Why Mental Models Matter for Musicians - The Record Label Model Canvas

Don’t make your own mistakes. Whenever you can, always try to learn from somebody else’s mistakes.

The big benefit of using mental models is this: you don’t have time
to make all the mistakes yourself. You can however leverage what others already know. You can take advantage of those decades THEY SPENT finding out what worked and what didn't.

One Person's Hindsight

Is The Next Person's Foresight

***SIDE NOTE*** OF COURSE, you’ll make your own mistakes and, OF COURSE, you'll learn from them, but this is not about that. This is about leveraging the decades of other people’s mistakes for your benefit.

This is exactly what is beautiful about business models and how they work. 

Mental models are essential in the new music marketplace. Instead of having to bounce between, deals, legal agreements and learning from your own mistakes, healthy, smart and resilient artists understand the models and the deal structure BEFORE they enter them. The ability to "see around corners" and to understand the steps and the levels in front of you is HUGE. The Record Label Model Canvas comes out of chapter 9 of the Hacking Music field guide.

Mental models like these help artists understand the mechanisms within each agreement. Each deal includes: leverage, risk, benefits, the reward, and revenues. They benefit artists by adding with clarity and focus to their decision making. 

The business model canvas allows the entrepreneur to holistically understand the deal in front of them. How all the components feed into each other and allows the artist to make a well reasoned decision.

Business models eliminate the age old trick by lawyers to overwhelm artist entrepreneurs with legalese and drawn out legal documents.

The music industry has experienced radical changes in recent years that have reshaped our expectations and redefined the role and purpose of the stereotypical record label. This evolution has resulted in much less investment of time and money into the development of new artists on the part of the record label; in the current environment, that investment in development is provided by other outside parties or the artists themselves.

These changes have taken place for a number of reasons. Record labels, like other businesses, have sought ways to minimize cost and investment risk. Social media’s growth as a fundamental marketing and communication resource has also been a key contributor. Artists now have the ability to announce a show, sell a ticket, share a song or post a video, blast it out on social media, and have immediate and direct one-to-one fan engagement.

In response to technological advancements and the restructuring of the music industry over the past ten years, artists are learning something vital: there is no better time to be a working artist building a career in music. Many new avenues are available for artists preferring the do-it-yourself route. They can build their own platforms, promote their shows, grow their following, and monetize their music.

Below, are the 10 models we will examine as part of the Record Label Model Canvas:

1. YouTube As A Label

2. Publisher As A Label 

3. Artist Services Label 

4. Producer Label Model

5. Upstreaming Label

6. Motown Label Model 

7. The Joint Venture Label

8. The Artist-Owned Record Label 

9. The 360 Major Label: Multi-Rights Deal

10. Mega Model: Live Nation

For the purposes of this chapter, we will define a record label as any entity that distributes, promotes, and/or monetizes music. We will approach our examination of the different models in the same manner as we have the Publishing Model Canvas by using diagrams to help the reader identify all of the moving parts within each model and to categorize and structure important information.

Below, you will see all 8 of the components of an empty model. Let’s take a run around the bases and familiarize ourselves with each of the components.

1. Artist Example - An artist finding success with this specific model

2. Company Example - A business or label built utilizing this model

3. Legal - The most common legal agreement used by this label model

4. Team - The individuals needed for this type of model to thrive and expand

5. Benefits - Specific advantages found with this label model

6. Risk - Concerns that might discourage consideration of this label option

7. Leverage - Future opportunities this particular model might provide

8. Revenue Collected / Not Collected - What types of revenue this label model collects on your behalf

Before we jump into the 10 label models themselves, let’s familiarize ourselves with the blank record label model canvas. 


the next episode we’re going to do a deep dive into the first of the 10 business models: YouTube As A Label.

See you then,


You can either try to get lucky or you GET BETTER and compete at a higher level. 

If you want to compete at higher levels, Hacking Music is chock full of training tools that will strengthen, focus and build muscle around your career. 

And, if this makes your tail wag, I want to give you something that will definitely move you forward. 

►► Grab our FREE "Laying The Foundation" - Removing Limiting Beliefs. This is book 1 in The Hacking Music Series (E-book Edition). [ Regular price $13.97 ] 

►►FREE WORKSHOP: How to Avoid “SILVER BULLET” Thinking That Sabotage Music Careers and Build a Real Career without Getting Lucky 

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