The Best Music Business, Industry, and Marketing Books


Those who read get ahead.

If you want to make it as an artist, you need a few things…

  1. An insatiable drive and passion for making great music
  2. Strong connections and friendships (a support network)
  3. Smart career planning and decisions

To plan your efforts and make good decisions while avoiding detrimental ones, you need knowledge.

Where does that knowledge come from? Most people in the music industry just get it from others. And this is important—you need guidance from those who’ve been in the game longer than you have.

But you should also do some study yourself.

And that’s what this article is for. I’ll share 21 books that will help you out in your music career. Some of these are written specifically for artists and industry people, others are written for a wider audience… but the information inside them is applicable to building your artist career.

Note: each book summary is taken from the book description on Amazon or the publisher’s website.

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1. All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Ninth Edition

Summary:

For more than twenty years, this book has been universally regarded as the definitive guide to the music industry. This latest edition leads novices and experts alike through crucial, up-to-date information on the industry’s major changes in response to today’s rapid technological advances and unpredictable economy.

Whether you are—or aspire to be—a performer, writer, or executive, veteran music lawyer Donald Passman’s comprehensive guide is an indispensable tool.

He offers timely, authoritative information including: how to select and hire a winning team of advisors and structure their commissions and fees; navigate the ins and outs of record deals, songwriting, publishing, and copyrights; maximize concert, touring, and merchandising deals; understand the digital streaming services; and how to take a comprehensive look at the rapidly transforming landscape of the music business as a whole.

Why you should read this:

This book is regarded as the music industry “bible.” It’s both comprehensive and informal, meaning it covers the key components of the music industry in-depth while still being an entertaining read. This book is a must-have resource that you’ll constantly reference when questions arise.

Learn more about this book here.

2. Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business

Summary:

With every day that passes, the power the major labels once had dies a little more. The chance to get the same exposure as your favorite musicians gets easier. The hurdles that would only allow you to get popular—if the right people said your music was good enough—are gone.

You can now get exposed to thousands of potential fans without investing tons of money (like musicians used to) by building a fanbase based on listeners’ love for your music.

Why you should read this:

This is a modern book for independent artists from an author who “gets it.” It’s filled with relevant, quality advice on how to market your music and grow a following. If you’re a one-person team, this book is an essential guide for establishing your career.

Learn more about this book here.

3. This Business of Music, 10th Edition

Summary:

The bible of the music industry with over 500,000 copies sold! Now in its tenth edition, This Business of Music has been revised and completely updated to reflect the latest changes in the ever-evolving music business. An entirely new chapter has been added, asking and answering the question “Are there borders in cyberspace?” The answer is yes, and this book clearly and concisely explains what they are and how to maintain them. 

Why you should read this:

The book is a bit outdated, but nonetheless offers expert advice into the business side of the music industry. It’s a great tool to understand the legal side of the business.

Learn more about this book here.

4. How To Make It in the New Music Business

Summary:

Incredibly comprehensive and brutally honest throughout, How to Make It in the New Music Business covers every facet of the “new” business, including how to:

    • Build a grass-roots fan base―and understand the modern fan
    • Book a profitable tour, and tips for playing live, such as opening vs. headlining etiquette, and putting on a memorable show
    • Become popular on YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud
    • Get songs placed in film and television
    • Earn royalties you didn’t know existed and reach your crowdfunding goals
  • Musicians will not only be introduced to all the tools available today but will be shown how to effectively leverage them to actually make money. More important, they will develop the mindset to be aware of new advancements both online and in the real world and always stay in tune with a constantly evolving landscape.

Why you should read this:

This book is a modern classic written by an experienced touring musician. The book does a great job explaining the current makeup of the music industry, offering real world advice for how to break into it.

Learn more about this book here.

5. Music Marketing for the DIY Musician

Summary:

Music Marketing for the DIY Musician is a proactive, practical, step-by-step guide to producing a fully integrated, customized, low-budget plan of attack for artists marketing their own music. In a conversational tone, it reveals a systematic business approach employing the same tools and techniques used by innovative top companies, while always encouraging musicians to stay true to their artistic integrity.

Why you should read this:

An excellent resource for artists that struggle with marketing. It’s a comprehensive marketing guide, meaning you can jump around the book reading only the sections you need.

Learn more about this book here.

6. Music Money and Success 7th Edition: The Insider’s Guide to Making Money in the Music Business

Summary:

Music, Money and Success: The Insider’s Guide to Making Money in the Music Business tells you how the business works, what you must know to succeed, and how much money you can make in films, television, video games, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, record sales, downloads and streams, advertising, ringtones and ringbacks, interactive toys and dolls, Broadway, new media, scoring contracts and synch licenses, music publishing, foreign countries and much more.

Why you should read this:

This book breaks down the confusing world of publishing and copyrights. A great resource if you’re considering starting a record label.

Learn more about this book here.

7. The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

Summary:

New Yorker staff writer John Seabrook tells a fascinating story of creativity and commerce that explains how songs have become so addictive. Traveling from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, he visits specialized teams composing songs in digital labs with novel techniques, and he traces the growth of these contagious hits from their origins in early ’90s Sweden to their ubiquity on today’s charts. Featuring the stories of artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Rihanna, as well as expert songsmiths like Max Martin, Ester Dean, and Dr. Luke, The Song Machine will change the way you listen to music.

Why you should read this:

Whether or not you’re a fan of pop music, this book explains how the pop industry has exploded to the size it is today. This book does a great job explaining the growth and development of the pop genre, allowing you to take away insights to apply to your own genre.

Learn more about this book here.

8. How Music Works

Summary:

How Music Works is David Byrne’s incisive and enthusiastic look at the musical art form, from its very inceptions to the influences that shape it, whether acoustical, economic, social or technological. Utilizing his incomparable career and inspired collaborations with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and many others, Byrne taps deeply into his lifetime of knowledge to explore the panoptic elements of music, how it shapes the human experience, and reveals the impetus behind how we create, consume, distribute, and enjoy the songs, symphonies, and rhythms that provide the backbeat of life. 

Why you should read this:

This book is an extremely fun and insightful read, written by the Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. How Music Works dives into what makes music catchy, and how musicians adapt their music to different venues and mediums. A great read if you want to learn about the business but want a more “leisurely” read.

Learn more about this book here.

9. Likeable Social Media

Summary:

Packed with brand-new case studies from today’s emerging social sites, this updated edition of Likeable Social Media helps you harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing to transform your business. Listen to your customers and prospects. Deliver value, excitement, and surprise. And most important, learn how to truly engage your customers and help them spread the word.

Why you should read this:

Social media can launch and fuel an artist’s career. Rather than read about marketing techniques from a musician, learn from someone who’s exclusively focused on social media. The book is easy to read, with plenty of clear, easy to understand examples.

Learn more about this book here.

10. Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out

Summary:

Marc Ecko shares the bruising mistakes and remarkable triumphs that reveal the truth behind his success, growing from a misfit kid airbrushing T-shirts in his parents’ garage to the bold creator of two hugely successful branded platforms—Ecko Unltd. and Complex Media. As Ecko explains, it’s not enough to simply merge your inner artist with business savvy, you must understand the anatomy of a brand, starting with its authentic spine.

Why you should read this:

This book explains the cross-section of creativity and business. If you’re worried about how to stay true to your music while sustaining a career, this book is a great read. 

Learn more about this book here.

11. The 4-Hour Work Week

Summary:

Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.

Why you should read this:

This book is a personal favorite of the EDMProd team. It’ll change your perspective on the modern workplace, teaching you how to craft a business that works on its own. As an artist, you’re also an entrepreneur. The hacks and tips in this book will help you be more efficient and effective, not just in production but also in your career. 

Learn more about this book here.

12. How to Win Friends & Influence People

Summary:

Dale Carnegie’s rock-solid, time-tested advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. One of the most groundbreaking and timeless bestsellers of all time, How to Win Friends & Influence People will teach you:

  • Six ways to make people like you
  • Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking
  • Nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

Why you should read this:

The book is a classic for self-improvement in your personal and professional life. Highly recommended in the corporate world, this book will teach you tools and techniques for navigating success in the music industry (and life).

Learn more about this book here.

13. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

Summary:

Do you want to get ahead in life?

Climb the ladder to personal success?

The secret, master networker Keith Ferrazzi claims, is in reaching out to other people. As Ferrazzi discovered early in life, what distinguishes highly successful people from everyone else is the way they use the power of relationships—so that everyone wins.

In Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi lays out the specific steps—and inner mindset—he uses to reach out to connect with the thousands of colleagues, friends, and associates on his Rolodex, people he has helped and who have helped him.

Why you should read this:

Do you struggle with networking? This book will teach you how to build and nurture a network of likeminded individuals. The author provides excellent strategies for effective networking, revealing the successes and failures he’s made in his career.

Learn more about this book here.

14. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Summary:

One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of Presidents and CEOs, educators and parents— in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations.

Why you should read this:

The name says it all. If you’re looking to transform your mindset towards music (and life), be one of the millions who’ve picked up a copy of this book.

Learn more about this book here.

15. Principles

Summary:

In Principles, Dalio shares what he’s learned over the course of his remarkable career. He argues that life, management, economics, and investing can all be systemized into rules and understood like machines. The book’s hundreds of practical lessons, which are built around his cornerstones of “radical truth” and “radical transparency,” include Dalio laying out the most effective ways for individuals and organizations to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams.

Why you should read this:

Learn from the legendary hedge fund manager who’s been named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. The book is incredibly practical, offering rules and systems to help you take control over your life and career. Sam Matla (founder of EDMProd) recommends this book to almost every artist he talks with.

Learn more about this book here.

16. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Summary:

In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. 

Why you should read this:

If you want to be effective as an artist, you need systems in place. This book breaks down the importance of habits, where they come from, and how to change them. Understanding this will help you make the most out of your waking hours.

Learn more about this book here.

17. The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing

Summary:

Since the publication of the first edition in 2005, The Plain And Simple Guide to Music Publishing has emerged as the premier guide to the subject. With sufficient depth to be used as a text at major college music industry programs including UCLA, NYU and Northeastern, the book also remains simple and clear enough for the lay songwriter to gain a crucial understanding of musical copyrights and licensing basics. 

Why you should read this:

This book is an excellent and, most importantly, modern guide to music publishing. If you plan on getting into producing or songwriting, this book is a must.

Learn more about this book here.

18. How Music Got Free: A Story of Obsession and Invention

Summary:

How Music Got Free is a riveting story of obsession, music, crime, and money, featuring visionaries and criminals, moguls and tech-savvy teenagers. It’s about the greatest pirate in history, the most powerful executive in the music business, a revolutionary invention and an illegal website four times the size of the iTunes Music Store.

Why you should read this:

Instead of getting annoyed that people don’t buy music anymore, try to understand the history that led us to this point.

Learn more about this book here.

19. Trust me, I’m Lying

Summary:

In today’s culture…

1) Blogs like Gawker, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post drive the media agenda.

2) Bloggers are slaves to money, technology, and deadlines.

3) Manipulators wield these levers to shape everything you read, see and watch-online and off.

Ryan Holiday explains exactly how the media really works. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.

Why you should read this:

Learn how to game the media from the former Director of Marketing for American Apparel. This book will show you how the media really works, providing countless stories and examples along the way.

Learn more about this book here.

20. Outliers

Summary:

Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Why you should read this:

Learn about what it takes to achieve greatness, understanding all of the factors involved in reaching the highest level of success.

Once you read this book, you’ll understand why there can never be another Swedish House Mafia or Deadmau5. Talent and drive are important, but that’s only one part of the equation.

Learn more about this book here.

21. The Tipping Point

Summary:

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

Why you should read this:

This book will help you understand why some artists are able to launch successful career, while others can’t seem to get off the ground.

Learn more about this book here.

Final Words

There you have it.

21 must-read books for anyone wanting to make it in the music industry.

Don’t read them all at once, pick one and go for it. But do read some of them. Educate yourself. Improve. Win.

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