5 Must-Read Music Business Books for Indie Musicians

Posted by Kaylee Bugg on Oct 9, 2014 12:30 PM
Guitar and BooksImage via realhousedesign.com

If you want to take your band to the next level, there’s a place you can jumpstart your career that may surprise you. No, not LA or NYC. Try the local library!

The days of being serendipitously discovered are long gone; artists have to think and act smarter, which means engaging in some good old-fashioned self-education. Here's a list of five must-read books, chock-full of music business know-how that'll help you get started.

1. All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman

Currently in its eighth edition, All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman is the be-all and end-all music industry guide. This is the indie artist’s bible. Why? Because between its pages, the rules of the music industry are spelled out in simple, everyday language. Want to write a band agreement? Want to see if the contract terms for a licensing opportunity are bogus? This book is the one-stop shop for facts, figures, and a breakdown of every topic imaginable. Learn about the different sectors of the industry and how they function for bands, including artist management, recording contracts, touring, licensing… the list goes on and on. It's an excellent resource for all musicians, performers, and songwriters.

2. Music, Money, and Success by Jeffrey & Todd Brabec

For those of you who enjoy hefty reading and really want to learn the sophisticated legalese of the industry, the Brabec brothers' Music, Money, and Success is the jackpot. Be warned – you won’t read through this one like a novel, but it will reign supreme from your bookcase like a king on high. This book covers every topic in the industry and is essentially Donald Passman's book on steroids. This is an advanced resource for all who wish to understand the music industry in-depth and learn the exact details of how musicians and songwriters are paid.

3. Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen

Upon first glance, Likeable Social Media may seem intended for businesses only, but don't forget that bands are businesses, too. Every serious band has its own fans (or customers) and the goal of making a living off of music. This is a great guide for best practices on how to manage your online presence. Specifically, helpful action items will make you consider how you present your band online, and if your presentation is appealing to listeners and working in your favor. For example, how exactly does your band connect with fans? How does your band respond to angry fans? How does your band reward loyal fans? All of these topics and more are explored in easily navigable chapters.

4. Tour:Smart: And Break the Band by Martin Atkins

Full of DIY tips and guidelines, Tour:Smart runs down mistakes commonly made by new, inexperienced bands when booking tours, and how to avoid making them. If you like a little wit and appreciate unpolished verbiage, you can take notes from the movers and shakers who make the touring business tick. Topics go beyond just budgeting and cover subjects like how to secure press, how to handle merch, and more.

5. Welcome to the Music Business: You’re Fucked! by Martin Atkins

The gem of Martin Atkins, Welcome to the Music Business: You're Fucked! is best experienced, not reviewed. Trust me, you want to read this.


Kaylee Bugg is an account coordinator at Sonicbids. She is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and actress from Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of Berklee College of Music and former talent buyer for the Red Room @ Cafe 939, she also helps manage an independent band from Boston and produces musical theater events.

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