10 Great Books for Songwriters
You only need to scroll your social media feed to see how many people out there are willing to sell you their incredible formula for success. A formula that often comes at a high price and that almost always reveals itself as a mere commonplace piece of advice you already heard either from your friend or your mother (for free).
Don’t get me wrong: it is positive that the internet is full of educational material. It’s just hard sometimes to distinguish between good and bad advice, risking to throw away money and implement strategies that, in reality, are not as effective as they seemed to be on screen.
One way of overcoming this problem is turning to an old-fashioned friend: a book.
After all, some of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet spend most of their time reading and learning new skills. Why should songwriters be an exception to this rule?
Here’s a list of ten books with some good advice either on your craft or your promotional strategy. Or for an inspiration boost.
In no particular order, here are 10 great books for songwriters that I can recommend
- Improving Your Craft
- 1. Songwriters on Songwriting (Paul Zollo)
- 2. Writing Better Lyrics (Pat Pattison)
- Music Marketing and Industry
- 3. Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business
- 4. Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook (Bob Baker)
- 5. The Indie Band Survival Guide (Randy Chertkow, Jason Feehan)
- 6. How To Win Friends & Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
- Get Some Inspiration
- 7. Daily Rituals, How Artists Work (Mason Currey)
- 8. Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now (Malka Marom)
- 9. Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen)
- 10. Just Kids (Patti Smith)
- That’s our list!
Improving Your Craft
There are tons of songwriting books available to the public, but two, in particular, are very interesting if you are looking to improve your craft.
For this book, Paul Zollo interviewed more than seventy great songwriters, including Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.
The key question of each interview is the same: how do songwriters write songs that resist time in a quickly-changing industry?
This book is an amazing source of inspiration as you can get some precious advice on the craft of songwriting directly from some of your heroes. If you haven’t already done so, put it on your reading list right now!
Pattison’s book has been around since 1995 and, since its release, it has gained huge authority on the topic of songwriting.
Both practical and rich in the theoric aspects of song-making,Writing Better Lyrics contains all the technical knowledge you need to write strong, original verses.
Learn how to build vivid metaphors and leave behind cliches, get inspired by imageries you hadn’t thought of, and dive into the exercises and examples outlined to get a whole new perspective on the art of lyrics-writing.
Music Marketing and Industry
There’s no way around it: you will need strong knowledge in marketing and business to succeed as an independent artist. For this reason, many books on the subjects will be the wake-up call that will boost your career.
This is one of my favorite guides about the music business. It contains a bunch of no-nonsense advice that can help you get noticed in the modern music scene. The book contains everything from social media strategies, how to release your music properly, funding options, building a list of loyal fans, band management, and an absolute ton of more great information.
Bob Baker is an accomplished musician and author.
His classic Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook is a must to get started with online music promotion.
The book has a very practical approach but it also explains the marketing aspects of the music industry with extraordinary in-depth. It will become your one-stop marketing handbook.
Written for songwriters by songwriters, The Indie Band Survival Guide is simply what the title suggests: a useful tool to survive as an independent artist in the music industry.
From sales strategy to copyright and licensing, this guide covers all the aspects you need to know to start making money as an independent musician.
An additional tip: take notes while reading this guide. You’ll find it easier to apply the strategies highlighted in the book.
A lot of what’s important in the music industry is simply learning how to form relationships and influence people positively. This is an absolutely amazing book, that if used properly, can help you in many ways.
Dale Carnegie wrote this book in the Thirties, so it is not what you need if you are looking for quick advice on our rapidly-changing contemporary society. However, it deals with principles of human psychology that are still valid and that, presumably, will be valid in the future.
This book will teach you the most important skill for artists and entrepreneurs alike: how to have productive interpersonal relationships.
There are two very different ways you could take this book.
The good way: learn how to geniunely form an interest in people, break down barriers, and become an overall more agreeable and better person.
The bad way: manipulating people, being false, and phony.
Be the good person. Use the strategies in a positive way. It will serve you and others much better in the long run.
A classic, but a must, especially to improve your negotiation skills.
Get Some Inspiration
Of course, improving your craft and learning everything you can about marketing and business is important, but getting some inspiration from the greatest artists of the past is another prolific activity. You can find a lot of inspiration in the following books.
Originally a blog, Daily Rituals became a bestseller less than a decade ago.
In the book, Mason Currey describes the peculiar routines of great artists of the past, from musicians to writers, from painters to movie directors.
It is a fascinating read, as it uncovers all the dirty work behind the narrated glamorous lives of the celebrities featured. It will teach you discipline and it will encourage you through rough times.
Learn how tough the rise of one of the most acclaimed songwriters of all the time was.
From an undesired pregnancy in poverty to the biggest stages of the world, Joni Mitchell narrates her story to friend and former fellow performer Malka Marom, giving her important details on the creative process and life as a musician.
It is a must if you are experiencing discouragement: Joni’s story will give you a lot of hope.
If you are more into rock’n’roll, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography will have the same effect.
The story of how a working-class young man managed to become one of the bestseller artists ever existed is a stimulating encouragement for the struggling artists of today.
The narration is fluid and passionate and the Boss once again proves to be a great storyteller.
If you’re a punk rocker, you might prefer Patti Smith’sJust Kids.
Dive into the Seventies New York quirky and refreshing artistic scene, following the story of a young Patti and her lover Robert Mapplethorpe.
Learn how the queen of punk rock discovered her passion for songwriting and how she moved her first steps in a crowded music scene.
Last but not least, simply enjoy the tale of a peculiar and unbreakable bond between two sensitive souls.
That’s our list!
Of course, there are a lot more books that could help you with your songwriting technique, your marketing strategy, or your inspiration. Find the ones you will get more passionate about and you will have an arsenal of tools that could change your career (and life) forever.