One of my favorite activities to do on the weekend is to kick back with a cup of coffee, put on some music, and read a book. I don’t typically read fiction because I prefer my fiction from television and film. I typically enjoy books about music, biographies, business, marketing, management, and mindfulness. Call me a nerd but I truly love learning.
While luck is a major part of making it in the music business, you need to be a hustler, as well. You can’t just wait for opportunities to fall in your lap. Instead, seize the day and take control of your future with your weapons of knowledge. While I have been working in the music industry for over a decade, there is always something to discover, whether it be an atypical process or a fresh outlook. I have read an astronomical amount of music business books and always learn something new about how to improve myself as a multi-business owner/founder and music professional.
This being said, I wanted to create a list of some of the most valuable music industry books I have read. Some may not be directly related to music, however, the information is easily transferrable and constructive. Although some of the books on my list are a bit older, each contains a wealth of knowledge that everyone who wants to make it in music can benefit from to this day. These are my top six that I would recommend to anybody (with six more notable mentions).
- 0.0.1 1. Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers.
- 0.0.2 2. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (2012)
- 0.0.3 3. How Music Works
- 0.0.4 4. Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out (2013)
- 0.0.5 5. Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex (2018)
- 0.0.6 6. How To Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician (2019)
- 1 Other Notable Mentions
- 1.0.1 1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (2016)
- 1.0.2 2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz (2014)
- 1.0.3 3. They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll by Shep Gordon (2017)
- 1.0.4 4. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio (2017)
- 1.0.5 5. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (2005)
- 1.0.6 6. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk (2013)
Author: Dennis DeSantis
This music book was released in conjunction with Ableton via Cycling 74, who makes Max4Live. Each chapter is its own standalone problem and solution that producers face. With 340 pages, it’s the type of book you can keep next to your desk, pop open, and spur a creative music production session. At the time of writing, Ableton is also giving it away for free here.
Price: $30 PDF, Mobi, and Epub through Ableton.
Learn more and purchase Making Music here.
Author: Steven Pressfield
If you’re looking to be a creative, push through blocks, and win your creative battles, this book is for you. With 190 pages, you can easily read this in a couple days and revisit it once per year. After I read this, I felt more inspired to work in the creative arts field than ever before. Steven is a master, and his entire catalog is worth a read, as well. I’ve seen this recommended by many as a top music industry book.
Price: $11.74 Paperback with Amazon Prime.
Learn more and purchase The War of Art here.
Author: David Byrne
David Byrne is the lead singer of the groundbreaking band “Talking Heads.” 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. Byrne’s magnum opus uncovers ever-new and thrilling realizations about the redemptive liberation that music brings us all. I always learn a lot about the music industry through the biographies of musicians.
Price: $16.99 Paperback with Amazon Prime.
Learn more and purchase How Music Works here.
Author: Marc Ecko
While not a music business book, there is a ton of insight into business here. It should be read through the lens of gorilla music marketing. Marc Ecko is the founder of Ecko clothing brand. The 304-page book is a fantastic study on branding, music marketing, not giving up, building lasting partnerships, and being creative inside of the music business.
Price: $24 Paperback via Amazon Prime, although there are many cheap used alternatives.
Learn more and purchase Unlabel here.
5. Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex (2018)
Author: Aubrey Marcus
Again, this isn’t a music business book, but Aubrey Marcus walks you through how to optimize your day from waking up, exercise, nutrition, how to have focused work, relationships, sex, and sleep. If you want to work in the music industry, you need to have your life in order to good work. The myth of the messy, crazy creative doesn’t stand. The most successful artists make the most of each day, which always includes a schedule of doing the work of writing and being creative. At 437 pages, this is an absolute goldmine. Aubrey is the founder of ONNIT, based in Austin, Texas. His podcast is full of wisdom.
Fun story, Aubrey and I connected because he’s a big fan of Beats Antique. Tim Ferriss and Aubrey spoke on Tim’s podcast about how they are both fans of Beats Antique and how Aubrey listens to their music when he practices ecstatic dance. Check out Aubrey’s ecstatic dance playlist. Later I attended Aubrey’s book launch in Austin and got to chat for a bit. This lead to me to introducing Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob to Aubrey and Aubrey had Justin on his podcast. Justin was also on Tim Ferriss’s podcast.
Price: $15.74 Paperback with Amazon Prime.
Learn more and purchase Own The Day, Own Your Life here.
6. How To Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician (2019)
Author: Ari Herstand
Ari’s second edition of How To Make It is my top recommendation for artists at any level. This may become the de facto music industry book in the coming years. The entire book is a gold mine and on another level. I have read this several times and learn something new each read. His tips are synonymous with a full battle plan. Through 528 pages, he covers topics such as touring, creating deal structures, publishing, releasing music, and much more.
I also highly suggest reading his blog and subscribing to his newsletter.
Price: $17.49 Hardcover with Amazon Prime.
Learn more and purchase How To Make It in the New Music Business here.
Other Notable Mentions
Price: $19.39 Hardcover | Learn more and purchase here.
2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz (2014)
Price: $18.79 Hardcover | Learn more and purchase here.
3. They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll by Shep Gordon (2017)
Price: $16.99 Paperback | Learn more and purchase here.
Price: $17.99 Hardcover | Learn more and purchase here.
Price: $11.25 Paperback | Learn more and purchase here.
6. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk (2013)
Price: $14.48 Hardcover | Learn more and purchase here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of music industry books. My wife likes to tease me that I’m always reading books on music marketing, music business, and business books and that I never relax, but truth be told, when I’m learning and engaged, I’m 100% relaxed and in the flow.
For the last few years, I’ve been using Goodreads and setting a personal goal to read at least 20-30 books a year. How many books do you typically read in a year?
I’d love to hear your list of best books on music, the music industry, and music marketing.