When musicians ask me for recommendations on books to help them advance their music career, I rarely recommend books about music promotion, as many get outdated, or just say the same old shit e.g. ‘Be active on social media’ or even more painfully ‘Build a loyal fan base’. Below are a few exceptional books that I would recommend, along with a few great books on creativity, and success that I regularly recommend to musicians.
Books on music promotion
This is one of the few music promotion books that I regularly recommend. Ariel is not only a good friend in the online music business world, but she’s an incredibly talented music publicist with some incredible insights. In Music Success in Nine Weeks, Ariel shares tips ranging from creating your elevator pitch, to setting goals, and managing social media strategies. Don’t worry, despite the title of her book she doesn’t actually expect you to reach the pinnacle of music business success in nine weeks time, but if any book were to get you closer to that goal, this would be it. A must-have for any DIY musician looking to promote their music.
Another great book by a good friend in the community. Bob Baker has been in the game of marketing music longer than most of us, and although some of his tips are the common sense types, this book has some great insights for the musician looking to do some guerrilla marketing (no, that’s got nothing to do with actual guerillas). For less than £15 this book is worth picking up and scanning for a few fresh ideas.
Books on The Music Business
This is one of my favourite books on the boring side of the music business (sorry music lawyers). In Music Business: The Essential Guide to the Law and the Deals Ann talks through everything you need to know to keep your hands clean and be prepared when managers, record labels, sponsors, and other music companies start asking for your autograph on a dubious piece of text-heavy paper. The book is fun and has lots of hard-hitting case studies from her career as a music lawyer where well-known musicians got screwed over by lawyers, record labels and other music business professionals. If you’re looking to learn about the various types of emerging deals and contracts, this is the book.
A few years ago I interviewed Dave Kusek about his thoughts on where the music business is going. Dave has an abnormal talent for predicting the future of innovation in the music industry with great accuracy. This book is his manifesto on the future of music and the digital revolution. It’s a great read from one of the most intelligent futurists in the music business.
My Top Five Books for Musicians
Now onto the really great stuff – the books above are great reading if you want to learn about promoting music or the music business in general, but the most well-rounded and intelligent musicians I meet are often those who explore outside of the boundaries of the music section in their library. Here are my top five books of all time for musicians.
1. Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
In January 2012 I was lucky enough to meet Derek at his offices in Singapore. Derek founded CDbaby and sold it for $22 million, which he then gave to a charitable trust. This book is an amazing collection of lessons about creative entrepreneurship, innovation, and life, from one of the most humble and down-to-Earth musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
What makes Anything You Want such a great read for musicians is that it explains how Derek was frustrated that he couldn’t sell his music online, which is why he created a buy-it-now button on his website. When other musicians saw Derek selling his music with a buy-it-now button they asked if they too could sell their music on his website, until he finally ended building an ‘online music shop’, known today as CDbaby.com. If you don’t want to spend the £5 or so on buying this book, I strongly recommending dedicating at least an hour or so to reading some of Derek’s life lessons on his blog sivers.org – you will not regret it.
2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Despite the title, this book is not really about getting rich (in my opinion). Think and Grow Rich is a study of over 1,000 successful entrepreneurs over 25 years. Napoleon distilled all of the traits commonly found in successful entrepreneurs into 13 simple principles. I see musicians as ‘creative entrepreneurs’, and I see success as obtaining your dreams. This book is an incredible insight into how to realise dreams (but without the lame self-help twist).
3. Rework by 37 Signals
Again, this book by 37 Signals is more intended for creative entrepreneurs opposed to musicians directly, but there are some great lessons to be learnt in this book about being unconventional when it comes to working on building your career as a musician.
4. Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
I’ve read this several times now, and every time I read the first ten pages I get a huge burst of motivation to kick ass on social media. Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the few non-celebrities with over 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. He built his multi-million pound success from pure hustle on the social media, and this is where he shares how he does it. If nothing else, this book is a brilliant motivational kick up the ass.
5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This is a classic by Dale Carnegie on how to win friends and influence people. “Why do I need to learn how to win friends?” I hear you ask – because the same processes apply to winning fans, and unless you’ve got a decent fan base who are supporting your creative work, you’re going to struggle. This is one of best books on communication skills for anyone looking to up their game.
Have any other recommendations of great books for musicians? Let me know your favourites in the comments below and hopefully we can start compiling a great reading list for musicians.