10 Must-Read Music Business Books to Get Ahead (Updated Sept 2023)

music industry books

Ready to get your music industry knowledge up to scratch? Navigating the music business is like riding a rollercoaster—full of ups, downs, and unexpected twists. With technology reshaping the landscape at breakneck speed, staying up-to-date is more crucial than ever. Whether it’s understanding the complexities of streaming royalties or mastering the art of social media marketing, knowledge is your best ally.

While it’s crucial to stay updated with the latest trends and technologies, don’t overlook the classics that have proven their value over time. Many established music business books regularly update their content to remain relevant, and in many ways, the core principles of the music industry haven’t changed all that much.

Best Music Industry & Marketing Books

So whether you’re a seasoned pro or a fledgling artist, this rundown of the best music business books and marketing books will give you the lowdown you need to make your mark. 

1 All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman 

Donald Passman’s “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” is the sort of book that never gathers dust on your shelf—you’ll find yourself returning to it time and again. This guide is both a cornerstone and a compass for industry players, whether you’re just setting foot in the business or you’ve got years of experience under your belt. Over the years, the book has continued to evolve, mirroring the industry’s own changes.

It’s not just a tome of legal advice or contract templates, although those are certainly there. It delves into the transformational impact of streaming, showing how the business model has shifted from selling records to counting streams. It also shines a light on how artists can bypass traditional industry gatekeepers, offering a new sense of agency to musicians everywhere.

The latest edition offers a timely update, tackling everything from the disruptive influence of TikTok to the role of artificial intelligence in music creation. It also provides a full update on the industry’s latest numbers and trends, ensuring you stay ahead of the curve.

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2The Music Business Handbook by David Baskerville and Tim Baskerville

“Music Business Handbook and Career Guide” is often considered the industry’s other indispensable text, right alongside Donald Passman’s famous tome. Written by David Baskerville and updated by Tim Baskerville, this book is essentially a course on the music business encapsulated in print. It takes a broad approach, breaking down not just the art and craft of music but also the intricate web of opportunities and pitfalls that artists may encounter.

What stands out about this handbook is its focus on career paths. It doesn’t just cater to musicians; it’s a valuable resource for anyone who wishes to work in the industry, from agents and managers to promoters and publishers. It covers the structure of the music industry, key roles involved, and even offers case studies to give you a real-world perspective.

The Thirteenth Edition comes fully loaded with a comprehensive discussion on the streaming revolution and its future trajectory. It dives into rapid changes in music licensing, affecting both creators and the industry at large. This edition also examines the upheaval in music video caused by on-demand streaming and provides all-new coverage on the impact of COVID-19 on the concert industry as well as recent digital advances.

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3Music: The Business by Ann Harrison

Ann Harrison’s “Music: The Business” serves as a robust toolkit for anyone looking to understand the commercial aspects of the music world. Where other books might focus on the broader industry landscape, Harrison hones in on the business mechanics that often perplex even the savviest musicians. Drawing on her extensive experience as a media lawyer, Harrison provides an expert perspective on deals, contracts, and the industry as a whole.

The strength of “Music: The Business” lies in its practicality. It’s rich with templates, sample contracts, and real-world examples, all aimed at demystifying complex contractual language and revenue streams. Whether you’re an artist, songwriter, manager, or industry executive, this book is a dependable companion, offering in-depth looks at copyright law and related rights.

The fully revised and updated edition brings a host of valuable additions. It delves into the current types of record and publishing deals, offers a comprehensive guide to making a record, and covers everything from branding and marketing to merchandising and touring. Notably, it includes the most up-to-date insights on how COVID-19 has affected marketing and features absorbing case studies to illustrate key developments.

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4 Music Money and Success by Jeffrey Brabec and Todd Brabec

“Music Money and Success” by Jeffrey and Todd Brabec is the industry’s insider guide to, quite literally, the title’s promise—music, money, and success. This comprehensive book is a financial playbook for musicians, offering intricate details about various revenue streams from not just record sales and streaming, but also from often-overlooked areas like film, TV, and even video games.

What sets this book apart is its focus on the nitty-gritty: money, contracts, and making the most of every opportunity. It covers a wide array of topics from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to merchandise and product lisencing. It’s not just about understanding the music; it’s about understanding the business of music. Written by industry insiders, Todd Brabec, an educator and entertainment law attorney, and Jeff Brabec, Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs at BMG, this book is your ultimate guide to navigating the complex maze of the music industry’s financial landscape.

Though last updated in 2018, its core principles and insights remain as relevant as ever, making it an indispensable resource for anyone serious about making a career in music.

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5 How To Make It in the New Music Business by Ari Herstand

Ari Herstand’s “How To Make It in the New Music Business” is far from your traditional industry guide. Since its first publication in 2016, this book has rapidly become the go-to resource for musicians looking to carve out a career in an ever-changing industry landscape. Written in an engaging and relatable style, it’s a book that speaks directly to musicians, offering actionable advice on how to build a loyal following and sustain a livelihood in today’s music world.

The book is a treasure trove of practical tips and strategies. From mastering the digital landscape to understanding the intricacies of social media, Herstand provides a comprehensive roadmap for modern musicians.

The newly revised and expanded third edition is particularly timely, addressing how to build a profitable career in the post-COVID era and beyond. It delves into the importance of authentic fan connection and the perseverance needed to navigate the complexities of today’s industry. 

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6The Music Never Stops: What Putting on 10,000 Shows Has Taught Me About Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Magic

“The Music Never Stops” offers a unique, behind-the-curtain look at the world of live music, penned by one of the industry’s most influential concert promoters, Peter Shapiro. Known for iconic venues like the Wetlands in Tribeca and the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, Shapiro’s influence extends far beyond these legendary stages. He’s the man behind Brooklyn Bowl, the producer of U2 3D, and the promoter for the Grateful Dead’s fiftieth-anniversary tour, among many other accomplishments.

What sets this book apart is its deeply personal and insightful narrative. Shapiro walks you through fifty iconic concerts, sharing what it’s like to work with celebrated bands from the Grateful Dead and U2 to Bob Dylan, Phish, and even Leonard Cohen. The book is more than just a history of concerts; it’s a tribute to the entire ecosystem that makes live shows magical—from the artists and the fans to the roadies and sound engineers.

“The Music Never Stops” is an insider’s guide to the modern live music industry, filled with never-before-published backstage anecdotes, insights, and photographs. It offers a holistic view of the industry, making it an indispensable read for anyone who wants to understand the intricate workings of live music.

7 The Perfect Day to Boss Up: A Hustler’s Guide to Building Your Empire by Rick Ross

“The Perfect Day to Boss Up” by hip-hop icon Rick Ross is a compelling roadmap for anyone aiming to build their own music empire. It’s a book that transcends the music industry, offering a universal guide to turning ambition into action. Ross shares intimate insights from his journey, a path marked by adversity but driven by a refusal to settle for anything less than greatness.

More than just a memoir or motivational tome, this book serves as a toolkit for empire-building. It covers everything from managing and investing your money to assembling the perfect team. While the book does offer inside stories from Ross’s business and music ventures, it also dives into the importance of failure as a stepping stone to success and how to handle stressful situations like a boss.

As Rick Ross puts it, “Even the most dire situation is just another opportunity to boss up.” Packed with no-nonsense advice, this revised and expanded edition is an indispensable read, not just for aspiring musicians but for hustlers in all walks of life looking to build their own empire.

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8 The Plain & Simple Guide to Music Publishing by Randall D. Wixen

“The Plain & Simple Guide to Music Publishing” by Randall D. Wixen is the go-to resource for anyone looking to navigate the labyrinthine world of music publishing. With over 15 years as the industry’s definitive guide, this book brings clarity to a subject often seen as the most complex yet potentially lucrative part of the music business. Wixen, an industry veteran, delivers complex information in an approachable and often humorous manner, making it an essential read for professionals and budding songwriters alike.

The 4th edition of the book is its most substantially revised version yet, delving deeper into contemporary issues like streaming, the Music Modernization Act, and recent Copyright Royalty Board rulings. It covers a wide array of topics, from mechanical and performing rights to sub-publishing and foreign rights. Whether you’re negotiating a deal, considering a publishing contract, or simply trying to get a grasp on royalties, this book serves as a comprehensive yet plain-spoken guide.

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9 Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business” by Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas 

“Get More Fans” by Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas is a practical handbook for the modern musician, especially those of you who aren’t waiting around for a record label. This book is designed for the DIY artist, focusing on strategies to build a fan base and carve out a career in an ever-changing industry. It’s all about taking the reins and steering your own ship, bypassing traditional gatekeepers to connect directly with fans.

The book is chock-full of actionable advice, breaking down the intricacies of digital marketing, social media engagement, and grassroots networking. It covers everything from optimizing your online presence to understanding how to release your music effectively. 

This is not just a book about gaining fans; it’s a comprehensive strategy guide to cultivate a loyal following that will stick with you throughout your career.

10 Music Marketing for the DIY Musician by Bobby Borg

“Music Marketing for the DIY Musician” by Bobby Borg is a comprehensive guide tailored specifically for independent artists navigating the complexities of marketing in the digital age. Unlike other guides that offer broad advice, this book hones in on actionable plans, complete with templates, checklists, and sample budgets.

The updated edition packs even more value, featuring new interviews that highlight current marketing strategies in today’s rapidly evolving music market. It delves into leveraging digital marketing and streaming playlists to maximise your reach. You’ll find updated stories and examples that bring music marketing principles to life, as well as future forecasts and trends to keep you ahead of the curve.

To make the guide even more practical, it includes new and revised services, tools, references, and contacts to help musicians at all stages of their careers. Moreover, it offers new marketing plan samples specifically designed for bands, solo artists, freelance musicians, and songwriters.

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