The 10 Best Music Business Books (2023)
The music business can be very overwhelming to wrap your head around. Luckily, there are plenty of great books to help you navigate the music industry and will help you understand record labels, royalties, music marketing, music publishing, and much more.
Here is my pick of the top 10 music business books that I feel everyone should read.
The 10 Best Music Business Books of 2023
1. All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Ninth Edition
Considered the industry bible by the Los Angeles Times, All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Ninth Edition is a gem of a book by the music lawyer Donald Passman. It is basically the de facto guide for the music industry and is highly recommended for anyone who wants to get into it.
The book was first published in 1991. It is now in its tenth edition. Over the years, it has charted the extreme change that the music industry has undergone. From the addition of MTV to the MP3 revolution and now streaming services, the book has updated itself to the point that it’s still very relevant.
With chapters including picking the right team around you, signing the record deals, merchandising deals, copyrighting, and even finding the right appearance, this book is for all those who want to know what it takes to survive in the music world.
It covers pretty much everything there is in the industry outside of making music. So whether you’re a musician or a manager, a lawyer or a publisher, you should give this a go.
2. Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business
At a time when the music got free and everyone has equal access to release their music, this book by music producer, Jesse Cannon, is a great read if you want to stick out like a sore thumb.
Get More Fan: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business basically looks at the world of social media and streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud as both a pro and a con.
Sure it’s an ocean of artists out there and music listeners don’t pay a lot of money but it’s also easier than ever to record and publish the art form that is music. You can do it sitting from your home for practically free.
The book is a very helpful DIY marketing tool for all musicians to make their products known in the contemporary world. Read it and use it to its full potential and you just might see your casual listener turn into a dedicated patron.
3. How To Make It in the New Music Business
There’s no doubt that the music industry is changing by the second. You blink and a new chapter passes by. So, in this fickle world, if you want to survive based on making music, you should consider this book by Ari Herstand.
Herstand started as a musician and eventually founded Ari’s Take, a company that focuses on music business education and helping independent artists. In 2016, he came out with this book and it instantly resonated with a lot of artists.
How To Make It in the New Music Business is a great read for every DIY musician and songwriter that’s trying to make a name for themselves. It’ll give you an insightful look into how to take full advantage of all the tools readily available to you in the comfort of your home. Also, it’s going to teach you how to maximize media platforms like Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook to build a following.
4. Take Care of Your Music Business, Second Edition
If you’re a professional musician, you know how important it is to be aware of the legal and financial side of music-making. However, if you’re not a pro yet, then you should read Take Care of Your Music Business by John Kellogg.
First published in 2001, it’s a highly-touted book for lawyers, musicians, managers, record label execs, and everyone in between. It gives you great insights into that other, not so flashy side of the business that most people don’t generally know about. The new edition also covers the digital age, 360-degree deals, and some nice case studies.
With just about 200 pages, the book isn’t the most comprehensive resource you’ll find. But, John Kellogg is a respected entertainment lawyer and knows what he’s talking about. So, it’s a great read, nevertheless.
5. Music Money and Success 8th Edition
Let’s face it. Unless you’re an amateur, making music is a business. When you release music, you ultimately expect to be paid for it. And Music, Money, Success by Jeff Brabec and Todd Brabec teaches you exactly how.
The book isn’t a sure shot or a shortcut to earning a living by making music because there are none. However, it will teach you what to look out for, whom to approach, and how to get it.
It basically uses real-life examples of people making a fortune in the music industry and breaks it down thoroughly, revealing the secrets behind their success. It’s not just for records, Music, Money, and Success covers most facets of the creative world that involves music. Be it Broadway, commercials, TV, or movies.
If you’re on the creative side, this would be a great and informative read for you. It’ll help you gain a much better view of what and how it takes to find monetary success with your music.
6. The Music Business Advice Book
Most musicians don’t get formal education before jumping into this vast world. And many times, they end up lost, exploited or burnt out. So, wouldn’t it be great to have seasoned vets guide you as you’re starting your journey?
Bobby Owsinski’s The Music Business Advice Book is exactly what you need. Over the course of five years on his podcast, Owinsiki compiled a list of 150 invaluable tips from 130 industry pros and synthesized them into this book.
The book covers a lot from networking to charging appropriate fees to following your fire. It’s good for professionals, even better for beginners.
7. The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing
Touted as a must-have, The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing by Randall D Wixen is a great book for learning everything you need to know about music publishing. Artists usually suffer from this mostly due to ignorance. This book will, however, change that.
Having been updated through time, it’ll take you through performing, releasing, signing deals, copyrighting, and a lot more. You will also learn about the new age hurdles people face while publishing and how to approach them.
The language is simple and the writing is amusing. It is an enlightening book that is easy to understand for even the most layman musician. While the book may not be the longest, you still get a lot out of it with a thorough read.
8. Artist Management for the Music Business 4th Edition
Being an artist manager is a lucrative and fun job. But the reality is that not everyone can do it. It takes a lot of patience, grit, and skills to succeed in making a name for yourself and your clients.
Paul Allen’s Artist Management for the Music Business is a deep exploration of the world of artist management. It presents vital insights into what it means to be a manager with sample plans for career plans to contract sections.
The book has chapters on proven management tools to help you organize your activities, and career strategies to plan out the career path you want your artists to undertake. If you are a manager or want to be one, you ought to take a look at this book.
9. Real Artists Don't Starve
Do you know the stereotype that most artists struggle to make a basic living? There’s some truth to that. But, in this incredibly creative and accessible world, you can capitalize on your talents and find success.
Jeff Goins’s Real Artists Don’t Starve is basically a self-help book for all those wanting to pursue a career in the creative field. It’s great for easing the worries and tensions people feel before they step into or part ways with the industry.
It’s a great read for anyone from graphic designers to writers. It busts myths behind successful and unsuccessful creatives and gives you a bunch of principles to live by.
10. Start Your Music Business
An understanding of the music business world isn’t the only thing you should be familiar with. You should also take some time to study the legal aspect if you want to run a business smoothly.
Start Your Music Business by Audrey Chisholm Esq. is a brilliant, easy-to-read guide for all those in the industry who wish to start a music business. The author is a well-known music attorney who has seen a lot. This book is her way of presenting her knowledge and ultimately helping out new music entrepreneurs.
The book contains a lot of interesting chapters including protecting your name and music, sampling legally, avoiding legal issues, and how to collaborate with other musicians. You should look into this one.
There you have it. My top 10 essential readings when it comes to the music business. Of course, there are many more to read, including various articles and online courses. But these, I feel should empower you a lot and come to your aid when you step into the music world.
Embarking into the world that is the music business is very daunting and a lot of knowledge is required if you want to navigate through it smoothly. This is the reason behind all of these guidebooks, they show how to break through various aspects of the music world, whether they be TV, commercials, video games, and others while also tackling the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC).