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Learning the business of music isn't generally an easy task. It can be easy to get confused about how to get your music out there, but if you learn from those who have already been there and done that, it doesn't have to be.
With that in mind, here are six music business and music marketing books worth checking out. They've already helped hundreds of thousands of musicians before you, so I'm sure they can help you too.
Book 1: All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Ninth Edition by Donald S. Passman
As with other books on this list, this is not a short one. Amazon best seller All You Need to Know About the Music Business features 544 pages of content tailored to anyone looking to understand the music business, from musicians and songwriters to publishers and promoters. With 20 years of history behind it, this book is widely considered the go-to guide for those looking to learn about the industry. (Editor's note: an earlier edition of this is the first music business book I ever bought; money well spent! Shaun Letang).
All You Need to Know About the Music Business contains information on: Building your team, record deals, songwriting and music publishing, the business of being in a band, touring, merchandising, classical music, motion picture music, and more.
The business of music can be intimidating. There’s a lot to know, and when it comes to legal issues and technical jargon, people’s eyes tend to glaze over. Author Passman helps clarify how it all works and what it’s like to work in the industry, regardless of your function or capacity. This is a valuable guide when you’re trying to make sense of complicated matters.
If you aren’t serious about your involvement with the music industry, you can pass this one up. Otherwise, you should set aside some time to delve into it.
Book 2: How To Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician by Ari Herstand
Has anyone told you that there aren’t enough great resources out there for musicians? Well, that’s simply not true. If anything, we are spoiled, and any book on this list has the potential to help you break through and achieve your goals. If nothing else, you’ll be further along and better off than if you didn’t take any time to read them.
Ari Herstand has established himself as a music marketing and business expert by publishing detailed articles on a variety of topics. He’s done well for himself as a musician, and he’s helped others do the same. When he offers tips and advice, he’s usually sharing from his own experience.
When former founder of CD Baby Derek Sivers describes How to Make it in the New Music Business as an “absolute must-read for every musician”, it’s hard to ignore. Hertsand has received a lot of praise from notable industry figures and publications for his work.
In this book, you can expect to learn: How to build a fan base, how to book your own tour, how to build your YouTube following, how to get your songs placed in films and TV, how to maximize your royalties, and more.
At 400 pages, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into. This is an essential read for the digital age musician.
Music Business Book 3: Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business by Jesse Cannon
If you do a bit of asking around, you’ll find many people referencing Get More Fans as the definitive guide for musicians. This may have something to do with its 714 pages of content – that’s about what you’d expect the length of an encyclopedia or dictionary to be.
Joking aside, this book is chock full of ideas on how to promote your music and monetize it. It covers: How to get your music in front of more people with less effort, tools and websites you can use to promote your music, how to use social media to market your content, how to make better quality recordings, how to brand yourself, and much more.
You may have heard some experts say this is the best time to be a musician. If you resonate with this idea, and believe you have more tools at your fingertips than ever before to build the career of your dreams, you’ll love this book.
Now is the time to stand on your own two feet, carve out your own niche, and blaze your own trail. No one else is going to do this for you. In Get More Fans, you’ll learn how to truly take charge of your career.
Author Jesse Cannon is also a producer and mastering engineer, so you know you’re getting solid advice from a credible source.
Music Marketing Book 4: The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing, and Thriving in The Information Age by David Andrew Wiebe
In case you’re wondering, yes, The New Music Industry was written by yours truly. After scrapping my first music book project, I went to work on what I felt was an honest and transparent look at my career and the industry through my own eyes – someone who had spent over 10 years building an independent career in music to that point.
I wrote this book because I wanted to pass on everything I’d learned to that point to other musicians like me. I tried a lot of things and made my share of mistakes. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “standing on the shoulders of giants.” What it means is if we study what others have done to get to where they are, we can see further and achieve what they achieved faster.
I don’t consider myself a “giant” by any means. But if someone learned from my mistakes, I’m sure they could be much further along in their career in a shorter amount of time than I ever was. That’s the basic premise behind the book.
I also felt it important to discuss the “shape” of the music industry. When I first started writing this book, I didn’t find anyone talking about this. That’s not terribly surprising, because of how fragmented and in flux the industry was and still is. But I broke it all down into 11 components that were dominating mainstream consciousness. These are the same 11 components people reference today, even as we look to the future of virtual reality and a technology-driven industry.
In The New Music Industry, I also cover: Personal development, business mentality, touring and live performance, radio, music instruction, copywriting, blogging, podcasting, email marketing, social media, and YouTube and video marketing. I’ll have more to share in the second edition when I get to putting it together.
Book 5: Six-Figure Musician – How to Sell More Music, Get More People to Your Shows, and Make More Money in the Music Business by David Hooper
Music Business Radio host David Hooper has been a noted expert in the music marketing field for a long time. He’s amassed a ton of insights through the many interviews he’s conducted, as well as the work he’s done for and with musicians.
As Hooper himself has said, Six-Figure Musician could have been called Seven-Figure Musician and it wouldn’t have been far from the truth. He points out that there are many independent musicians earning six-figures, though they may not be household names. Six-figures certainly isn’t the limit for independent artists.
This book is a collection of thoughts and ideas as much as it is a cohesive work on the music industry. Hooper covers: Mindset and psychology, how to get a record contract, how to be a successful DIY musician, how to build a strong connection with your fans, social media marketing, avoiding burnout, email marketing, and much, much more.
There are plenty of high-level ideas in this volume. If you get inspiration from reading the works of people like Derek Sivers, you’ll like this book a lot. I am a proponent of the idea that you need to get your mindset game together before you can ever expect to reach any level of success in your career, and I think this book does a good job of laying out the rules of engagement.
Music Industry Book 6: Your Band Is A Virus – Expanded Edition by James Moore
Independent Music Promotions’ CEO James Moore himself penned this work, Your Band Is A Virus, which is the essential guide to marketing your music. If you’re thinking about getting your music in front of more people in these changing times, this volume should be on your bookshelf.
Many musicians have misconceptions about marketing and promoting their works. It can be hard enough putting together a worthwhile strategy let alone navigating all the advice that’s out there to arrive at a sensible and practical plan of attack.
In this book, Moore focuses quite a bit on press, which I think is a great area to cover, because it can be confusing and difficult for musicians to obtain. Quotes and testimonials can lend a lot of credibility to your name and help you impress industry gatekeepers. Quotes can help you flesh out your bio, because realistically can only say so much about yourself before it starts sounding braggadocios. Moore helps musicians get press and coverage every single day – it's what he does. It’s hard to imagine anyone better to learn from.
The expanded edition of Your Band Is A Virus by James Moore includes interviews with Stewart Epps and Andy Gesner, who are major players in the industry.
I’m a strong believer in self-education.
While traditional education has a great deal to offer, I don’t believe it equips you with some of the most valuable life skills you can learn – relationship and communication skills, problem-solving skills, financial smarts, stress management, long-term thinking, and more.
Self-education allows you to take control of your growth and gain the skills you were never taught in school. You can explore any topic to whatever extent you feel will benefit you. You can even become an expert on a topic if you choose to.
Certainly, life is a great teacher. But the problem with waiting for life to teach you what you need to know is that it can end up being a very painful process. You’re going to run into difficult and unusual circumstances and have no idea how to cope or deal with them. If you invest in yourself and dig your well before you’re thirsty, you’ll be better prepared for the challenges ahead. Rest assured, there will be challenges.
Do you read music business books? I believe there’s a great deal you can learn from them. It’s surprising to me that so many people stop reading after college and don’t continue to invest in their personal growth. After all, your mind is one of your greatest assets. If you aren’t investing in yourself, what or who are you investing into?
If you’re serious about advancing your career, it’s time to start delving into some quality material. To me, there’s nothing quite like a book that says “quality”, because someone had to put a lot of thought into every word or sentence that went into their manuscript. They had to pore over every word.
If nothing else, reading can help you stay inspired on your creative journey.
When I buy a book, it’s always to learn something new. But sometimes when I start delving into it, I may find it’s not meeting me exactly where I am on my path. It might be ahead or behind of where I am in my growth. That’s okay. I will still finish the book and take notes on it, because who knows? That knowledge may benefit me down the line. I might come back to those books later.
Reading can stimulate ideas. You may be in a bit of a rut right now, but if you begin consuming quality material, you could find yourself inspired once more. The ideas you generate may not have anything to do with what you read. They may simply come as result of taking in fresh input and exercising your brain. That’s another great benefit of reading – it helps you keep your mind sharp.
Get into the habit of reading. It gives you the chance to explore how other people think and the steps they’ve taken to get the results they have. You can study the systems that have made others successful and apply them to your career. You don’t need to read a lot – 15 to 20 minutes per day is a great starting point and can help you finish reading many books if you stay consistent with it.
Update: We've now also written a post recommending our favorite music theory books, so have a look if that interests you.