celebrations. He doesn’t have to allow this young artist to hold the show there … but does so because he wants to help her have a successful event.
Karl’s income is a direct result of his care for the artist - not the other way around.
In summary, the problem and solution regarding this hack are:
Problem: In an industry full of people looking to make a dollar, many music artists are unsure of what to look for in possible team members. Bad decisions in team building can lead to an unstable business that set the artist back years in some worst-case scenarios.
Solution: The Missionaries > Mercenaries hack checks for intent and commitment and provides the artist with a litmus test to use as their team and career expand. Using this hack, the artist keeps an antenna up for the most dedicated “lifers,” saving a special seat for those who will stand with them through both the ups and the downs - instead of only the “ups.” There will always be Mercenaries that can be for you, but Missionaries will be with you.
While the book’s retail price is $89.00, Hypebot readers can receive a special 80% discount if they enter coupon code Hypebot80% at checkout. That discounted price of $19.99 is available for a limited time. Hacking Music: The Music Business Model Canvas can be purchased by clicking HERE.