If, like many who regularly scan the pages of Total Music (or indeed the old codgers who write it), you grew up during the birth and growth pains of 'popular music' you will be well aware of the old 'art verses commerce' chestnut as we were all treated to the rebellious posturing of artists whose career was built on funds supplied by 'the man' - and actively encouraged by a music press who found fault with any acts who actively engaged with their business dealings in any way other than taking their money whilst sneering enigmatically (like the avuncular Van Morrison's contention that 'music is spiritual, the music business is not', bless 'im) -leading to the widely held ludicrous notions that Keith Richards and John Lennon are cool, whilst Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney somehow aren't. Add to this indie labels who set themselves apart from the majors as 'music fans first and foremost' only to later sell out to those same majors or simply fail, dragging their artists down in their wake, due to poor business practices and we are left with a wholly ridiculous situation where trying to support yourself and your family in any other way than just recording songs or appearing onstage is frowned upon.
Not that we're advocating the return of the old svengali manager, like Elvis' career manipulation by Colonel Tom Parker, the numerous Beatles and Stones dodgy deals involving Allen Klein, or indeed Don Arden (just ask The Small Faces, Lindsey De Paul or Robert Stigwood), nor are we suggesting that signing your life and future earnings away for five minutes of fame is anything other than poor long term business practice. In fact what we're suggesting is spending some time doing your own research, and at least as much time on the 'sales' side of your career as the 'creation' side, will help you avoid the sharks whilst maximising your returns in an increasingly more difficult to navigate market.
We have featured some of these 'how to' manuals before - and we're not talking about the, admittedly fascinating 'gear porn' tomes like or the really rather excellent Andy Babiuk and books - what we mean are publications with generally rather dull covers, but packed with genuinely useful information like , Michael Redman's or by Bobby Borg, a really rather useful and informative chap who crops up several times in our following list...
Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business by Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas (Musformation) With experience working for The Cure, The Misfits and Animal Collective Cannon and Thomas offer a real insight into working with small budgets, using YouTube videos, getting written about on blogs, using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr And SoundCloud and loads more making this one of the most up to date manuals out there... In their own words 'No more writing letters hoping that A&R writes you back or legal mumbo-jumbo and marketing catchphrases that don't help you get more fans. Whether you are a label owner, musician, manager, booking agent or publicist there is information in this book that will help you do what you do better.'
Confessions of a Record Producer: How to Survive the Scams and Shams of the Music Business by Moses Avalon (Applause Theatre) If Get More Fans brings everything up to date Confessions of a Record Producer (first published in 1998) exposes the inner workings of the music business and the truth of how the industry functions. If you want some warning signs writ large about what not to do and how not to do it then this one is for you analyzing the differences between ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, the many different types of record deal and also more recent deals with Spotify, Apple and Co... In their own words 'Confessions has grown from an underground favourite to a widely read staple, evolving along the way to address Internet-age realities and the pitfalls coming with rapidly changing technologies [and] this new, fifth edition is fully updated with recent industry developments and remains a must for artists who want to survive, thrive, and get their fair share.'
Complete Singer-Songwriter: A Troubadour's Guide to Writing, Performing, Recording, and Business by Jeffrey Pepper Rogers (Applause Theatre) This one is, as the title suggests, aimed squarely at all the singer/songwriter types out there and addresses everything from dealing with managers, agents, lawyers, and publishers to essential info on copyrighting your songs, music publishing, and digital royalties plus there's a whole heap of actual song-writing and performance tips (it's also given major props by Ben Harper, Ani Di Franco and Bruce Cockburn)... In their own words 'The Complete Singer-Songwriter is chock-full of tips, tools, and inspiration for both aspiring troubadours and those looking to take their craft and career to the next level [and is an] invaluable companion for singer-songwriters on their journey from idea to song to the stage, studio, and beyond.'
All You Need To Know About The Music Business by Donald S Passman (Viking) LA lawyer Donald Passman's All You Need To Know About The Music Business first surfaced 25 years ago and has sold steadily ever since. If you're looking for an authoritative book by someone who has actually swum in the shark infested waters of the music business then a lawyer who has represented many properly famous music clients is probably your first port of call - and it's perhaps no surprise to find the book endorsed by T. Bone Burnett, Ron Rubin (co-head of Columbia Records, David Geffen and Randy Newman).... In their own words 'This completely revised edition sets out recent developments in record deals, copyright, new technologies and film music [and] also offers advice on how to navigate your way through the ins and outs of song-writing, music publishing, merchandising and performing.'
Business Basics for Musicians: The Complete Handbook from Start to Success by Bobby Borg (Backbeat) One of Backbeat's Music Pro Guides series by the aforementioned Bobby Borg this one being a companion piece to the previously reviewed and addresses the use of emerging technologies, bypassing the traditional route of signing to a label whilst managing to grab a much larger slice of the available revenue and touching on everything from copyright to record deals, managers, merchandising, and doing it yourself... In their own words 'Written by a professional musician for other musicians, Business Basics for Musicians simplifies five vital areas in which musicians need to succeed: Career Execution, Business Relationships, Pro Teams, Deals and Dollars, and Future Predictions [this] manual will help artists master business essentials quickly so they can get back to doing what they love best-creating music.'
Five Star Music Makeover: The Independent Artist's Guide for Singers, Songwriters, Bands, Producers, and Self-Publishers by Coreen Sheehan, Anika Paris, Michael Eames, Eric Corne and, yup it's our man Bobby Borg again (Backbeat) Another in the Music Pro Guides series of books this one attempts to be all things to all people and damn near pulls it off. Written by five experts with over 100 years of collective experience Five Star Music Makeover distils everything down to five key skills every musician needs to succeed from improving vocal production/technique and writing memorable and marketable songs to recording, navigating the publishing world and promoting music effectively this is probably one for complete beginners, but contains a wealth of useful information... In their own words 'Five Star Music Makeover is an engaging all-in-one guide designed specifically for aspiring artists [including] all the practical expertise necessary to develop a successful music career [and is] a complete and practical career guide a resource that transforms artists from good to great.'
Needless to say this is by no means a definitive collection there's oodles of this stuff out there (some of it utterly useless), but any of the above will provide invaluable insights into the complexities and vagaries of the music business and offer many useful tips and useful advice. Yes, it might be occasionally heavy going, and it's never going to be as much fun as reading about people snorting cocaine or eating Mars bars from unsuitable places (and reading more or less any of the literary works in our book review section will offer little nuggets of useful wisdom or pitfalls to avoid), but you wouldn't, unless you are a complete idiot, drive a car without learning the highway code, and you will almost certainly fail miserably in your musical career if you don't make the most of the wealth of information and advice that is out there just waiting for you to tap into it.
More information on the above books can be found at , , , and