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Books on the Business - The Four Best Books Every Aspiring Musician Should Read

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

When getting started in any industry, it's important to be equipped with the right knowledge in order to succeed. Luckily when it comes to music and the music business, many books have been written to help aspiring and early career musicians develop that knowledge they need. We've collected below four books that we've read ourselves, and found to be very useful for understanding the music business and life as a musician in order to best help our clients. Of course along with this knowledge, it's important to have the right people in your corner. So if you have a passion for music and are interested in making a career of it, don't hesitate to contact us at populusmusic.ca/contact. Without further ado, here are four books every aspiring musician should have in their library.



How to Make It in the New Music Business by Ari Herstand


How to Make It in the New Music Business

A list-topper all around, no collection of music business literature would be complete without the de facto bible for aspiring musicians of the 2010s.


Ari Herstand breaks down, from his own personal journey, his guide to how to use the tools of the 21st century musician to the best of your ability. Ari discusses streaming, social media, being your own agent, marketing manager, and tour manager in expertly conversational, easily understood prose. It is a fantastic guide on how to fill all the traditional roles of the music business on your own, or among very few people.


If you were to pick up a single book from this list, it is our personal recommendation that it be this one.



How Music Works by David Byrne


How Music Works

Courtesy of an industry veteran, David Byrne, most famously of the Talking Heads, takes a scientific, objective look at music, musing on what makes good music tick. Part autobiography, Byrne uses his own personal experiences in the industry combined with the trends he has observed during his over forty year career in music to determine this. Covering topics such as the importance of collaboration, the advent of home recording and the internet, along with the evolution of live music, it is a fantastic read for gaining context on the industry as a whole, where it came from, and where it's going.





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


All You Need to Know About the Music Business

If Ari Herstand's book is the bible for the new musician, consider this to be the Old Testament of that musician's bible. This book has been topping lists as the go-to read on the business for years. Now on its ninth edition and over twenty five years of revisions, Passman has written an essential foundation for the music business. Teaching you the essentials such as the key roles of the business, how to get the right team for you, as well as traditional business practices (demos, working with record labels, etc.) For someone who doesn't know a thing about the business of music, this sizable read will give you a strong foundation for all aspects of the industry.





The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook


The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

What allows those Top 40 hits to make it to the top of the charts? How do the popstars of today make millions in royalty income alone? John Seabrook answers these questions and more in his guide to making a hit. For any musician interested in the field of pop music, and what makes it tick, this is an ideal read. Seabrook highlights the producers of the day who make these pop hits, and the superstars along with them. The book provides a fascinating look at the mechanical nature of the modern pop scene, and how that machine keeps producing hit after hit. This one comes highly recommended for anyone interested in the prevalent music scene of today, and the behind-the-scenes of how that scene was manufactured.





BONUS: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie


How to Win Friends & Influence People

The essential self-help book for anyone in the business of people. And the music business is all about impressions, connections, and networking. As a bonus suggestion, although not a book covering the business of music specifically, Dale Carnegie's classic help book outlines the art of good communication, and how best to use those skills in your favour. From how to leave a good impression to the six golden rules to get people to like you and to think the way you do, there's no better single book for these essential skills than How to Win Friends and Influence People.










Any other suggestions?


That concludes our recommendations for essential reads for the modern musician. Are there any books you consider necessary that we missed out on? If so, be sure to let us know over on our social media so we can check them out too.


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