To a large degree an artist’s career depends on understanding things they’re not necessarily great at. We call it “telling yourself the truth” - This is section out of the chapter called “Living on Planet Reality” 

In this section I want to introduce The Brand Autopsy - The 50,000-foot Overview. This is a tool that we’ve used hundreds of times to help teams begin to see all the moving parts of an artist’s career. The things that an artist is GREAT at, and the things that an artist has NO IDEA about. 

It’s the idea: What I don’t see is what costs me money.

This tool will help you SEE what you DON’T SEE. 

Always in your corner


An annual overview meeting is something that a lot of young artists tend to avoid. However, professional artists and headlining acts do just the opposite and will make this particular meeting one of the cornerstones of their planning process for the upcoming year.

Conducting an annual overview with your team is a hack that provides several important benefits:

1. It allows the team to take a step back and review its strategies in response to the artist’s progress or regression throughout the previous year.

2. It improves the team’s work culture by giving all members an opportunity to voice their thoughts in an open and honest environment.

3. With everybody chiming in with their opinions, it creates a hive-mind thought process from which priorities for the upcoming year can be better identified and executed.

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Think of annual overviews as flying fifty thousand feet above an artist’s music career and looking down at it from a vantage point that allows you to see every single aspect of it. The overhead view allows the team to identify what is working efficiently, where improvements need to be made, and what components of the artist’s business are being neglected.

The process itself is simple: sit down with your team, find an empty wall, and grab some sticky notes. On each sticky note, write one of the Brand Autopsy words appearing in the image above.

Each word on the sticky notes represents an important part of the artist’s business. Think about how strong or weak the artist is in each area represented by the words on the notes. Then stick the notes on the wall, placing the artist’s strengths higher than their weaknesses. A recent autopsy we did looked something like this:

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Everybody taking part in the exercise must be able to communicate with complete honesty, and there should be no secrets or hard feelings when it comes to this kind of constructive exercise. Conducting a Brand Autopsy helps bring everybody on the team into greater alignment.

What follows are some examples of categories and questions asked during annual overviews we have conducted with some of our own artists. You will likely realize that much of the information discussed during an annual overview is reliant upon the collection of data and key performance indicators (KPIs), proving just how valuable that information is.

In the following questions, the word offense refers to whether the artist is being proactive instead of acting in response, or defensively, in terms of each area of their career.

SONGS - “How are we on offense as it relates to songs?”


  • Co-writers
  • Syncs
  • Record cycle
  • Producer/Production


STORY - “How are we on offense as it relates to telling our story?”


  • Social media numbers
  • Public relations and publicity


LIVE SHOW - “How are we on offense as it relates to our show?”


  • Visual distinctions
  • Show “moments”
  • Show price
  • Rehearsal
  • Road management
  • Number of shows


SALES - “How are we on offense as it relates to sales?”


  • SAAS Tools
  • E-commerce
  • Physical products
  • Merchandise
  • Sponsorships


OPERATIONS - “How are we on offense as it relates to our operations team and culture?”


  • Internal team
  • Operations
  • Communications
  • Culture


Additional important questions that are asked when we conduct annual overviews:


  • What is working?
  • What is stopping us from going into the next new stage?
  • • How could we be working better?
  • What is a needle mover for next year?
  • What are the quick wins for next year?
  • What are the milestones we need to hit next year?


The “platform” builds the “music.”
The music alone can’t build the platform.

This chapter may feel like a lot upon the first reading; for an artist who is new to these frameworks and exercises, it will be. That’s to be expected. You are growing a new part of your brain - an important part that will manage just about every project throughout your career. The benefits of these tools are not meant to be 100% fully realized immediately; these are all tools you and your team will grow into over time and revisit again and again. We return to them often as well, and the more we use them to recalibrate our course, the better and smarter we work.

To Learn More about Hacking Music and Discover how thousands of elite artists and entrepreneurs are using the HACKING MUSIC to build a platform under their music that actually Strengthens, Supports and Sells the great experiences they create.

Hacking Music The Music Business Model Canvas © 2018 by Wade Sutton, Jeff McMahon and John Pisciotta

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

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